What are some sources of differences in ethics among people, companies, and nations?
The examination of ethics begins with the encompassing base: Originally (Greek) the term was used to determine right behavior “for the public good” – that meant the Greek society. Today, we refer to “personal ethics” to mean behavior that conforms to one’s own good, including spiritual good; it includes such truisms as “the Golden Rule,” “Dog eat dog,” “To thine own self be true,” “Self-preservation,” “going to Heaven,” etc. National ethics, much more difficult to define, includes a nation’s “Constitution” or raison d’etre (Israel and Liberia have ethics based on the reason they were created, for example), and a nation’s historical profile (it would be “nationally unethical” for Switzerland to advocate an invasion of Iran, for example). Business ethics has to do with practices that affect the survival, or bottom line, of the company. The source of a company’s existence is profit for its owners. That profit must be pursued inside the boundaries of national ethics (laws), employee ethics (honesty, dishonesty, equality, etc.), and corporate ethics (including the free-enterprise system). Without naming what those ethics might be (the term "sharp practice" refers to the borderline between ethical and unethical business behavior), their source is the profitability of the company (without violating those ethics that come from different sources). This must be a long-range vision, including the company’s public profile, its status as a field leader, its charity profile, its advertising practices, etc.