Is it unrealistic to expect others to live by the golden rule?
In order to answer this question, you must first specify how to apply the term ”realistic” when it comes to this concept regarding business matters. In addition, it is important to understand that the golden rule refers to the adage of doing unto others what you would want done unto yourself.
In this sense, realistic could be interpreted to mean reasonable in serving the interest(s) of the business party while complying with basic ethical practices. This means something must provide tangible benefits for the business, such as profit. At the same time, these benefits should not come at the expense of other parties, such as consumers or business partners.
When applied this way, one could certainly argue that it is realistic to apply the so-called golden rule to the business world. For example, a consumer should be able to assume that a business is selling a safe product for a price that is reasonable, trusting that the product is also accurately portrayed. Consumers assume this because business owners are themselves consumers, and since all consumers want to be treated fairly, it stands to reason that businesses would do so in the interest of upholding ethical principles.
Conversely, one could argue that it is actually unrealistic to assume that businesses operate according to the golden rule. Because the goal of all businesses is to be economically viable and profitable, most businesses place their needs above the needs of the customers they serve. For instance, when the demand for a product increases, most businesses will also increase prices for those products. This is intended to maximize profits at a time when consumers are willing to pay more for a desired product. Certainly this economic practice does not reflect the charitable spirit of the golden rule. Under that standard, businesses would not price gouge regardless of the increased demand and opportunity for higher profit margins, since most people would agree that they do not want to pay more than what a product is worth.
However, one could also counter this argument by asserting that the worth of a product is not fixed. Instead, worth is determined by consumer wants and needs. Therefore, worth is a flexible quality that can change depending on economic conditions. As a result, businesses would not be in violation of the golden rule for increasing prices, as everyone would want to be paid what something is worth in the current market.
Depending on your definitions of realistic and your interpretation of common business practices, you could argue for either side of the issue.
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