Business VS. The Moral Code

Everyone has heard the term “this is business” to imply that questionable or even hurtful actions taken in relation to financial issues do not count and can be excused because they are for the benefit of progress.  Even if this theory could work in some instances, it is the reality that the words fall short of what the phrase intends.  When it comes to real life any actions taken have ramifications regardless of how an individual decides to justify them in their mind.  An Enemy of the People displays this perfectly in relation to the Stockmanns and the decisions they make regarding the Baths.
Peter and Dr. Stockmann offer excellent opposing ideas to the issue of following a moral code when a business or financial situation could be at risk.  Peter decides that regardless of who may suffer it is more important to put the businesses and the town’s economic situation ahead of health issues and is in favor of keeping vital information from the public.  The doctor though, following his moral code, despite his brother’s and the towns attempts to “degrade me, to make a coward of me, to force me to put personal interests before my most sacred convictions.” (Ibsen 35), decides to be honest and tell the public the truth.  This is an important contrast that is shown throughout the play, especially when Dr. Stockmann is socially ostracized for doing what is truly right and informing the public that the Baths are dangerous.  Dr. Stockmann does not believe that a financial end will justify the means of putting many people in danger, whereas his brother is confident that protecting the economic standing of the town is too important and trumps the safety of the people.  Although it is business, there is still a serious divide as to whether or not that fact can justify actions as serious as public health.  This play presents the never ending battle between doing what is easy and beneficial versus doing what is right and forces the reader to explore his or her own feelings.

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One response to “Business VS. The Moral Code

  1. Sophi

    This idea is very true. Some people believe, like Peter, that they should give the people what they want, and in doing so they will reap the benefits of being the provider. In the end, if something goes wrong, it is the people who asked for it and it was the business’s responsibility to give it to them. Other people, on the other hand, like Thomas, believe in the “Golden Rule” in that you should be honest with others if that is what you would want for yourself. Thomas is stunned that nobody is willing to look further into his claim, because he himself would have demanded more evidence if someone proposed that the Baths were contaminated.
    Thomas believes in taking the more difficult route: being ethical. Peter believes in the easiest: giving the people what they want without thinking of more important considerations (i.e. health). In this idea they are completely opposite from each other, yet they are so confident in their defenses that it makes you think about how there are people who truly believe that a decision that is “obviously” ethical is not “the best” for the parties involved. Even then, what does it mean to be ethical?

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