This entry is being posted on October 19, 2022, the ninth annual Global Ethics Day which has the theme “Ethics Empowered.” Naturally, we at Ethics Unwrapped strongly support Global Ethics Day. And we have only to look at the news headlines to be reminded of the importance of ethical conduct and how far we have yet to go.
Just last week, two fishermen were indicted in Ohio for stuffing lead weights and fish fillets into fish they’d caught to pump up their weights in order to win nearly $30,000 in a competitive fishing tournament. The cheating scandal rocked the competitive fishing world, giving the sport a black eye.
Simultaneously, the world of chess is in the midst of what has been called “the biggest scandal in chess history” after the world’s best player, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, accused a young American player, Hans Niemann, of cheating. The 19-year-old Niemann had enjoyed a suspiciously quick rise in the rankings before beating Carlsen head-to-head in a match where Carlsen had the white, making Niemann’s win that much more suspicious. Unlike in the fishing tournament, the evidence against Niemann is entirely circumstantial and he continues to deny cheating in this instance (though he admits to cheating twice when he was younger—12 and 16). Chess.com issued a 72-page report concluding that Niemann had “likely cheated” in more than 100 online chess games over the years, including after he turned 17 years old. But clear evidence of his having cheated in the Carlsen match remains lacking. Still, Carlsen pronounced cheating an “existential threat” to the game.
These two scandals caught a lot of eyes, not just ours. Last week, small business owner Gene Marks wrote an op-ed to make the point that cheating is also depressingly ubiquitous in business (citing many examples) and urging other small business owners to take precautions to avoid significant sustained losses due to by cheating by employees or others. His tips were basic but sensible: require bookkeepers to take time off multiple times during the year, require multi-factor authentication on your bank account, lock up your office supplies and inventory, install security cameras, etc.
All the dishonesty in fishing, chess, and business can be depressing. And we’re not even going to get into politics. But what we are going to do is remind readers that now is not the time for despair and surrender. Now is the time for hope and the redoubling of efforts.
As much violence as there is in the world, thanks in too great a part to Vladimir Putin, Steven Pinker has shown us that over the eons, human violence has trended and continues to trend downward. We are far from perfection, but the trends are positive.
Similarly, although there is much too much fraud, too many sharp practices, and way too much general dishonesty in the business world today, thanks to legal regulation and a widespread elevation of general business morality, trends in that realm are positive also, even though we are far from where we need to be.
Overall, affirmative moral trends have played a major role in the improvement in business practices and the decrease in violence. Pinker notes: “[t]he historical direction of morality in modern societies is not just away from Communality and Authority but toward Rational-Legal organization, and that too is a pacifying development.” (Pinker, p. 637)
So, the ninth annual Global Ethics Day turns out to be a very appropriate occasion for all of us in the ethics game to take a deep breath, take stock, and then keep putting one ethical foot in front of the other until we’ve helped to build the sort of world we wish for our children and our children’s children. Happy Global Ethics Day!!
Des Bieler, “Chess Site Alleges ‘Likely’ Cheating by Embattled Magnus Carlsen Rival,” Washington Post, Oct. 5, 2022, at https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/chess-site-alleges-likely-cheating-by-hans-niemann-in-more-than-100-games/ar-AA12CAqw.
Carnegie Council, Global Ethics Day: https://www.carnegiecouncil.org/initiatives-issues/global-ethics-day.
Jonathan Edwards, “Fishermen Nearly Won a Tournament. Then Weights Were Found in the Fish,” Washington Post, Oct. 3, 2022, at https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2022/10/03/fishing-tournament-cheating-weights-walleye/.
Richard Hall, “’The Biggest Scandal in Chess History’: Inside the Cheating Allegations that Rocked the Chess World,” Yahoo!Sports, Sept. 24, 2022, at https://sports.yahoo.com/biggest-scandal-chess-history-inside-190548478.html.
Gene Marks, “So What if Hans Niemann Was Cheating?” Entrepreneur.com, Oct. 12, 2022, at https://www.entrepreneur.com/leadership/cheaters-are-everywhere-to-survive-leaders-must-stay-one/436755.
Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011).
Tom Schad, “What We Know: How a Cheating Scandal Has Rocked the World of Chess,” USA Today, Sept. 27, 2022, at https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2022/09/27/magnus-carlsen-hans-niemann-and-chess-cheating-scandal-explained/10438516002/.
Zoe Sottile, “Cheating Scandal at Ohio Tournament Rocks Competitive Fishing World,” CNN, Oct. 3, 2022, at https://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2022/10/12/fishermen-accused-of-cheating-at-ohio-tournament-indicted.
Madison Williams, “Fishermen Accused of Cheating at Ohio Tournament Indicted,” Sports Illustrated, Oct. 12, 2022, at https://www.si.com/extra-mustard/2022/10/12/fishermen-accused-of-cheating-at-ohio-tournament-indicted.
Applied Ethics: https://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/glossary/applied-ethics.
Behavioral Ethics: https://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/glossary/behavioral-ethics.
Prosocial Behavior: https://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/glossary/prosocial-behavior.