Spring Semester, 2006

Instructor: Glen Tenney, PhD

Office: Technical Arts Bldg (775) 753-2203

Office Hours:  By appointment


Meeting Time: Online Course—No specific meeting times


Wisdom teaches what is right in matters of life and conduct.
It guides and supports us better than all other possessions.
                                                                    -- Hans Sennholz


Humanity is distinguished from other creatures essentially by the ability, responsibility, and even necessity, to reason.  Society acts wisely when it fosters the cultivation of reason in its members.  Most people do not live by their own stock of reason because it may be rather small. They do well availing themselves of the general bank of reason which may be available on all levels of education.  Formal education is a conscious, organized effort to impart in individuals the qualities and characteristics that will enhance and encourage the use of reason.


The major purpose of this course is to introduce the student to ethical principles related to how a person should conduct his or her life. The use of reason in discussing ethical matters will be stressed, and the possibility of a realistic rational ethic will be emphasized. Topics include the foundations of morality, alternative theoretical perspectives on moral judgment, egoism, altruism, and legal and regulatory perspectives related to ethics. Prior to taking this course, students should have completed their associate degree.

This course has two important goals: (1) to familiarize the student with current and past thinking in the area of ethics, and (2) to increase the student's ability to identify and critique various ethical arguments and explanations. Students will achieve the first goal by studying and discussing the assigned readings and by participating in class discussions. The second goal will be achieved by writing short comments in response to the readings and class discussions, by writing and presenting assigned case studies, and by writing a term paper. More specifically, upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

1.      Differentiate between ethical relativism and objective ethical reasoning in the analysis of human conduct, and recognize the limited role of opinion in such matters.

2.   Understand the pervasive nature of both egoistic and altruistic motives in people’s behavior, and perceive the variety of possible consequences these motives may invoke. 

3.   Appreciate the important role that social cooperation plays in the process of individuals living meaningful and fulfilled lives. 

4.   Value the importance of the recognition of human rights and property rights in assessing the worthiness of specific human actions or public policies.

5.   Judiciously and appropriately consider the matter of race, religion, sex, and other personal attributes when dealing with the business functions of buying and selling.

6.   Recognize the responsibilities that workers, managers, owners, lenders, and customers have in carrying out business transactions.

7.   Analyze the moral worthiness of specific types of bribery when dealing with various regulatory situations.   

8.   Recognize possible moral criticisms of the “legal entity” status of the limited liability corporate form of business organization.

9.      Acknowledge the nature of taxation as a pervasive force operating outside the realm of institutions that enhance social cooperation and coordination.

10. Have an appreciation for the usefulness or, and moral justifications for, various forms of competitive structure, such as cartels, business combinations, etc.

11. Judiciously differentiate between insider trading that is fraudulent and insider trading that morally justified.

12. Understand the moral objections to globalization, and consider these objectives in light of moral implications of the principles of human rights and property rights.      




Week 1 (Monday, January 23 – Sunday, January 29)


Week 2  (Monday, January 30 – Sunday, February 5)


Week 3  (Monday, February 6 – Sunday, February 12)


Week 4  (Monday, February 13 – Sunday, February 19)


Week 5  (Monday, February 20 – Sunday, February 26)


Week 6  (Monday, February 27 – Sunday, March 5)


Week 7  (Monday, March 6 – Sunday, March 12)


Week 8  (Monday, March 13 – Sunday, March 19)



Week 9  (Monday, March 20 – Sunday, March 26)


Spring Break  (Monday, March 27 – Sunday, April 2)

·         No Assignments


Week 10  (Monday, April 3 – Sunday, April 9)


Week 11  (Monday, April 10 – Sunday, April 16)


Week 12  (Monday, April 17 – Sunday, April 23)


Week 13  (Monday, April 24 – Sunday, April 30)


Week 14  (Monday, May 1 – Sunday, May 7)


Week 15  (Monday, May 8 – Sunday, May 14)


Week 16  (Monday, May 15 – Sunday, May 21)





The student starts his or her study in this course from WebCT, which is accessed from a link on the GBC Home Page, located at The opening screen of WebCT provides information on their User ID and Password, which will be needed to access and use the system during the semester. For each topic covered in the course, there are four aspects of learning the material, and students should be actively engaged in all four of these aspects as they are explained below


Essay Assignments

The formal written assignments for the course are of two kinds: First, three short essays, not to exceed 500 words each, will be due at the end of the 4th, 8, and 12th weeks of class. These essays will address specific cases provided to the students. Second, students will prepare an extended research paper for their final term paper. This paper should be approximately 10 pages in length, and should reflect some research into the assigned topic. With few exceptions, late papers will not be accepted. Therefore, students are encouraged to schedule their workload so that they can meet the deadlines specified in this syllabus and in the Assignment section of WebCT.


Discussion Board Assignments

During each week of the course, students are required to be actively engaged in discussions on the discussion board, which is accessed from the Daily or Weekly Activities link on the Homepage for the course in WebCT. Students should check the discussion board on a daily basis if possible, and should make statements and respond to others’ statements as much as possible continuously throughout each week of the course.


Low-Stakes Repeatable Quizzes

For each week of the course, students are required to take a short, 10-question quiz. Students may take each quiz, or a version of each quiz, as often as they like, and only the highest score obtained will be counted toward their grade. Some of these quiz questions may show up on the midterm exam or the final exam, so students should make good use of this opportunity to preview possible exam questions. Students should not wait until the deadline to take these quizzes. By taking the quizzes early, students will have the opportunity to study the material again, and take the quiz again to improve their scores and to expand their understanding of each topic.



There will be two exams in the course—due on the dates listed in the schedule section of this syllabus. These exams will consist of approximately 50 multiple choice questions and several short essay questions. The exams will be taken from within the Exam section of WebCT, which is accessed from the Periodic Activities section of the course. The exams will be open-book, and three hours will be allowed for completion of each exam. The due dates of midnight on the dates listed in the schedule above are firm deadlines. Students should plan their workload well in advance so they will be sure to be completed well in advance of the deadlines.





Passing grades for the course will range from A to D, and will be determined based on the student's performance on the two exams, the four essay assignments, and activity on the discussion board. The relative importance of each of these items in determining the final grade is demonstrated below with the use of a point scale.

2 Exams @ 100 points each


3 Short Essay Assignments @ 20 points each


1 Term Paper


14 Discussion Board Assignments @ 10 points each


14 Repeatable Quizzes @ 10 points each


Total points possible






·        A Primer on Business Ethics, by Tibor Machan and James Chesher, published by Rowman and Littlefield, ISBN# 0-7425-1389-0.

·       A series of additional readings are available on the Web, and are provided as links from this syllabus.


Note: The instructor reserves the right to change certain aspects of the course syllabus, such as the schedule, grading procedures, or materials.  However, no changes will be made without informing class members in a timely and clear manner.  It is not anticipated that there will be major changes in the content of this syllabus.


The following list of books are provided for those that would like to explore the subject of ethics in more depth.

H. B. Acton, The Morals of Markets and Related Essays.

Charles Adams, For Good & Evil: The Impact of Taxes on Civilization.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics.

Doug Bandow, The Politics of Envy.

Frederic Bastiat, The Law.

Norman Barry, Business Ethics.

Bruce Benson, The Enterprise of Law.

Bruce Benson, American Antitrust Laws in Theory and Practice.

Walter Block, Defending the Undefendable.

Walter Block, Morality of the Market: Religious & Economic Perspectives.

Walter Block and Llewellyn H. Rockwell editors, Man, Economy, and Liberty: Essays in Honor of Murray N. Rothbard. Chapters 14 through 18 have specific application to business ethics.

John Blundell, Regulation Without the State.

Clint Bolick, Affirmative Action Fraud.

James Buchanan, Ethics and Economic Progress.

Hugh Mercer Curtler, Ethical Argument: Critical Thinking in Ethics.

Anthony de Jasay, Choice, Contract, Consent: A Restatement of Liberalism.

David Friedman, Law's Order: What Economics Has to do with Law and Why it Matters.

Mark Hendrickson, The Morality of Capitalism.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe, The Economics and Ethics of Private Property.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God that Failed.

John Hospers, Human Conduct: Problems of Ethics.

Immanuel Kant, Ground breaking for the Metaphysics of Morals.

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Tibor R. Machan, Generosity: Virtue in Civil Society.

Tibor R. Machan, A Primer on Ethics.

Tibor R. Machan, Business Ethics in the Global Market.

Tibor R. Machan, The Virtue of Liberty.

Robert McGee, The Ethics of Tax Evasion.

Michael Novak, Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life.

Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty.

Murray N. Rothbard, Power and Market.

Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Ethics.

Lysander Spooner, The Lysander Spooner Reader.

Leland Yeager, Ethics as Social Science.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



The Professional Ethics course is part of the general education curriculum at Great Basin College, and is therefore expected to meet certain requirements in five broad categories. The following is an explanation of how this course will meet these requirements.

Communication Skills (Strong Emphasis)

    Sending and receiving of messages that are understandable and meaningful to others could be considered the essence of communication. Major portions of this course require that the student be specifically engaged in listening, reading, discussing, and writing -- all of which are appropriate ways of sending and receiving meaningful messages.

    This course features a wide variety of readings which provide an opportunity for the student to become immersed in communication (learning) by reading and comparing different viewpoints as put forth by various theorists. In the course of classroom discussions, chalkboard (whiteboard) and transparencies are used to further enhance the ability of the students to visualize important concepts.

    In assessing students' ability to communicate, the instructor subjectively evaluates student oral responses to questions and situations that arise throughout the course. In assessing success in reading and listening skills, students are tested through the use of multiple choice questions and essay questions in which the student answers several questions by way of short paragraphs which demonstrate their ability to write in clear and precise English sentences.


Critical Thinking (Moderate Emphasis)

    Quantitative Ability.  Some ethical theories (especially utilitarian theory) use quantitative concepts as part of the approach to determining ethical behavior. Business transactions associated with exchange in the marketplace can be--and are--quantified, and this quantification entails various mathematical manipulations. Graphs and tables illustrating directional movements in different variables are used to a degree in the course.  (Addressed Considerably)

    Reasoning and Independent Thought.  Students are challenged to use existing ethical theories to arrive at meaningful ways of determining and practicing ethical behavior. The differences between a rational ethic and opinion are examined throughout the course. Students are encouraged to base their theorizing on principles that can be ethically justified in a variety of ways as much as possible. (Addressed Significantly)

    Scientific Understanding.  To the extent ethical theories are based on rationality, scietific methods can be used in a limited sense in their study and application. Students learn to appreciate the fact that human beings have a will, and that scientific reasoning with respect to ethics is different than what is applied in the physical sciences.  (Addressed Considerably)

Personal and Cultural Awareness (Strong Emphasis)

    Sense of the Individual in Society.  A major part of what students learn in the professional ethics course is an appreciation of how individuals in society can live more fulfilled lives by paying attention to, and fulfilling, the needs and wants of others in society in addition to their own needs. Economic theory often and repeatedly suggests that this idea -- that people are individually made better off by helping others -- is an important key to progress in civilized society. The well-being of each individual is important throughout the discussions, and the individual's role in providing services and utility for others in society through interactions with others is a major emphasis in the ethics course. The course provides the student with the opportunity to explore ways in which divergent attitudes of people with various nationalities, colors, religions, etc., can come together in a real sense through mutually advantageous economic exchanges of ideas, goods, services, etc. In addition, ethical problems associated with political, cultural, and other limitations on this cooperative behavior is also addressed. (Addressed Significantly)

    Sense of the Past.  In order to adequately understand the rightness or wrongness associated with individuals socially interacting in their attempts to improve their lives, a sense of the past is essential. Ethical theorizing is not new, and through reading and discussing the thoughts of several of the great philosophers of the past, students get an appreciation of possible applications of these thoughts to ethical problems in a modern society. Throughout the course students learn about how those of prior generations approached ethics, and how the thinking about the subject has evolved over the years. In this context, opposing theories related to the subject -- Egoism, Altruism, Utilitarianism, Objectivism, and others -- are introduced and explored. (Addressed Significantly)

    Sense of Accountability.  The importance of a sense of accountability is demonstrated throughout the course by an exploration of the extent to which doing the right thing in business contexts is dependent on how one's actions affect other people. The idea that actions have consequences is pervasive in both economic and ethical theory, and the implications of the constant weighing of costs and benefits by individuals is stressed throughout the course. In this respect, unintended consequences of both individual actions and political actions and laws are searched out and discussed. Students learn that this ability to see the unintended consequences of human and political action is an important aspect of ethical theorizing in the business context. (Addressed Significantly)

    Appreciation of Fine Arts.  The moral aspects of entrepreneurship seem to be the area where ethical theorizing assists in developing an appreciation of the fine arts. The fact that creative progress in society in general is dependent on the ability and advisability of individuals to find more efficient and different ways of doing things is an important part of the ethics course. Students learn that the incentives that encourage or discourage creative human pursuits are built into the different ways societies can be organized. The ways in which creative expression are related to, and limited by, the rules established in societies are explored in specific sections of the course. (Addressed Significantly)


Personal Wellness

    The personal well-being of individuals, when defined broadly, is an important aspect of any study of professional ethics. Students will learn that the very reason people cooperate in society in exchanging goods and services is to enhance their personal well-being in some way. Ethics stresses a sense of balance in life, suggesting that people act in ways that enhance their overall well-being by balancing the marginal costs and benefits of all their actions. The task of the ethics course in particular is to help students understand that a consideration of what should be done in any particular instance must be part of this calculus, and that this means a moral consideration of the needs and desires of others as well.

Technological Understanding

    Students in the ethics course will gain an understanding and appreciation of the importance of technology by recognizing the extent to which technology increases living standards throughout the world. Students will learn what kinds of institutions in society are more likely to enhance technological advances, and what the possible results of those institutional arrangements are likely to be. In addition, students will use modern technology, especially the Internet, to access readings and information that is available through this important medium.