Volume 6, Issue 1, January 1996
Perfecting Imperfect Duties
Collective Action to Create Moral Obligations
Ethical problems in business include not only genuine moral dilemmas and compliance problems but also problems arising from the distinctive characteristics of imperfect duties. Collective action by business to perfect imperfect duties can yield significant benefits. Such
arrrangements can (1) reduce temptations to moral laxity, (2) achieve greater efficiency by eliminating redundancies and gaps that plague uncoordinated individual efforts, (3) reap economies of scale and achieve success where benefits can be provided only if a certain threshold of resources can be brought to bear on a social problem; (4) solve assurance problems where voluntary compliance by some parties depends upon their perception that competitors are doing their fair share, and (5) produce higher levels of contribution than would occur through independent action in response to imperfect duties, stimulated by the perception that there is a fair distribution of burdens of contribution among all parties involved.