Lining Up for Star-Wars Tickets: Some Ruminations On Ethics and Economics Based on An Internet Study of Behavior in Queues
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Queues may represent business ethics in microcosm: they provide an opportunity to study in a smaller package the fundamental ethical tension in economic activity between self-interest and civility in the context of uncertainty and stress. In May 1999 people began forming lines to purchase tickets to the new Star Wars movie "The Phantom Menace." This paper reviews responses to a questionnaire on the internet regarding experiences in those lines. It focuses on two behaviors threatening queue discipline – the formation of cooperative groups and "pre-scalping." It concludes that although queues are complex phenomena, exhibiting important ethical, economic, social, and psychological elements, the general organizing principle of "first-come-first-served" still provides the foundation for queues while at the same time making room for a variety of legitimate modifications. Second, this paper concludes that, as with queues, the thought that self-interest is the exclusive guiding principle for business behavior is likewise too narrow, inducing participants to neglect opportunities for personal enrichment and satisfaction.
KeywordsEconomic Growth Business Ethic Economic Activity Complex Phenomenon Cooperative Group
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