Ethics as Economically Influenced: A Preliminary Test

  • Norman G. Miller
Part of the Research Issues in Real Estate book series (RIRE, volume 5)


It is argued here that, independent of a priori attitudes toward ethics, economic circumstances influence the tendency of industry professionals to behave unethically. In a preliminary test of this theory, real estate sales are compared to license suspensions over a ten-year period with the results indicating an inverse correlation—that is, license suspensions increase as sales decrease. Further tests in the real estate and other industries are suggested in order to reveal just how much of a role economic circumstances play in decisions to behave ethically.


Real Estate Ethical Behavior Economic Circumstance Economically Influence Ethical Violation 


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  1. 1.
    The question of whether humans are innately good or bad has been debated for centuries. Good here is defined in the altruistic sense, bad in the selfish and potentially harmful and dishonest sense. Often the presumption is made that at some deep level humans are either good or bad and that over the long run the survival of the species will depend on the answer to this all important question. If good intentions toward our fellow humans were on one scale, and bad intentions were on another scale, both sides might be weighty indeed. Yet if the good within humans outweighs the bad by even a small degree, then perhaps there is hope for the long-run survival of the species based on the law of averages and the probability that humans will tend to be led by or choose (even if a random occurrence) to follow good people more often than bad people. This statistics-based outcome was certainly sufficient when people were organized in small groups, tribes, and nations, that lacked the ability to create mass destruction. Today, the proportion of good people must be relatively even weightier than before since such a small group can create so much devastation on the larger group. Thus, we feel a great need to be able to classify others by a single generalizable label of good or evil, ethical or unethical, for many philosophical reasons. We also feel the need to regulate bad behavior and potential for destruction on others such as weapon possession, since such a small minority can inflict such great damage on many others.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    In Chapter 12 within this issue, titled “Ethical Codes of Conduct for Business Simplified: The Case of the National Association of Realtors,” readers can find a discussion of typical ethical concerns and current ethical standards as developed by the largest trade association in the real estate industry.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cultural-based contempt can arise toward specific groups because of ignorance about certain peoples, as well as the ingrained fear and hatred of others who are different. While prejudicial views may be taught by schools and government, they often come from parents who have received there attitudes from prior generations. The current rise of neo-Nazi behaviors in Germany is likely based on both the recent and current threats to wealth from cheaper foreign help and any lingering cultural seeds of hatred toward those said to be less justified in seeking wealth than indigenous Germans.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For those readers who may claim that they are above such behaviors, the author is claiming that your cultural conditioning during a time of bountiful resources is sufficient for you to know that harmonious living requires that maintenance of certain behaviors. If you really believed that life was going to get much harder—that you might lose your house, your job, or your honor—you might easily consider violating your ethical foundations, especially when your instincts for survival lead you to consider the consequences as irrelevant or minimal.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Amerestate, Inc. is based in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a real estate data and information firm that tracks real estate sales throughout the state. It is located at 8160 Corporate Park Drive, Cincinnati. OH 45242, telephone number 513–489–7300.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norman G. Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Finance, College of Business AdministrationUniversity of CincinnatiUSA

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