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Was Enric Duran acting ethically?
Enric Duran, as known as Robin Bank, is a Spanish outlaw and anti-capitalist who regards Robin Hood as his hero and imitate his example to steal money from the rich and give it away. Appointing himself as an avenger of all poor victims of the international finance crisis and debt default, Duran has acquired 492,000 Euros from 39 banks through 68 loan deals, which worth more than 500,000 Euros if the interest on arrears is included, and he claimed in his personal statement that he is not intended to repay it back to the banks.
(Duran, 2008) Is it ethical for Duran borrows from a bank without paying the loan back? Why Duran decided to do so even undertaking the possible risk of getting arrested and prosecution? Following the fundamental basis of ethical egoism theory, this essay will answer these questions based on the hypothesis that Duran’s behavior should be considered as an ethical conduct.
Generally speaking, the so-called ethical egoism refers that all the individuals in the society should raise the interests of their own, or that everyone has a duty to engage in anything that can be beneficial to themselves.
That just says, unless something is ultimately good for you, you do not have any moral motivation to do something that is good for others. From the prospective of ethic, any normative ethical theory has to answer what is to ensure that an act a moral act. In accordance with ethical egoism, it is the individual’s personal interests that make his behavior ethical.
Thus, the theory of ethical egoism can be expressed as follows: An action is ethical if and only if it maximizes the personal interests of an individual. Based on that criteria of judgement, the Duran’s behavior should be considered as a fulfillment of its individual benefit and interest. However, the view remains to be highly controversial and serval objection raised. Firstly, if Duran was planning to maximize his personal interest, why would he donate the money to fund social campaign? Secondly, Duran claimed that he is promoting a trend of revolution of capitalism economy, is it logical when he is acting as an egoist while fighting for the interest of others? As mentioned in the case, What Duran has done and confessed brings financial loss to the banks who are involved in the incident and undoubted to be an offense to the Spanish judicial system. Moreover, his behavior might lead to further financial loss and get him into the jails. The complexity of the behavior of Duran made it impossible to rapid conclusion on whether his behavior is ethical or unethical through a simple proof and further in-depth analyzation is required. In the first place, several widespread misunderstanding of ethical egoism theory should be clarified.
Through the ages, there is a common erroneous view on the theory of ethical egoism that it only pursues short-term interests, so the idea of ethical egoism should be that people live for today and regardless of tomorrow. If Duran is following the code of ethical egoism and maximizing his personal benefit, he could have spent the 492,000 euros he acquired from the bank on personal consumption or pleasure, which will bring significant interest instantly while he didn’t. In fact, ethical egoism has become an important ethical doctrine precisely because ethical egoism only does not emphasize “immediate self-interest”, but advocate the term of “enlightened self-interest”. The act being guided by ethical egoism is a rational and ethical act that the individual is willing to sacrifice the short-term interests for the long-term benefit and abandon short-term enjoyment in order to achieve long-term value. Instead of spending the money on his own, Duran used all the money from the bank in funding relevant social organizations who are making efforts in the campaign of anti-capitalism. He personally believes that the rationality of current financial and capitalist system needs to be re-examined. In order to improve the situation, he is working on organizing protest actions against it and fund the social movements that seek to create alternatives. The funds he invested on the social campaigns might not bring instant return financially, however, might bring other forms of returns such as personal awareness public reputation and social welfare. What is more significant is that Duran’s behavior may improve a more democratic and enlightened society, as an individual living in the society, he will also benefit from a superior social environment. After weighing the pros and cons of long-term social advancement and short-term legal allegations, Duran chose the former option for his own long-term interests based on the egoist point of view, which is absolutely ethical.
Some people might mistakenly believe that ethical egoists will never perform any altruistic behavior, which respects the interests of others and the society. Duran argued that through the establishment of a new global financial system, the majority of people will be benefited through cooperation rather than being exploited by capitalists, which seem to be an altruistic idea. However, a person is reasonable to behave in altruistic while being an ethical egoist. Out of considerations of ethical egoism, it is ultimately beneficial for themselves to engage in some acts of altruism sometimes. For example, “honesty is the best strategy” is a proverb which is widely known and familiar with, and its fundamental spirit origins from the consideration of ethical egoism. If an individual keeps a code of conduct on honesty and integrity, it is much more possibly for others to believe you and think that you are a trustworthy person, which will not only honor you with an extensive reputation, but once you are struggling with difficulty or caught in danger and need someone else’s help, you can easily get access to necessary assistances from others. So egoists may also engage in charitable activities, because, as mentioned above, engaging in such activities may be not be beneficial or even deficient in short-term, but might lead to a positive impact on the long-term.
Therefore, it is certain that egoists can even make sacrifices themselves and fulfill the behavior of others, as long as the final outcome is advantageous, according to the principle of ethical egoism, his moral standard would request him to be engaged in it. It is important to emphasize that in the case of ethical egoism, if a charitable act is morally justified, its legitimacy is not due to that the act shows the kindness of the individual, or that the act will produce more interests of the greater good. Whether others will be happy as a result of the behavior is morally irrelevant the sense of happiness itself. The reason why charity is morally justified is that this behavior can give the greatest benefit to the actor. Since the act of making others happy may also make the actor happy, so as long as the result of the action is ultimately beneficial to the actor, it is consistent with egoism, so an egoist may be engaged in altruistic behavior. Whether his ideas and judgments about the capitalist economy are correct and reasonable or not, in the personal view of Duran, his actions are making progress in the revolution of financial and capital systems in Spain, which might benefit a great number of ordinary people who are squeezed by bank loans. Marx and Engels (1962) made a judgement the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations. People are unable to survive without the relationship with others, and the interest of an individual is invalid to be isolated from public interests. If Duran advocates and builds a social system that is as effective as he envisages, it will reduce people’s financial stress and raise the level of happiness, thereby increasing the level of social productivity. Therefore, Duran’s altruistic behavior is actually in order to achieve their ultimate interests, which is entirely ethical in ethical egoism.
Criticism argues that it is unreasonable to defend Duran’s behavior with an ethical egoist point of view. Ethical Egoism is one of the rational ethical basis of capitalism and it has played an indispensable role in its development process. Duran’s behavior is a critique and challenge to capitalism, thus if he is acting out of the position of ethical egoism, then he is logically contradictory. The classical capitalist theory points out that the reason for the emergence of social problems is entirely due to a false altruism, many people out of good intentions to help others, the result but makes things worse. Take into account this inference, economists argue that in a competitive market, an individual’s egoistic motivations can produce the best value for society. The competition in the market will be motivated by the unique nature of ego and everyone is trying to produce the best products, and sell them at lower prices than other competitors. So egoism is like an invisible hand, which is enhancing the efficiency of social production, and lead to the best social welfare status. However, the above argument is not convincing, because this argument, that is, the basic concept of classical capitalism, cannot be proved in reality. Especially after after a series of economic crisis from 1929 to 2008, economists have been less convinced that classical capitalist thought can cause the welfare of society as a whole, so now most of the capitalist countries are intervening the market through administration approach, offsetting the deficiency of capitalist market economy. From an ethical point of view, mutual assistance is more beneficial than competition in increasing the overall interests of society. Motion is absolute while stagnation is relative. In contrast to feudalism, capitalism is more advanced, but when capitalism does not conform to the social situation, it is necessary to make appropriate improvements and adjustments to the social system based on ethical egoism.
Whereas, it is important to admit that although Duran claimed he is influenced by the civil disobedience strategy of Henry Thoreau and compared his actions to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, his bank fraud activity violated Spanish domestic law. Law is the system; ethic is the principle. The law is executed by the judiciary to all social actors, and morality is a person’s own request for himself. Based on the theory of humanity is basically evil. Law system is aimed at prohibiting human beings from doing illegal things. The ethic is a principle believing the humanity is basically kind and individuals are able to control their own behavior. Whether the Spanish judicial system is perfect and whether the law can be ignored is not within the scope of academic discussion of this essay. However, the truth is that the law is only a social mechanism, and it should not be the only criterion for judging the correctness of individual behavior. In spite of Duran is violating Spanish law and committing the crime of bank fraud. He should be considered acting ethically as he is following the code of ethical Egoism. Meanwhile, it should be pointed out that this essay does not encourage others to follow Duran’s behavior.
In ethical egoism perceptive, whether the action is based on self-interest is the primary code of justification of doing the ethical thing. An ethical egoist may have to give up short term benefits as long as his sacrifice is good for his long-term interests. At the same time, he may also protect the interests of others for their own interests to, and even harms part of their own interests. Despite the fact that Duran’s behavior violates the law, as the essay argues, his behavior is fully consistent with the code of ethical egoism theory, so Enric Duran is acting Ethically.
Word Count: 1999
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