The paper “ The Theories of Universal Ethical Egoism - Supermarket Behaviour by Lawson” is a pathetic example of an article on sociology. In her article published in The Sydney Morning Herald last 22 January 2010, Charmian Lawson scored the way some customers behaved in supermarkets. In particular, Lawson was irked at the way some customers fleeced supermarkets by eating food inside even before they have reached the counters to pay for them. She cited as an example a woman who was handing fruits to her little son to be eaten whilst they go around shopping inside the supermarket.
Another woman was also spotted scooping out nuts from a display case with her bare hands munching them as she went around shopping. In another instance, she saw a man taking off the stems from hydroponic tomatoes to make them look like ordinary tomatoes and, therefore, be charged for less, as well as a woman removing the stems from bananas for the same reason. In many instances, she purported to witness women in queues waiting for their turns to be served in the counters picking up magazines and replacing them after thumbing through them.
This ‘ supermarket behaviour’ can be explained using two ethical frameworks from Consequentialism, namely, universal ethical egoism and act utilitarianism. As theories of Consequentialism, they determine the ethical correctness of an act by its results or consequences. Universal ethical egoism subscribes to the idea that all persons should act only to their respective best interest whilst act utilitarianism believes that the ethical extent of an act can be gauged by the extent of benefit it gives to a person and, therefore, the act that brings the greatest good – that is, happiness, pleasure and satisfaction – is the right act (Brown 2002).
Using these two frameworks, this essay will evaluate the ethical aspects of each of these so-called supermarket behaviour cited by Lawson in her article. The Application of Ethics on Supermarket Behaviour A. Universal Ethical EgoismThe ‘ supermarket behaviour’ pointed out by Lawson can be justified from the perspective of Universal Ethical Egoism theory. As a Consequentialist theory, the Universal Ethical Egoism will first gauge the effect of the following acts before judging whether they are good or bad: letting one’ s kids eat fruits inside the supermarket without paying, removing unusable parts of bananas, such as stems and stalks, so that they will weigh less, and, therefore, cost less; reading magazines off the racks whilst waiting for a turn to be served in the counter without buying them; and, scooping out nuts from display cases and munching on them while doing grocery.
Although these actions seem to be wrong and deserve censure – a sentiment echoed by the writer herself – they can be rationalised under the universal ethical egoism. According to the universal ethical egoism, an act is good if it serves the best interest of the doer (Hinman 2012).
This dictum implies self-centrism, which necessarily entails overlooking or ignoring the interests of others. This theory exemplifies the adage ‘ to each his own, ’ and applying this theory to the present dilemma means that the mother who fed her small son fruits while doing her grocery chores was not wrong, but was right after all. Feeding her sons those fruits directly from the grocery stalls served her many purposes.
The first benefit she gained from the act is that it kept her son quiet and preoccupied, allowing her to get on with her grocery chores without much distraction from the little tot. This benefit creates a ripple of other possible gains, such as getting home early, eating supper ready in time and attending to her other household chores. In addition, keeping her son calm came at no cost at all since by the time they reached the counter the little boy would have probably consumed or thrown the fruits out of the trolley.
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