Probably one of the first rules most of us are taught is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This golden rule, whether taught by a parent, teacher or religious leader, is a cornerstone for many as it serves as a practical guide to everyday life.
As insurance professionals deal with the public, the golden rule takes on more than a philosophical meaning. The practical level of such a statement applies to the basic code of ethics that agents must use not only in their personal lives, but also, in their daily responsibilities in their business dealings.
Many believe that social behavior that favors the group over the individual should be emphasized. But there are four basic obstacles that must be dealt within order to act ethically.
One. The primary obstacle has to do with concern for self versus others. This obstacle could prevent the individual from looking out for the “common good” of society, as opposed to making a decision purely on the individual’s own happiness and welfare. From an insurance standpoint, this means that agents should put the interests of their clients ahead of their own good.
Two. The second obstacle relates to the intuition versus rationalism obstacle. While some philosophers believe that humans intuitively know what is right, others tell us we must use pure reason to uncover what is right. The problem in the insurance industry is “does one have a ready excuse for improper behavior because he/she did not know the rules? In order to apply reason in the insurance profession, we must know the rules! One realizes the importance of proper training when this precept is used. However, realistically speaking, even without proper training, if something doesn’t “feel right, it probably is not right, and the action should be avoided.
Three. The third obstacle pits absolutism against relativism. One school of thought believes that certain actions, in and of themselves, are always right. This is called absolutism. Another school believes that whether an action is good or right depends upon the particular circumstances of a situation. This is relativism. As insurance professionals market their services, they are obligated to follow the rules that have been instituted to spell out what is considered to be right or wrong. This would be an example of absolutism. However, when dealing with the multitude of clients needs, the insurance professional must offer different solutions for different clients, thus relativism is being practiced.
Four. The fourth obstacle deals with the possible conflict between religious teaching and individual authority. Most religions delineate right from wrong according to a strict code of authority. Some philosophers reject such a notion and stress that each individual creates their own set of values. Religions vary widely as to practices and beliefs as do individual values. However, most of the religions and individual value systems agree on one basic rule: The golden rule, overall, ethics can be narrowed down to one general definition, which Albert Schweitzer left for the ages. “Ethics is the name we give to our concern for good behavior. We feel an obligation to consider not only our own personal well being but also that of others and of human society as a whole.” To summarize such a definition, only three words are needed: Regard for others.
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