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Shrewd Bargaining on the Moral Frontier: Toward a Theory of Morality In Practice*

J. Gregory Dees and Peter Cramton ()

Business Ethics Quarterly, 1991, vol. 1, issue 2, 135-167

Abstract: From a traditional moral point of view, business practitioners often seem overly concerned about the behavior of their peers in deciding how they ought to act. We propose to account for this concern by introducing a mutual trust perspective, where moral obligations are grounded in a sense of trust that others will abide by the same rules. When grounds for trust are absent, the obligation is weakened. We illustrate this perspective by examining the widespread ambivalence with regard to deception about one's settlement preferences in negotiation. On an abstract level, such deception generally seems undesirable, though in many individual cases it is condoned, even admired as shrewd bargaining. Because of the difficulty in verifying someone's settlement preferences, it is hard to establish a basis for trusting the revelations of the other party, especially in competitive negotiations with relative strangers.Brer Rabbit had got himself caught by Brer Fox and was well on his way to becoming evening dinner. Brer Rabbit was in a great deal of deep trouble.There didn’t seem much he could do about this one, but he didn’t seem concerned at all at being the Fox’s dinner. He just said, “Brer Fox I don’t mind if you eat me. But, oh, whatever you do don’t throw me in that briar patch.†Now Brer Fox was surely looking forward to eating his old enemy, but he was mighty curious about Brer Rabbit’s sweating and crying about being thrown into the briar patch.And the more he questioned it the more Brer Rabbit wailed about how much he hated and feared that briar patch.Pretty soon it did seem that Brer Rabbit would rather be eaten than be set among those briars. So Brer Fox threw Brer Rabbit into the heart of the briar patch. Brer Rabbit gleefully scampered away.From the tales of Brer Rabbit

Date: 1991
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