Judaism recognizes that self-interest plays a major (but not sole) role in ensuring ethical standards. The principles of “Do not do unto others as you would not like done to yourself” and “Love your neighbour as yourself” suggest the positive and negative aspects of this principle.
1. Unlike other religions, Judaism has never viewed poverty as a virtue. Wealth, however, has always been seen as a challenge. Judaism places many social and charitable responsibilities on the financially stronger elements within society and emphasizes the need to avoid exploitation of the weak.
2. Moral business behaviour encourages long lasting and successful business relationships and loyal customers. Judaism adds though that the imperative of integrity demands honesty even when it is contrary to business advantage.
3. Judaism recognizes that ethics can only exist where there is an effective and respected legal infrastructure. Ethics however go beyond law and can be defined as – “Obedience to the unenforceable.”
4. Greed, while being an important motivation for economic activity, is also a source for immoral behaviour. Added to this, the uncertainty that is part of life urges us to believe that “More is better than less”, which further stimulates unethical behaviour. Judaism presents an “economics of enough” that restrains both of these factors.
For a more comprehensive look at Jewish business ethics, check out Jewish Ethicist: Everyday Ethics For Business And Life.