Liberty, Political Liberalism and Ethics in an Organizational Culture

Subject: Business Ethics
Pages: 5
Words: 1454
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: PhD


In this paper, the concepts of liberty and political liberalism are analyzed. In this case, this paper explains the link between the two concepts. The paper further provides examples of positive and negative liberties, and a brief synthesis of the debates around political liberalism. Besides, the paper explains the relationship between liberty and freedom.

Concepts of Liberty and Political Liberalism

In simple terms, the concept of liberty implies a state in which an individual is free within the society from oppressive restrictions that are often imposed by an authority on an individual’s way of life (Green, 2012). According to John Locke, liberty, in the state of nature, is consisted of being free from the influence of any superior power that is to be found on earth (Podoksik, 2010).

Liberty is divided into two distinct concepts: positive liberty and negative liberty. The concept of positive liberty allows an individual to be free from external constraints like ignorance and greed (Brennan, 2013). To this end, positive liberty provides that laws exist to prevent individuals from irrational acts; for instance, laws against things like gambling, homosexuality, lust and corruption (Moller, 2009; Kuzner, 2012). The underlying fact about positive liberty is that an individual must do what he or she must do, as anticipated in the natural law (Bentwich, 2012).

Negative liberty can be defined as freedom from external controls, which are contained in gratuitous laws (Vallentyne, 2011; Lang, 2012). In fact, Bentham has argued that every single law is a violation of liberty (Spector, 2010). Within the context of negative liberty, laws are considered to be conservative and expedient (Alexy, 2009). The implication of this is that an individual may indulge in what he or she pleases within a limited legal framework, without violating the rights of others (Russett, 2009). The concept of negative liberty captures issues like civil liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of movement, and freedom of choice (Nevins, 2010).

The concept of political liberalism is a doctrine that focuses on the protection and enhancement of individual freedoms as the central issue of a political process (Roberts, 2013). The proponents of liberalism believe that the necessity of a government is to prevent individuals from harming others (Roberts, 2013). From this fact, it is evident that political liberalism is closely associated with the concept of liberty; liberalism is a political philosophy that is grounded on the principles of equality and liberty (Roberts, 2013). Consequently, political liberalists strongly advocate for free and fair elections, freedom of the press, civil rights and freedom of worship, the very freedom espoused by the concept of liberty (Roberts, 2013).

The Debate around Political Liberalism

The debate around political liberalism began through the Rawl’s theory of justice, which inspired three interesting debates (Kunnas, 2012). The first debate is between rights-oriented liberals and proponents of utilitarianism. The proponents of utilitarianism, like Bentham and Mill, posit that justice should be based on utility (Abbey & Spinner-Halev, 2013). Contrarily, the advocates of liberty, such as Kant and Rawl, argue that respect for the rights of individuals needs a basis on which the justice is independent of utilitarian principles (Abbey & Spinner-Halev, 2013).

Rawl also inspired another debate in which the argument is primarily within the rights-oriented liberalism. In Rawl’s argument, if certain individual rights are considered more important than the general welfare, then a question arises as to the kind of such rights (Kunnas, 2012).

There is also the debate of libertarian liberals proposed by Nozick and Hayek (Grune-Yanoff, 2012). According to libertarians, the government should always respect fundamental political and civil liberties (Grune-Yanoff, 2012). It is important to note that there are other debates that are still developing around political liberalism (Grune-Yanoff, 2012).

The Relationship between Liberty and Freedom

Notably, liberty and freedom are concepts that are often used interchangeably (Bogues, 2010). Scholars argue that the concept of liberalism derives from freedom (Bogues, 2010). The scholars further contend that liberalism is the historic advocate of individuals’ freedom (Bogues, 2010). In terms of definition, liberty is the state of being free from the control of an authoritarian government, while freedom is the state in which one is free to enjoy social, civil and political liberties (Bogues, 2010). Given the definitions, it means that the objectives of the concepts of liberty and freedom are similar (Bogues, 2010).


Liberty, political liberalism and freedom are very significant concepts that determine the relationship between individuals and the state, and also among the individual themselves (Grune-Yanoff, 2012). Liberty means that one should be free to act without undue restraints from the authority (Green, 2012). Freedom tends to have the same meaning as liberty, while political liberalism is a doctrine that is concerned with the rights of individuals (Bogues, 2010).

This paper examines issues of organizational culture and the process of policy formulation. In essence, it looks at how organizational cultures can influence the formulation of either good ethical or unethical policies.

Organizational Culture and Policy Formulation

There is a relationship between an organization’s culture and its policy formulation processes (Krishna, 2009). In this regard, it is acknowledged that when there are no effective external controls with unequivocal approvals, and the existing internal and external controls are not compatible with the intention of new organizational policies, then the overriding issue during a policy formulation process may be personal values, organizational subcultures or professional traditions (Cooper, 2012). In this case, it is argued that if the issues are not synchronized with policy objectives, then administrators are likely to exhibit inconsistent conducts, which may result in unethical decision making processes (Cooper, 2012).

Moreover, the ethical policy formulation requires that all stakeholders who are involved in a decision making process should have ethical skills and virtues, which are components of inner moral traits (Cooper, 2012). These traits determine whether stakeholders who are involved in a decision making process are likely to come up with ethical policies or unethical ones (Cooper, 2012).

The Selected Organizational Policy

The selected organizational policy regards the required dress code for employees working for Spectrum for Living (Spectrum for Living, 2007). The policy requires all employees to dress in a specific way so as to keep up with the organizational cultures and norms (Spectrum for Living, 2007). The policy also specifies how the employees should do their personal grooming, in which case it specifies that failure to observe the provisions of the policy may lead to disciplinary actions being taken against violators (Spectrum for Living, 2007).

The Culture of Spectrum for Living

The tradition of the organization is that all employees who are in direct contact with clients must not pose any threat or harm to the clients. In addition, the organization emphasizes the norm of professionalism among all employees in order to provide appropriate and satisfactory services to clients. The norm of the organization is that employees should be as simple as is relevant in the context of its areas of operations; the employees are prohibited from having certain accessories at work, the accessories of which are considered as hazardous. Therefore, generally, the culture of the organization entails professionalism, high hygienic standards and prohibition of accessories while serving clients.

How the Organizational Culture Influenced the Creation of the Policy

The organizational culture of Spectrum for Living is based on the kind of clients it serves, the disabled in New Jersey (Spectrum for Living, 2007). It is worth noting that the disabled people have specific risk factors that need to be dealt with, if they are to get relevant services; this becomes the objective of the organization. In order to meet this objective, the organization has deemed it fit to have the policy in place. Therefore, the culture of ensuring a safe environment and providing professional services to clients is the main reason the organization has come up with the policy.

Solution to the Liberty Issue

In resolving the issue, the organization’s leadership should begin by collecting as much information as possible from the employees to get a clear picture of employees’ grievances (Cooper, 2012). Then, the leadership should define the specific ethical issue to establish conflicting values and obligations (Cooper, 2012). The leader should next identify different alternative courses of actions, examine the consequences of each alternative course, and choose the best alternative to resolve the issue (Cooper, 2012).


An organization’s culture influences its ethical decision making process (Krishna, 2009). The type of an organizational culture may result in either ethical or unethical policies being formulated (Cooper, 2012). Hence, an organization needs to ensure that its decision makers have moral traits in order to achieve ethical policies (Cooper, 2012). Again, policy issues, like that of the Spectrum for Living, may be resolved through the use of Cooper’s decision making model (Cooper, 2012).


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