Google proclaims, in item six of its “ten things we know to be true” that “you can make money without doing evil”.
Yet it announced recently that it would lay off roughly 20% of Motorola Mobility’s workforce in order to restructure the recently acquired company (May of 2012) so that it might be returned to profitability.
From the perspective of the laid-off workers, is Google doing evil? If you were one of the laid-off workers, would you think Google is doing good, or doing evil?
Thus is revealed the innately subjective evaluation of good and evil. Evil from one point of view is good from another. Google’s claim that it can make money without doing evil in its “ten things” it knows to be true goes on to list things that matter to customers, like revealing sponsored links on its web searches. So by Google saying money can be made without doing evil it apparently means that money can be made without taking advantage of the ignorance of its customers. That’s nice. But really, it is only a self-serving market positioning intended to entice more people to use its search engine, so that it can ultimately make more money.
Google understands that Motorola Mobility can not be made profitable without which it must do some bad to some portion of its employees (by firing them). Thus Google’s promise that it won’t do evil rings hollow, as it always has, but rarely so openly.
But no organization and no individual can survive by “doing no evil” from all perspectives. The question then becomes, whose perspective matters more? Is it the perspective of the organization? From even Motorola Mobility’s perspective (not just its new owner, Google), those superfluous employees were doing evil. Or, is it from the perspective of the individual? Obviously the individuals did not think collecting a paycheck, even if they knew their employment to be superfluous, was an act of evil.
The same question of whose perspective decides what is good and evil nests at the core of the political acrimony between liberals and conservatives. Liberals believe that it is the individual whose opinion matters most on questions of good and evil. Thus, even if the organization is bankrupt (Medicare and Social Security, in the political realm), the organization should still not impose its vision of evil upon the individuals within it (by limiting benefits, etc.) Conservatives generally believe it is the organization which gets to decide the perspective upon which questions of good and evil will be answered, except when it comes to decisions about some individual liberties (e.g., gun control), when it should be left to individuals to decide.
The take away point to all this is, however, very simple: Morality is always situational and subjective. There are no moral absolutes, only absolute interests. One individual’s evil elimination of jobs is another individual’s (or organization’s) good for enhancing the ability to realize profits. Becoming a psychically adult human requires understanding the subjective and situational foundation for questions of good and evil.