Plato said,” The appetites or the passions may gain control of him and refuse to obey the dictates of his highest part, reason or mind.” (Frost 131)
If this is so what was Ford Motor Company so hungry for in the early 1970’s to knowingly sell thousands of unsafe cars to its customers? Yes, we can all agree that the foreign automakers were taking a big chunk out of the American industry with its fuel-efficient compact cars. We can even understand the concept of Ford wanting to produce it’s own compact car to compete with it’s foreign competitors. Does this make it all right then to take shortcuts if the end justifies the means?
Ford Motor Company did just that when it mass-produced and sold the Pinto. Customers expected a certain degree of respect, honesty, and quality with the purchase of their vehicle. In return for their loyalty to an American built car they got a death trap.
I don’t know if there are any written professional codes of conduct for automakers and even if they were it doesn’t mean Ford would have followed them in this case. I do know there were safety standards successfully lobbied against by Ford for almost a decade. The money spent lobbying for almost ten years could have been used to fix the problem in the first place. Two hundred thousand, seven hundred and twenty five dollars is the price Ford put on human life. In actuality Ford said human lives were not worth the five to eight dollar fix. The man who puts a monetary value on life looks at the world, and instead should stand in front of the mirror to truly gauge that value. Sure the number of human lives lost in the Pinto due to rear end collisions is very small compared to the total number of Pintos sold. I don’t think Iacocca would think so if it were his wife or child in those collisions.
Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public in the performance of their duties. This is the first fundamental canon of the Code of Ethics of Engineers. This simply means that even if Iacocca had no ethics, the engineers who designed the Pinto should have had some.
Aesop wrote that,” The injuries we do and those we suffer are seldom weighed in the same scales.” (Boldt 51) Ford Motor Company didn’t value human life high enough then and who’s to say they value it even more today?
Laurence G. Boldt, “Zen Soup Tasty Morsels of Wisdom From Great Minds East
West” Penguin Putmnan Inc, New York, New York, 1997
S. E. Frost, Jr., “Basic Teachings of The Great Philosophers”, Anchor Books,
New York, New York, 1942, Reprint 1962