Laws cannot truthfully confront #ethicsdrift. Some lawyers are the indispensible spin doctors of ethics drift.
Excerpts from Marcus Tullius Cicero. De Officiis, translated by Walter Miller, Loeb Edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1913), courtesy of http://www.stoics.com
BOOK III. xii.
XII. Let it be set down as an established principle, then, that what is morally wrong can never be expedient - not even when one secures by means of it that which one thinks expedient; for the mere act of thinking a course expedient, when it is morally wrong, is demoralizing.
The whole argument is very worth a twenty minute read:
Here is the quote in a more up-to-date rendering:
What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious.”
Let it be said that even Cicero was never entirely comfortble with the problem of ethics drift. What about the situation when a lawyer is necessarily called upon to defend wrong or evil? How about this argument taken from book two of De Officiis:
. . . they do this, I assume, on moral, conscientious principles. (For whatever is just, they hold, is also expedient; and, in like manner, whatever is morally right is also just. It follows, then, that whatever is morally right is also expedient.) Those who fail to comprehend that theory do often, in their admiration for shrewd and clever men, take craftiness for wisdom. But they must be disabused of this error and their way of thinking must be wholly converted to the hope and conviction that it is only by moral character and righteousness, not by dishonesty and craftiness, that they may attain to the objects of their desires.
It is the bracketed syllogism that is important here. Did Cicero really accept the premises on which it is built? Who among us today do or can? Somewhere in the background the necessary lie must lurk. Still, De Officiis is an invaluable if somewhat daunting read.