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The Importance of Character

(Steven Mintz’s writing on the importance of character  are the focus of today’s essay.)

The Importance of Character

Today, I want to talk about my friend, Steven Mintz and his recent post, Character and Free Speech Go Hand in Hand. Steven has rightly pointed out that character is a critical value and below is a little segment from his essay (which of course in no way does it justice).

The Josephson Institute identifies Six Pillars of Character. They include: trustworthiness; respect; responsibility; fairness; caring; and citizenship. I define them a bit differently and place them in six categories I call “The Magnificent Seven Core Ethical Values.”

Truthfulness: Be honest and non-deceptive: don’t hide important facts from others.

Trustworthiness: Keep promises, be reliable, treat others faithfully.

Responsibility: Be accountable for your actions; learn from your mistakes.

Fair-mindedness: Treat others equally, impartially, and objectively.

Respect: The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Caring: Be kind to others; be sensitive to their needs; show empathy for others.

Civility: Listen to others attentively; don’t be rude or disrespectful.

All of Steven’s writing is constructed in carefully organized format and reading these little pieces does not give you the full flavor of his writing so please journey to his web site and read them all in full.

The Importance of Character

It is hard to over emphasize the importance of character in America. I think that character is often manifested in civic virtue and patriotism. One of things that pains me about modern society is the willingness of many businesses to casually discard American workers and Americans interests such as patents and trade secrets as long as the money is good enough. This kind of thinking is the opposite of character and is evidence of narcissism and greed.

It seems to me that we should actively seek to build character by rewards. Shouldn’t it be possible in our policies of taxation, in our rules admitting people to attend training or schooling that we could introduce the concept of rewarding virtue, not just good grades but good actions and living with others in mind?

If we want to have a society where we want the rules to be followed, shouldn’t we reward those that follow the rules? And rewards do not have to be money. It can be honor. Napoleon once wrote that a man wouldn’t give you his life for any sum of money but would gladly yield it up for a piece of metal on a ribbon but isn’t his little story more an example of how we wish to be thought of, and the sacrifices we are willing to make to others to appreciate and value our contributions?

Can we do something along those lines at this time in this society?

James Pilant

The Possum Magic Edition

The Possum Magic Edition

Possum Magic is picture book for children written by Australian author, Mem Fox. As a business ethics writer, you might think I was about to take up the topic of her book, its sales, and whether or not it is a good read.

i_00i_243_tnBut no, it’s because of this – (from the Guardian)

The Australian children’s book author Mem Fox has suggested she might never return to the US after she was detained and insulted by border control agents at Los Angeles airport.

Fox, who is famous worldwide for her best-selling books including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Possum Magic, was en route to a conference in Milwaukee earlier this month when she was stopped.

She told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she was questioned by border agents for two hours in front of a room full of people – an experience that left her feeling like she had been physically assaulted.

“I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain, with so many insults and with so much gratuitous impoliteness,” Fox said.

“I felt like I had been physically assaulted which is why, when I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby, and I’m 70 years old.”

The author attributed the aggressive questioning to border police who had been “turbocharged” by Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban.

Fox said she was questioned over her visa, despite having travelled to America 116 times before without incident. She was eventually granted access to the country.

 

It appears that the ongoing militarization of American policing is proceeding with great speed. Do you really need me to explain that getting tough with a white haired seventy year old children’s book author is bad and incompetent policing? Do I need to say that the two hours spent grilling this elderly woman might have been better spent on an actual criminal justice matter?

Empowered to Act Foolish?

I have read elsewhere that some law enforcement feel empowered by the election of Donald Trump and indeed, they have been doing some interesting things lately. Let’s make a little list:

Let’s begin with the son of Muhammad Ali.

On 7 February, border agents at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood international airport held the son of boxing legend Muhammad Ali for two hours. According to his lawyer, they repeatedly asked him about his religion.

Just last June, the world mourned the passing of his father, perhaps the most famous Muslim on the planet, as an American hero. Eight months and a presidential election later, Muslim Americans, including those with notable fathers, can’t even return to their own country without problems.

But, they keep telling us, it’s not a Muslim ban.

Then there is the case of Henry Rousso who was almost deported in spite of the pesky little fact that he was here legally.

A French historian on his way to a conference in Texas was detained for 10 hours by US border officials and threatened with deportation.

Officials at Texas A&M University said Henry Rousso was going to be returned to Paris as an illegal alien “due to a visa misunderstanding”.

The university stopped the deportation with help from a law professor, local news website The Eagle reported.

President Donald Trump has pledged to tighten US border controls.

“I have been detained 10 hours at Houston International Airport about to be deported,” Mr Rousso, 62, confirmed in a tweet on Saturday.

A British teacher who appears to have been blocked for the “crime” of being Muslim.

British Muslim teacher Juhel Miah was on a school field trip when he was escorted off an Icelandair flight to New York and told he was denied entry into the U.S.

And here’s the case of cinematographer Khaled Khateeb

The Department of Homeland Security has blocked a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on an Oscar-nominated documentary about the country’s civil war, The White Helmets, from entering the country. The Associated Press saw some “internal Trump administration correspondence” in which officials decided to block Khaled Khateeb’s entry into the United States. Khateeb was scheduled to arrive Saturday in Los Angeles via Istanbul, but U.S. official reportedly found “derogatory information” on Khateeb. “Derogatory information is a broad category that can include anything from terror connections to passport irregularities,” reports the AP.

Dare to be stupid!

I remember a lovely title that just as soon as I heard it I wished I’d thought of it. It was “Dare to be stupid.” What’s our law enforcement doing? And should we even be using that phrase “our” in front of them? Once they just start doing their own thing, they are not really our law enforcement.

What are these guys doing? Have they seen too many episodes of 24? Is there an idea that if we are rude and mean enough to professionals from allied nations and on occasion, the child of an American icon, terrorists will get scared? Because I think this nonsense is just foolish. It’s unprofessional, anti-law enforcement and petty.

It is strange to think that the United States should welcome friends and allies? What do we stand for here? Because petty harassment, anti Muslim sentiment and simple nastiness to foreign visitors are not American values.

James Alan Pilant

The Ethics Sage Addresses Unintended Consequences

The Ethics Sage Addresses Unintended Consequences

In an article entitled, Unintended Consequences of the H1-B Visa Program and sub-titled: Are American Workers Adequately Trained to Fill High Tech Jobs?, Steven Mintz, better known as the Ethics Sage, discusses the likely impact of a coming Trump executive order.

Here is (what I think is) the most critical paragraph –

Trump is taking a short-term view of a long-term problem, which is our colleges and universities are not training an adequate number of American students to fill jobs in technology and the sciences to meet the growing needs of American companies. However, no one is addressing the real problem which is American colleges and universities give preference to foreign students, especially public institutions. The reason is they pay about four times the tuition of residents of a state. Given the magnitude of state budget cuts for public colleges and universities in the aftermath of the financial recession, foreign students are highly sought out for their financial wherewithal thereby crowding out American students.

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage

As always, when I give you a brief selection from Steven’s work, you should take the opportunity to go to his site and read the whole thing. I am confident my quick summaries of his work and choice of selections never do full justice to the quality of his efforts.

I have not decided quite how to deal with the new administration and I’ll probably wait to see the executive order itself since I’m trained as an attorney, I firmly believe the devil is in the details. So, it could be just as Steven says, worse or (most likely) a whole lot worse. The drafting of these executive orders has not been impressive. In fact, there is a theory running about that they are Leninist political maneuvers designed to divert attention from the real issues while damaging and dividing enemies of the new administration. I don’t know, myself, whether this is true but I will be watching to see if a pattern forms.

Please LIKE, Favorite and re-blog if you like.

I enjoy the attention and any allies I can find who believe in business ethics are very welcome to join the struggle.

James Pilant

The Single Star Edition

The Single Star Edition

IMD will shut down discussion boards in two weeks. It appears that the site was the target of negative reaction to minority films. Below is the trailer for the documentary, I Am Not Your Negro.

I Am Not Your Negro Official Trailer 1 (2016) – James Baldwin Documentary – YouTube

Here is a review from You Tube in which the film is described as extraordinary –

I Am Not Your Negro – Official Documentary Review – YouTube

Now let me quote The Hollywood Reporter:

The decision to shut down the discussion boards comes at a time when IMDb’s user-driven feature is coming under fire.

The viability of IMDb’s user voting system has been called into question, as the ratings of movies by minority filmmakers receive a disproportionate amount of negative ratings, which are measured by stars on a scale from one to 10. Today, some Twitter users have singled out Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, as a recent example of this issue.

The doc hit theaters today and already has received 409 one-star votes from users, compared to 318 10-star votes, with a nominal number of in-between votes.

Based on the information provided do you think that the film deserved 409 one star ratings as opposed to 318 ten star. I don’t either. It appears that the message boards are now vehicles for a new and sinister force online. The boards are now an opportunity for white supremacists and others of that ilk to damage the careers and films of minorities. The choice of giving a single star for a very bad film is now used as a weapon against very good films. The quality is not the issue. The maker is.

This is the right decision on the part of IMD. In the wake of Gamergate and other actions, it appears that the online landscape is increasingly subject to abuse. It is better to stop the boards now before the online trolling becomes more serious ultimately culminating in death threats and other abuse. Business ethics demands that this kind of trolling be stopped.

So far, my small web presence has gone unnoticed but I am a fervent believer in the equality of all human beings. And there will come a time when humanity will either become one race or diverge through technology into a variety of hybrid human species. It will be interesting to see this take place although I have little expectation of surviving to witness any great part of it.

So, it may be that someday I too will get to shut down commentary and retreat behind the heaviest online defenses I can find or like many others give up blogging altogether. But little has happened yet along those lines.

The Real Continuity Edition

The Real Continuity Edition

The brief selection below is from an article by Zach Carter from the Huffington Post called: Wall Street Is Even More Craven Than We Thought and sub titled: The new alliance between financial executives and Donald Trump.

Democrats used to see Jamie Dimon as one of the good guys on Wall Street. Once hailed as a “progressive” by The New Republic, the JPMorgan Chase CEO counted himself friends with two different chiefs of staff to President Barack Obama and traveled to the first black White House no less than 16 times. In 2009, The New York Times described him as “Obama’s favorite banker.” He has publicly supported same-sex marriage and the legalization of undocumented immigrants.

Dimon gave hundreds of thousands to Democratic Party candidates, the party itself, and even the Center for American Progress, a think tank advancing the ideas of Bill Clinton and Obama.

But there was Dimon on Friday, sitting at a table surrounded by other wealthy corporate executives, being praised by President Donald Trump ― a man who publicly supports war crimes and is already flirting with a constitutional crisis as he implements a campaign promise to impose “a complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

In my case, the title is wrong, I was under no illusion that the giant investment banks had any limit on their willingness to cut deals with anyone, anywhere, anytime. The only difference is that they were already part of the new government if it had been Hilary and now have to scramble. I find it hard to sympathize with their plight.

!!!i_00i_009_tnBut this is the American way of banking. Homeowners may be cheated out of their possessions, economies crashed, strange overseas deals and money laundering take place and yet, the American Investment banks dwell at the heart of our government shaping laws and policies. It’s like Mom and Apple Pie, if Mom and Apple Pie were immoral cancers eating out the heart of our democracy.

Let me point out that many of these Investment banks have pleaded the equivalent of no contest to charges that would put a normal human being like you or I in prison for millions and millions of years. Yet, there they are at the heart of our government cutting a new set of deals making the world safe for financial speculation of the American kind.

If Obama had pursued criminal prosecutions against the banks in the aftermath of the financial disaster of 2007, their political power might very well have been broken as they were in the aftermath of the Great Depression. Instead for many years to come they will play politicians against each other like chess pieces on a board while preying on the poor and the middle class. Obama’s failure to pursue justice against the malefactors who came within an ace of destroying our economy is his greatest failure.

The “What Now?” Edition

The “What Now?” Edition

And so we arrive at the end of the Barack Obama administration by my account and that of objective reality – a business ethics disaster. The villains who almost destroyed the world economy found not justice but money and friendship in the Obama Administration. The financial criminals who did so much to destroy the fabric and any sense of honor in this society walk the streets as free men and, in fact, take their places at the highest levels of government in our new administration. Barack Obama failed at one of the most critical duties of the President of the United States. He failed to bring evil men to justice.

And now some of those same evil men will be making policy in the new administration. That was easily predictable.

I refused to support Hilary Clinton because many of those same bankers were part of her campaign and would have been part of her administration. When given the opportunity to speak to the criminal scum that endangered our society and have destroyed the economic lives of millions – this was her approach:

Far from chiding Goldman Sachs for obstructing Democratic proposals for financial reform, Clinton appeared to sympathize with the giant investment bank. At a Goldman Sachs Alternative Investments Symposium in October 2013, Clinton almost apologized for the Dodd-Frank reform bill, explaining that it had to pass “for political reasons,” because “if you were an elected member of Congress and people in your constituency were losing jobs and shutting businesses and everybody in the press is saying it’s all the fault of Wall Street, you can’t sit idly by and do nothing.”

Of course, she tried to keep this boot licking approach secret by refusing to release the transcripts of the speeches. In the foolishly moral like me, it would seem speaking in secret with a message of government servitude to the banking industry while saying something different to us would be wrong but her lack of ethics and morality were apparent to only people like me. There were many that were willing to overlook this kind of behavior on the grounds that the other guy was worse. I decline to do so. And I made the right decision. This administration will be terrible but the kind of sustained think tank, contributor controlled, Democratic Leadership Council inspired oligarchy, could have continued for decades. She could very well have made this Neo-liberal monstrosity a permanent part of our institutions.

I do not think it is irrational behavior on my part to wait for a candidate who is willing to enforce the law against the banking industry. I do not think that expecting a President to defend the nation from those whose financial excesses endanger the common good and the economic lives of millions should be surprising or outside the bounds of our politics.

So what now, am I willing to hold Donald Trump to the same standards I expected of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton? Yes I will. I do admit there is a level of strangeness in the new President that I find daunting. Let me explain.

I have taught for many years and I have my students write essays. A good portion choose to do no research before writing, not even the most casual internet browse. And it’s like talking to your neighbor over the offense or in the bar with a fellow drinker. They just write their gut feelings which are very often just ill conceived nonsense. And that is the sense I get from President Trump. Further, I sense no intellectual depth at all. His behavior is almost primal.

People often want to put me in some kind of ideological box. I am supposed to be a liberal or a progressive or something. People are astonished at my criticisms of Obama because “Well, isn’t he your president?” He was President of the United States and I voted for him the first time and refused to vote for him the second time. In my mind, following the party line is wrong whether it is that of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or any other party. I am a passionate advocate for women’s equality and I have come to a point where I consider racism such despicable nonsense that those espousing it are no longer in my judgment ladies or gentlemen.

I have no illusions that the stranglehold of contributors on the Democratic Party establishment will be broken or that the Republicans will find a sense of purpose beyond winning and servitude to the wealthy.

I speak for business ethics and that is enough.

James Alan Pilant

The Steven Mintz Edition!

The Steven Mintz Edition!

The Ethics Sage

The Ethics Sage

My friend, Steven Mintz, better known as The Ethics Sage, has a beautiful new web site which can be found here. For a good number of years now, Professor Mintz has published a blog on ethics, particularly focusing originally on accounting ethics but broadening his focus as time went by.

He also has a Facebook page which like his new web site is quite beautifully laid out.

https://www.facebook.com/StevenMintzEthics

I highly recommend his work and he is a prolific author. So there is a lot to see and read.

So visit, share and add to your favorites!

James Pilant

This is Steven’s self introduction from his new web site –

Known as “The Ethics Sage” to many, Dr. Steven Mintz is a well-known Professor Emeritus from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. His blog, The Ethics Sage, was voted number 49 out of the Top 100 Philosophy blogs and one of the top 30 blogs on CSR. Steve provides insights on workplace issues with his blog “Workplace Ethics Advice.” He has written articles for various media outlets including the Pacific Coast Business Times, Chronicle of Higher Education and The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility’s Business Ethics Online. Dr. Mintz is an ethics expert and available to speak on a variety of ethics issues including workplace ethics. . He offers courses on accounting and workplace ethics through “Geniecast.” 

Dangerous Neoliberalism Edition

Dangerous Neoliberalism Edition

Sometimes you find a paragraph that says what you would like to say brilliantly and this is one of those paragraphs.

Many times I’ve tried to explain the impact of free market fundamentalism, Hayek, Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand, all of whose combined effect might well be summed up by the word, neoliberalism.

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Dangerous Neoliberalism Edition

I strongly agree and endorse the following statement from George Monbiot in his essay from The GuardianNeoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems.

“Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.”

I think Donald Trump is President now due in part to feelings of powerlessness on the part of the middle class due to their loss of economic and political power — and much more due to Hilary Clinton’s embrace of this maniacal philosophy more worthy of a James Bond Villain than someone wanting to be the leader of a free people.

James Pilant

The Globalisation Collapse Edition

The Globalisation Collapse Edition

It has only been a few days since Donald Trump saved a thousand jobs or so at Carrier, a company that makes air conditioners and other appliances. I have heard a great deal of criticism directed at the deal but I cannot agree.

It’s just a thousand jobs!

Oh, the criticism is generally quite correct. It’s just a thousand jobs they say and to many like Paul Krugman, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Apparently the damage done to the surrounding community is just collateral damage. There is this assumption that the forces destroying American jobs, American communities and American lives are caused by natural economic forces and simply are a matter of time. This is nonsense. Virtually every aspect of economics is either man-made or a set of policy decisions made by human beings.

The simple fact is those jobs could have been moved to Mexico at any point during the modern era to workers making a fraction of their American brethren. Why didn’t it? Because the belief system that money was a value that trumped patriotism and national borders had not yet taken root and put into policy. The current philosophy of business is that of predators and prey and it is unworthy of America and Americans.

Yeah, Trump’s agreement is a bad deal. It sets a bad precedent. And yet there are a thousand jobs that aren’t going to Mexico. Which part is history going to remember, that this is where the destruction of the American working class might be slowed or even stopped or that is was a bad deal?

i_00i_077_tnAnd that simple fact is very important. It is a gauntlet thrown in the face of classical economics and the neo-liberal elite who are either cheering on or actively participating in the destruction of the American middle class. And it has been a very successful war for their side. There is hardly a middle class job that offers any form of job security or bright future. It has been taken away.

Paul Mason writing for the Guardian suggests that liberal democracies may be on the edge of collapse comparing them to the Soviet Union in 1989. He writes

Since Trump’s victory in November 2016, it has become possible to believe a similar collapse will happen in the west, to globalisation and liberal values.

The parallels are obvious. We too have lived for 30 years under an economic system that proclaimed its own permanence. Globalisation was an unstoppable natural process; free-market economics simply the natural state of things.

But when the country that designed globalisation, imposed it and benefited from it most votes against it, you have to consider the possibility that it is going to end, and suddenly. If so, you also have to consider a possibility that – if you are a liberal, humanist democrat – may be even more shocking: that oligarchic nationalism is the default form of failing economies.

The values of lifetime employment, job security, regular hours, pension and medical insurance are doable policy. They are the policies of good people who take their responsibility to their fellow citizens, their fellow human beings seriously.

And that is business ethics, not a careful examination of the narrow subject of shrinkage on the job although that has its place. If we don’t talk about this subject from a moralistic global perspective we are always going to be losing to the amoral scum who assume the Easter Bunny like chimera of the free market will justify their evil.

James Pilant

Industrial Policy Edition

The Industrial Policy Edition

I was reading an article in Internet Magazine, The Week, by Jeff Spross (one of my very favorite writers),  entitled “Donald Trump is already picking winners and losers in business. Good,” when I realized I had found a very pointed comment regarding business ethics.i_00i_281_tn

You see we live in the age of the Chicago School of Economics, a school the school itself would argue is devoted to free men, free choice and the free market. And I would argue is devoted to the destruction of every human value not directly priceable in dollars.

One of their beliefs is that if a company wants to move American jobs overseas, that is just ducky, more power to them. Spross argues in favor of industrial policy, (the same position I take and here is a brief selection from his article directly on this point. –

First off, politics is still politics. So industrial policy still happens, but just on a “pork barrel” basis, changing from industry to industry and locality to locality. Mainstream economic skepticism didn’t kill off industrial policy, it just made it scattershot and incoherent.

It also made industrial policy far more pro-corporate. The U.S. government could use the sticks of higher taxes, tariffs, and regulation, or even the brute force of its own spending power to build up certain industries. But mainstream economics pooh-poohs this approach. So instead industrial policy defaults to carrots: tax breaks and de-regulation that entice businesses to put jobs and investments in certain places. That drives up inequality, makes it harder to pay for social programs, and gives those businesses more freedom to exploit the public. This practice is especially rife at the state level, where governments routinely offer tax breaks and such for companies to relocate within their own borders.

But mainly, skepticism of industrial policy created a world where many Americans feel like the government’s attitude toward their lives, families, and towns is benign neglect. And of course, once we abandoned industrial policy, GDP growth still slowed down, wages stagnated, unemployment became a much bigger problem, and small towns and the countryside began to die economically.

All of which is a big part of why Trump won.

For the last thirty years business and industry have united to move jobs overseas justified by an economic school of belief which thinks it has moved beyond such petty ideas as those of good and evil. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, communities have become impoverished and the resultant concentration of economic power in the hand of the few has perverted our government.

This is evil.

We have a responsibility under Western Civilization, as fellow citizens and human beings to look after one another. We are not atoms bouncing about and only free when self interested. Life has responsibilities beyond economic predatorship.

Please think about these things. The idea that everything has its price is an easy mode of analysis that seems to make sense but do I even need to explain that subtlety, nuance, morality and ethics have their place as well?

James Pilant

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