Pilant's Business Ethics

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Tag: corporation

The Telephone Wall

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I was watching Gasland, the Josh Fox documentary with my class a few days ago. There were two scenes in the film that struck me. Fox tries to call a gas company for comment and gets the run around, a vigorous spirited run around. It gave off a scent of “We don’t have to tell you little people anything, ever.”

But don’t we get that treatment all the time? We call our bank, we call our computer company, we call the cable company, and we call and we call, and we find ourselves enmeshed in a web of partial answers, refusals, and promises to call back later. I hate promises to call back later, they always come when I’m in the middle of something (like teaching class) or they don’t come at all.

It is certain that some organizations, some companies, have these telephone walls, merely to channel messages or discourage the unnecessary message. However, with the giant corporations in this case the gas companies, these phone walls have a more sinister purpose, that is, to deny the public the interviews, the information that would place the companies in a bad light. After all, there is a strong implication that having lobbied successfully to evade federal regulations, even the most mundane studies, that you are doing something wrong.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine a great corporation accessible without going through a gaggle of public relations minions and the occasional attorney. But we are not yet a complete oligarchy of corporations, corporate clients and a compliant government manipulating a passive, electronically entranced populous, American citizens still have responsibility to other citizens. I happen to believe that when you are a corporate citizen and are building a nation wide infrastructure of gas wells, you have a responsibility to give an occasional interview.

James Pilant

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Steven Mintz Has Written a Pair of Essays on Corporate Social Responsibility

Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage, has written two quite intelligent essays on corporate social responsibility.

Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage

The first was 8/24/2011. Entitled What Are Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR)? , the article is a basic description of the concept with the best paragraph being the following –

In a previous blog I made the case for increased regulation due to the narcissistic behavior of some on Wall Street. The Republicans seem to have short memories and are in denial as to the main cause of our economic woes. The public has lost billions in wealth as measured by losses in investments, retirement funds, and their home equity. Little regulation existed at the time to curtail risky behavior and corporate fraud including misleading and deceptive disclosures on real estate transactions. The expansion in business regulation is directly the result of unethical activities by corporate America with the result being Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank. In short, corporate America has no one to blame but itself for the “over-regulation.”

The following article appeared on 8/26/2011 and is entitled: Social and Ethical Obligations of US Multinational Companies.

My favorite paragraph is the one explaining the Rights Theory. Here it is –

In ethics we sometimes use the Rights Theory to evaluate actions and decisions. We could apply the universality perspective to outsourcing by asking: “Would I want other companies to shut down their US plants and move them overseas in similar situations for similar reasons?” In other words, if one corporation moves its plant overseas for cost savings, would I be comfortable if all corporations did the same? Taken to its logical conclusion this would mean a potentially catastrophic exodus of jobs from the US with all the related damages to our economy. Moreover, from a utilitarian perspective an argument could be made that outsourcing causes more harm through lost jobs and economic stagnation in the US compared to any utilitarian benefits that, after all, accrue mostly outside the US.

Generally, Professor Mintz and I agree on most things. However, in the first article he is more charitable to Milton Friedman than I am. I find Friedman’s theories about corporate purpose to echo Machiavellian ethics minus the idealism. I think they are a repudiation of the values of Western civilization and certainly all religious systems.

Aside from that, the Ethics Sage and I share a common opinion on the rest of the issues.

In all events, this is fine writing and deserves your attention.

I recommend you subscribe, at least favorite, the Ethics Sage and read him regularly.

James Pilant



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Corporate Profits Versus Worker Compensation – Do You See the Problem?

I found this graph at P.a.p.-Blog.

People used to make a pretty good living around here. When I was a little boy, there was only one breadwinner because it was the custom and it was all the income you needed for a middle class lifestyle.

Well, let’s not even talk about fifty years ago, let’s talk about just twelve. That’s right, all the way back to 2000.

Look at the graph lines. In proportion to corporate profits, worker compensation has fallen for the whole decade except when Wall Street took its dive back in 2008-2009. You can see that was but a brief interlude.

Americans work hard. Almost always both parents are out working. Often, people are holding down two jobs at a time. Sometimes, more.

But obeying the law – trying to raise your kids right – following the rules – that isn’t enough anymore. You have to have power, the kind of power that allows you to make record, enormous, earth shattering profits – brag to the world about it profits and then demand that your work force stay at the same compensation or force down those salaries some more.

The graph is explicit. There is constant downward wage pressure in this society regardless of profits.

Wages are supposed to go down when the economy is bad  and go up when the economy is good. No more. Now wages go down whether the economy is good or bad.

There is no safe place for an American worker. None.

I know of no reasons why this graph should not keep going in the same direction. The government, federal, state and local, is unconcerned. The media belief, at least according to the talking heads that Americans are too coddled and need to tighten their belts. The great universities are crammed with corporate paid economists who will explain that this is a basic law of economics and that we are all wealthier because of it. Well, they are.

The second decade of the 21st century, one looked forward to with such hope by my generation (baby boomers), is turning out to bear a great deal of resemblance to the last decade of the 19th, the Gilded Age. They worshiped at the idol of greed and found that corporate manipulation of the government was a “normal” practice. Well, so do we.

What happens now?

James Pilant


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Time for a Corporate Death Penalty (via AntiCorruption Society)

Time for a Corporate Death Penalty (via AntiCorruption Society)

I have advocated for the corporate death penalty before. I continue to believe it is a vital idea whose time has come.

Now that corporations have full political rights in terms of money and political advocacy, they are more and more like human beings.

So, killing one for its crimes makes more and more sense. A corporation whose crimes have risen to a certain level is seized by the government, sold off piece by piece until nothing remains. The stockholders lose everything for their failure to oversee their investment.


James Pilant

Time for a Corporate Death Penalty June 9, 2011 By Bruce A. Dixon, Managing Editor for Black Agenda Radio commentary There are more than 40 federal offenses for which the death penalty can be applied to human beings, most of them connected to homicide of one kind or another. But countless homicides committed by the artificial persons we call corporations go unpunished every day. Apparently “personal responsibility” applies only to humans who are not operating behind the legal shie … Read More

via AntiCorruption Society

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Andrew comments on my earlier post – Why I do not believe in business ethics? (via Abqur)

(Andrew comments on my earlier post – Why I do not believe in business ethics?)

From Andrew –

“There is no religion and no moral philosophy with Milton Friedman’s dicta that corporations exist only to maximize profit anymore than we exist to maximize our bank account or our stock portfolio”

Except that a corporation is not a person. It is an organization designed and built around the sole idea of delivering a product or service to make a profit. Its business. If its not competitve, then it will die. How socially responsible is it for a company to allow itself to go under and risk the livlihoods of its employees just for the sake of doing whats “socially responsible”? Self interest creates jobs. Entrepreneurs, in the search for greater profits, will build bigger manufacturing plants, bigger offices, bigger everything. That creates jobs. How is that inconsistant with being “socially responsible”?

I dont understand the bipolar nature of this country sometimes. People expect for a corporation to act morally in the same way you’d expect a person to act morally, yet the very same people freak out when corporations are given rights the same as a person would (i.e. campaign contributions).

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Net-neutrality complaints pile up (via wan k choi)


Competition is very important in a free market system. But when companies like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other who want to keep regulators from regulating those companies keeping them from becoming gatekeepers of the internet whether it be mobile or cable, then I have to say let there be regulations. Comcast is already a large company in the area where I live. I don’t have the option of choosing another service provider since there is either … Read More

via wan k choi

Why Business Is Hollywood’s Go-To Villain, Especially Now (via BNET)

BNET has an interesting essay complete with clips about the corporation as the villian of choice. It’s a fun read and the film clips alone are enough reason to view the article.

James Pilant

Corporations and their leaders are seldom cast as movie heroes.

But in the movies of 2010, whether you were at the multiplex or the art house, the go-to bad guy was the American corporation.

Even the adorable Despicable Me has super villains who need to finance their nefarious schemes and pay a visit to the Bank of Evil, or, as the posted sign indicates, the former Lehman Brothers. From Tron: Legacy to Inception, the choice of evildoer was so consistent it was a relief …. Read More.

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