Pilant's Business Ethics

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Tag: morals

Is IT Ethical (via Cognitive Noise)

I have read that knowing the right questions may well be better than knowing the answers. This is because you can always ask the questions again when circumstances change and what used to be the answers is now irrelevant.

These are good questions.

I liked the opening comments about War and Peace. I never was able to get very far with it either but I did see the Russian six-hour movie. Maybe that counts.

James Pilant

Special thanks to Cognitive Noise (The best blog title I have seen in quite some time.)

One of my KM gurus (Dave Snowden) once said to get primed on ethics you just need to read War and Peace, earnestly I tried and could not go past the first 30 pages. So understand that my knowledge is limited and so is yours I assume. Ethics are challenged in every industry; specifically my view on “ethical IT services” is possible just by questioning, Questions on what we do when no one else is looking 1. Is it fine for a Project Manage … Read More

via Cognitive Noise

ethics (via prof write @ usc)

This is a post in an ongoing class about teaching writing. The ethical problems discussed here are not too far from the problems of teaching business ethics. I know I have more than a few college students reading my posts. I think those students will take particular pleasure in this essay.

How do you teach ethics? If I have any advice to offer, it would be this: never teach ethics as if choices were a matter of point of view – teach ethics as if the choices were a matter of validity. If you teach ethics while mentioning different philosophies, students tend to take away the idea that morality is a matter of opinion.  I recommend ( and do) teach ethics as to which moral system is most appropriate while discussing the moral reasoning behind that ethical code. The idea is that a student will take from the class the idea that different ethical choices are based on human reason.

If morals are a matter of opinion, money ranks as a rationale with God, honor and country. If morals are a matter of validity or a matter of reason, rationales are weighed and considered.

James Pilant

After reading Katz and Ornatowski, and after our discussion in class on Tuesday, I’ve been struggling to figure out what it means to teach ethics—in writing classes in general and in professional writing classes in particular. Flipping through Locker’s textbook, I see the hard-core instrumentalist approach (basically, don’t lie on your resume or CV). “Ethics” doesn’t even appear in the index. I’m still waiting on my copy of Peeples, so I haven’ … Read More

via prof write @ usc

The Ethics Sage Responds to the Post: Maybe It’s Time For A Movement – A Movement That Moves Beyond Doing Good To Doing Right (via First Friday Book Synopsis)

Steven Mintz

The Ethics Sage, Steven Mintz, comments on an earlier post.

Yes. We can do what is difficult but the first step is recognizing there is a problem. I haven’t seen that from any of our leaders and it’s certainly not discussed in the media. The work ethic and hunger for learning that once existed no longer is there. We have become a soft nation; too many have had it too good for too long. It used to be young people were motivated to succeed at least in part to have it better than their parents. Since they have been given everything they need and want, what’s left? The problem is exacerbated by our instant access culture. Press a button and you have what you want. Go on the Internet and download what you need. We are not a doing society anymore. We are a let others do it for us society. It has taken its toll and those of us who are trying to educate young people are constantly frustrated by the prevailing mentality of students — tell me what I need to know to get the highest grade or best job. I don’t have any answers because I don’t think many people recognize the problem or, if they do, it’s easier to just make believe it doesn’t exist.

Good Words. I, too, see a lack of leadership on moral issues. But we really can’t have a national dialogue without enforcement of the law against the financial sector. When we read daily of the profits of investment bankers against a back drop of investigative reports showing their culpability in financial disaster, it is difficult to tell anyone that high ethical standards are important. Just the opposite. The great investment banks live for profit without any consideration of any moral or ethical principle. They are willing to participate in the destruction of democracies, economies and the, occasional, forest; if it makes money.

In the next life they will be punished. I find that cold comfort when their actions are solid evidence that an immoral corporate culture can make you rich.

These people do not deserve their money. They do not deserve the high opinion in which they are held. They do not deserve the influence they have over the lives of others.


James Pilant

They do deserve salaries in proportion to what they produce, not a comical casino profit insured from blunder by the government, but salary based on value produced. Those among them who have committed crimes, prison sentences and confinement in real prisons with real prisoners. These captains of investment deserve to be rated according the their actual accomplishments and abilities not held up as examples to steer youth into ruthless pursuit of gain.


The culture I want rewards people based on their merits and at the very least values the common brotherhood of all human kind.

James Pilant

Could science prove that vanilla is better than chocolate? (via No Right to Believe)

Philosophy does enter into business ethics. Our author here discusses the idea that we can derive moral standards from science. It is an interesting take on the subject. Very practical from the author’s point of view. He does in the end agree with the idea of the significance of science in morality.

I enjoyed it. Please read it. The author has many other posting about the nature of belief.

James Pilant

Science can undoubtedly help us get what we want, but could science ever tell us what we ought to want, or what we ought to value? Sam Harris thinks so: he argues that the only reasonable source of value in this universe is the well-being of conscious creatures, which is constrained by the laws of nature — placing morality under the purview of science. But if that were true — so goes one of the criticisms Harris engages — couldn’t we say the s … Read More

via No Right to Believe

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Personal Change Doesn’t Equal Social Change

Kendra Langdon Juskus writes this in the website, Evangelicals for Social Action. In an article called “The Danger of Small Steps,” she questions the notion that individual action by itself can produce meaningful change. In fact, she says that it gives a false feeling of doing something successful and significant whereas the larger problems go unaddressed.

The degradation of the environment and the degradation of business morality happen over long periods of time, thus, our perspective is limited. It gives individual action a veneer of success when the problems are long term and not easily understood by individuals.

There is a section I recommend where they discuss “shifting base syndrome.” This is when you measure progress based on your earlier perception not the actual baseline. In other words, you consider normal to be inside your experience when in fact normal is based before or outside your view of the situation.

Small, incremental personal changer is good but not good enough. The forces that confront us ,with their lack of care for the environment and their pervasive lack of moral judgment, are enormous. Those forces can damage society permanently whether we change our own lives or not.

I have no doubt in the wisdom and importance of personal change. But without a larger vision it is inadequate to defend us against moral vacuums and wrongdoing.

James Pilant

No Vacation – Keep your job?

ABC news reports that many Americans are declining to use their vacation time. Only 57 percent of Americans are taking their full vacation time. And what makes this story even more bizarre, Americans average only 13 days of vacation.

Want to see the numbers?
Italians 42 days
France 37
Canada 26
Japan 25
Korea 25

United States 13 days

How did we get here? Aren’t we supposed to be the richest country on earth? How did Americans wind up with an average of 13 days of vacation and far, far worse, almost half unwilling to use their full time apparently for fear of losing their jobs?

It takes a decoupling of morals from business. When a businessman, when an employer, looks at his workers and says to himself, “That one is using his vacation time. I can do without him,” we have arrived at a bad place.

And yet, where is the outrage (besides mine)? Foreigners in far less wealthy countries give their workers in many cases three times the vacation time of American workers and what’s more they take the time.

“Let’s get rid of the people who work here for fifty weeks a year and take a vacation.” How do you even think like that? What kind of thought process produces that kind of cruel immorality?

It is written: Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.

The King James Bible prescribes better treatment for an ox than that given American workers. The ox gets some share of its labor that could be denied. American workers have no benefits that cannot be denied if even the legal ones put you in danger of being fired.

And I don’t want to hear, “They have to do it to compete.” That’s a nasty age old excuse for any kind of immoral (and often incompetent) act. You could compete better with workers who have no where to go, who don’t get minimum wage or get pregnant or have bad days or get ill or don’t look like other people, etc. Where do you want to stop? You can’t. Talk about slippery slope. If any vile, virtually criminal, act can be justified by the need to compete, there is no bottom standard to stop at, no place of safety, no island of ethics.

You might ask me as a business ethics teacher, what it’s like to teach that subject in a country where taking your vacation days can cost you your job. No fun. It’s preaching against alcoholism in a saloon, safe sex in a Thai brothel, hypocrisy in mega church. In short, it’s hard and it’s not getting any easier. You always think that it’s just got to turn a corner that some limit has been reached and it hasn’t.

James Pilant

Wall Street Looked The Other Way?

In an article written for the New York Times by Gretchen Morgenson, she discusses what major investment banks did after they discovered that many of their loans were going south.

The answer is brief, they kept the ball rolling. The profits were too good and the risks (for them) were to low for them to back out.

This is a quote from the article citing a remark from Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, as follows -“Our focus has been on the borrower,” she said in an interview last week, “but as we’ve peeled back the onion we’ve gotten the picture of the role Wall Street played through the financing of these loans.”

This is Gretchen Morgenson on a program called “Dialogue.” Here she explains in some depth her views on the financial crisis (28 minutes).

This is capitalism run off the tracks. Greed out weighed simple good judgment. Obvious signs of trouble, not just obvious but certain evidence of approaching disaster, were ignored as money piled up.

The market was supposed to be self regulating. Read a little Milton Friedman. This economic freedom to innovate was supposed to lead to better lives for all Americans, perhaps the whole world. This utopia, this nirvana, has thus far failed to appear. But incomes in a handful of the well placed are measured in the billions.

Justice is not coming. These people are immune to justice. They go to the right churches, have the right friends and are protected by the government while that same government ignores or casts their citizenry away from the door of the statehouse or congress. The people of the United States, the hard working American who lives a moral, ethical life; their goodness counts for nothing. They will have mortgages that will find no help. They will not have jobs and when they can find no work they suffer the slings and arrows of an economic elite that claims they cannot get along with other workers and do not work, that they are lazy. That’s right, Americans, the most productive workers in the world, the ones that work more hours and more days than other workers in the entire world, they are lazy, they can’t get along, they brought this upon themselves.


James Pilant

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