The Eurozone’s Agenda

The Eurozone’s Agenda

The Euro-Zone’s Agenda

Democracy and Neo-Liberalism = Mongoose and Cobra? Right now, the Greeks are gearing up for an election that will decide how much the people of that nation will concede in the negotiations with the Euro-Zone. If you have followed the talks, you might be troubled at the how the Euro-Zone Bureaucrats are interfering with the internal affairs of Greece. Greece wanted to raise taxes on the wealthy and impose a one-time tax on businesses. They were told no. Greece wanted to increase spending on tax enforcement. They were told no.

But it wasn’t just about saying no. The Greeks were told to increase “value added taxes,” a kind of sales tax. These fall most heavily on the lower classes. And they were told they should cut the number of pension holders and the amount they get (roughly 800 a month measured in American dollars). Needless to say these bureaucrats (technocrats?) are unelected and their preferences strongly tend to the economic prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund. These prescriptions while being applied to Greece at the moment are familiar to any American who follows economic policy discussions. They are privatization, a lessening of regulations, means-testing for government aid, a dramatic reduction in social services to force salary discipline, and lowered taxes on businesses and the wealthy. These in the neo-liberal mind will eventually produce an economic utopia although success has eluded them thus far. .

People given the power of the vote are an obstacle in the path of these kinds of changes. Democratic peoples tend to lean toward the ideas that privatization of commonly held public goods like parks are opportunities for businesses to charge them for things that were once free. That regulations no matter how often they are called drags on the economy are for the public’s protection. And they feel that they have a right to a decent retirement and other government aids in the face of an increasingly unsure economic environment. Many people also believe that businesses and the wealthy are not carrying their fair share of the tax burden.

But democracy is not always an effective obstacle. International organizations like the IMF, the World Bank, and Euro-Zone among many others work to limit the effects of democracy using loans, a legion of technocrats, and literally tons of learned documents explaining that what people believe to be in their best interest is not.

Democracy limited by international treaty to allow corporations to sue in supra-national judicial systems does not have the historical or traditional power of a nation state. This is currently the most significant move by international business to curb human rights and democratic authority. It is epitomized by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secret agreement reaching into every part of business law and strengthening the power and influence of corporations, other business interests and the wealthy.

Democratic values and patriotism are not obsolete because it is in the interest of international business to make them so.

Nations and the societies therein are successful because of the wisdom of the learned, the courage of the brave and the obedience of the citizen. Wisdom, courage and obedience are all irrelevant in a world where monetary interest is the sole measure of success.

James Pilant


Congress Weighs in on Holding IMF Accountable for Damage Caused by Failed Policies in Greece | Mark Weisbrot

It is not surprising that the very idea of a referendum would provoke the ire of the eurozone authorities. Unlike the European Union, which has a different history, the eurozone project has become a fundamentally anti-democratic project. It has to be; the people currently running it want to reverse, as much as possible, decades of social progress on issues that are vital to Europeans. But you don’t have to take my word for it: there is a paper trail of thousands of pages that spell out their political agenda. The IMF conducts regular consultations with member governments under Article IV of its charter, and these result in papers which contain policy recommendations. There were 67 such consultations for EU countries during the four years of 2008 to 2011, and the pattern was striking: budget tightening was recommended in all 27 countries, with spending cuts generally favored over tax increases. Cutting health care and pension spending, reducing eligibility for disability and unemployment compensation, raising retirement ages and increasing labor supply were also overwhelmingly common recommendations.

The European authorities took advantage of the crisis and post-crisis years to impose parts of this agenda on the weaker eurozone economies: Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and most brutally of all, Greece. More than 20 governments fell as a result, until finally, in Greece on January 25, a government was elected that said no. The goal of the European authorities, therefore, is to topple this government. This has been apparent since the ECB cut off its main line of credit to Greece on February 4.

via Congress Weighs in on Holding IMF Accountable for Damage Caused by Failed Policies in Greece | Mark Weisbrot.


Predatory Financial Practices

Predatory Financial Practices

Research by the Center for Responsible Lending is showing that it isn’t just one type of loan doing the damage but a combination of loans. For instance, a predatory mortgage can lead a family to payday loans, etc. That results in a perfect financial story as debt cascades from different kinds of loans.

Predatory Financial Services

It is obvious that there are two tiers of financial services. One, where people can go and get car loans, home loans, etc. at reasonable rates and with opportunities for adjustment in the event of financial difficulty. These tend to be provided by local banks. The other is, to be blunt, predators profiting from many individuals inability to access regular financial services like banks.

Business ethics does not have proper language to deal with these different kinds of financial services. The same words are used for predator and community benefactor. It should be obvious to all that providing a car loan at a reasonable rate is a benefit to the community. It means that a human has access to a vehicle and can pursue economic ends like having a job and buying groceries. A car in this case is a production good. It creates value. But a predatory lender siphons money out of the financially disadvantaged, those that cannot for one reason or another access regular financial services. It siphons money and instead of a valuable production good, we have limited production good always riding a narrow dividing line between benefit and deficit.

The report (discussed below) shows how different kinds of predatory lending combine to produce financial disaster. One bad loan leads to another.

In this country, we have a long history of limiting the power of lenders with anti-usury laws limiting the interest rates that can be charged. It is time to revive that tradition and begin once again the work of building a fair system of financial services devoted to building the American economy and not systematically draining the resources of the poorest among us.

James Pilant

Immediate Costs of Predatory Financial Practices Are Steep, But They Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg | Michael Calhoun

Since 2012, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) has been measuring the effect of different predatory lending practices in our State of Lending research series. We have shown that predatory mortgage terms result in higher rates of foreclosure; that certain auto lending practices result in racial discrimination; and that trapping people in debt is the payday lending business model. Our final chapter, The State of Lending in America and Its Impact on U.S. Households: Cumulative Costs of Predatory Practices shows lending abuses are inter-related and that they set off chain reactions that have long-term consequences, derailing economic opportunity for millions of Americans and weakening the U.S. economy.

Abusive loans do not exist in a vacuum and borrowers who fall victim to one abusive loan are more likely to fall victim to another. Our report finds that 54.5 percent of those who have had a car-title loan have also had a payday loan, and 62.8 percent of consumers who recently used a payday loan also have a credit card. The costs of abusive loans compound over time because loans with harmful features lead more often to defaults, bankruptcies or the loss of a critical asset such as a car or home.

via Immediate Costs of Predatory Financial Practices Are Steep, But They Are Just the Tip of the Ice

Give Us Almost All of Your Time!

Give Us Almost All of Your Time!

Goldman Sachs has discovered the milk of human kindness and has decided to restrict interns to no more than 17 hours a day.

Allowing for travel time, this would appear to allow for as much as 4 and 1/2 hours of sleep at most a day.

I’m confused. I’m having trouble understanding what they are trying to get from these interns. I’m sure to some it seems like the company is trying to get every possible waking moment of labor they can squeeze out of them while evading the bad publicity of a death. But you would think they have plenty of money to hire interns and even treat them well. Is there an element that I am just not getting here? Is it a kind of fraternity initiation? Does this indicate a kind of hazing for admittance into the upper echelons of finance?  There has been evidence suggesting that fraternity members dominate the great investment houses. Could it be that frat boys are always frat boys? Maybe they have so many applicants, working them to the breaking point is just one way of winnowing them out.

Give us almost all of your time!

Certainly, if I were managing a company, the idea of people doing work for me with less than five hours of sleep for days on end would worry and appall me. And I would consider myself both a fool and a villain if I made them do it.

As a business ethics issue, the answer is clear. Working people 17 hours a day is wrong.

But what doesn’t make any sense here is that not only is there no need for this, it is counterproductive. At least in theory, high finance requires good judgment and high cognitive skills – reasoned judgment. How do you get that out of the sleep deprived?

I assume someone is asking, “How does this blogger know that 4 and 1/2 hours of sleep is too little, didn’t Margaret Thatcher brag about only sleeping four hours a night?”

My first response would be, “She’s probably a strong case for that being too little sleep but let’s do science instead of swapping anecdotes.”

Studies of people with four and six hours of sleep a night compared with a control group of eight hour sleepers showed significant cognitive losses among the short timers. You can read about that here.

Sleeping less than five hours a night has been connected to false memories as well as reduced reaction time. You can read about that here.

However, for this one from the Guardian, I have to quote –

Getting too little sleep for several nights in a row disrupts hundreds of genes that are essential for good health, including those linked to stress and fighting disease.

Tests on people who slept less than six hours a night for a week revealed substantial changes in the activity of genes that govern the immune system, metabolism, sleep and wake cycles, and the body’s response to stress, suggesting that poor sleep could have a broad impact on long-term wellbeing.

The changes, which affected more than 700 genes, may shed light on the biological mechanisms that raise the risk of a host of ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, stress and depression, in people who get too little sleep.

I believe I have established beyond a reasonable doubt that forcing employees to work so many hours that they are sleep deprived impairs their performance significantly. And since we can reasonably assume that the executives at Goldman Sachs have the same internet access that I do, what gives?

I have a theory and it runs like this. I was watching an expert on firearms talk about the Japanese weapons of the Second World War. He was asked why the Japanese developed the sub-machine gun at the very last stage of the war when the Americans and Europeans had adopted it in the 1930’s. He said the old timers in the service had never had them, didn’t see why anyone would want the new-fangled weapons anyway and since they hadn’t had them and had got along fine, they weren’t necessary. So, my guess is that the current leadership of the company was treated badly, hazed and worked countless hours and if it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for the new guys. After all, didn’t it make them the successful men and the successful company they are today?

Now any careful examination of the facts indicates that doing this to employees is counterproductive but we are up against the male mythology of toughness and traditional manhood against which reason is unavailing. And what is truly sad is that this is finance, one of the most cerebral fields of endeavor open to humankind. They’re not branding cattle, fighting in the ring, or playing football. They are crunching numbers on a main-frame and negotiating.

Getting across the idea to new hires that sheer dogged persistence in the face of pain and declining performance is the key to success is not the lesson you want to convey to successive generations of investment bankers, but that is just what the company has decided to do and is going to do.

Judgment is based on reason and facts not the memories of how awful you were treated when you were young and how it made you the man you are today. That’s a fantasy, a fantasy continually used to justify treating people badly. It’s wrong and it is poor business ethics.

James Pilant

Goldman Sachs restricts intern workday to 17 hours in wake of burnout death | Business | The Guardian

Go home before midnight, and don’t come back before 7am. Goldman Sachs – one of Wall Street’s toughest firms – has told interns they have got to work hard, but not too hard.

The new rules, introduced for this summer’s crop of investment banking interns, have been introduced “to improve the overall work experience of our interns”, a Goldman Sachs spokesman said. All of its summer interns across the world were informed of the new working hours rule on their first day in the office earlier this month.

Wall Street’s shift to caring capitalism comes in the wake of the death of a 21-year-old Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern who had regularly pulled all-nighters in a desperate bid to impress his bosses.

via Goldman Sachs restricts intern workday to 17 hours in wake of burnout death | Business | The Guardian.

Don’t Bother Your Pretty Little Head

Don’t Bother Your Pretty Little Head

Jamie Dimon has publicly asked whether or not Senator Elizabeth Warren understands the global banking system. This is, of course, nonsense, but this kind of attack is often used on anyone the financial world considers the naive. And by naive, they mean anyone who doesn’t sympathize with their wants, desires and their ways of making money. As you can see from the quote below from “Think Progress,” Warren taught corporate law at Harvard University and published nine books among other significant qualifications. I agree with her that what upsets the financial world epitomized by the likes of Jamie Dimon isn’t that she doesn’t understand what they do but that she understands all too well what they do.

Of course, Dimon has experience foreign and unique that Warren will probably never have. His firm has agreed to billions of dollars of fines for illegal activities while he was in charge. Leading an institution that has repeatedly broken the law provides a man with a unique take on financial transactions, I’m sure.

Is it naive to question the money making techniques of the giant, “too big to fail” financial institutions? Undoubtedly the denizens of these firms view themselves as job and wealth creators doing God’s work. And who are we that would question that? Let me respond with a question of my own – who are you that your “work” is guaranteed with taxpayer dollars, literally trillions of taxpayers’ dollars? – Who are you that when you make mistakes doing “God’s work,” that the public loans you billions of dollars to save your firms from your own incompetence? Who are you who deliberately and with full awareness of the law break that law, not once but over and over again? And why is it that when you do tens of billions of dollars of damage to this nation and other nations, the worst thing that happens to you is a fine?

That God’s work analogy is in a way correct for these financial institutions do seem to have some kind of divine intervention saving them from failure and jail.

And when investment bankers get this kind of treatment, this loving application of government protection and a gentle massage of warm taxpayer dollars, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we get statements like “I don’t know if she fully understands the global banking system.”

Those of us who don’t get this loving treatment, who lack armies of lobbyists, millions in campaign contributions and never get to play golf with the President, must seem foolish in comparison.

James Pilant

A Bank CEO Said Elizabeth Warren Doesn’t Understand Wall Street. Her Response Was Perfect. | ThinkProgress

On Wednesday, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon said of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (D), “I don’t know if she fully understands the global banking system.”

By Thursday, Warren already had a response. Speaking on the Huffington Post’s “So, That Happened” podcast, she said, “The problem is not that I don’t understand the global banking system. The problem for these guys is that I fully understand the system and I understand how they make their money. And that’s what they don’t like about me.”

Warren’s résumé comes with nearly 20 years of experience teaching corporate law at Harvard University, publishing nine books, chairing the Congressional Oversight Panel that oversaw the bank bailouts in 2008 (of which JP Morgan was a beneficiary), and coming up with the idea for and helping to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has already helped consumers avoid numerous predatory lending schemes and recouped more than $4.8 billion through its enforcement actions.

via A Bank CEO Said Elizabeth Warren Doesn’t Understand Wall Street. Her Response Was Perfect. | ThinkProgress.

From around the web –

Explain to me how J.P Morgan after paying out billions in fines due to illegal activity still employs the same C.E.O? Jamie Dimon might very well be one of those non-violent psychopaths who doesn’t care about rules and regulations, only his own ambition and greed. I wish that we had more lawmakers who were as intelligent, principled and courageous as Senator Elizabeth Warren. I couldn’t take Jamie Dimon’s words seriously when he tried to insult Senator Warren, she is a Harvard Bankruptcy Professor, she set up the CFPB, her creation which is helping a lot of people, she is a double threat because she can decipher and translate finance speak so that the people understand, she has lifted the veil and Jamie Dimon hates it. …

And It Comes With Its Own Stalker!

And It Comes With Its Own Stalker!

“Let the buyer beware!” is thought by too many businessmen to be the rule of law. On the continent of Europe, they do lean toward that concept, be we, Americans, have a different system of laws in which there are duties. When selling real estates, there is a duty to disclose any material fact that might effect the value of the property.

And it comes with its own stalker!
And it comes with its own stalker!

Generally this is pretty mundane stuff. From the furnace is going out to a neighbor putting in a hog farm, a seller has to do disclosure. But this case is a little off the beaten track. We’re not dealing with a busted furnace. No. This home comes with its own stalker.

I won’t get into the lurid details or speculate about the likely movie deal. (I have a link below where you can read about it.) This is simple business ethics. First, it’s wrong under the common law not to disclose this kind of material fact. Second, it is absolutely wrong on ethical and moral grounds to deceive by non-disclosure.

That you have a problem and a terrible one cannot be solved by simply selling the property, not morally or, in the case of real estate, not legally either.

If the seller has a good lawyer, he’ll settle this thing by paying out some money. If he has a bad one or wants to cling to the idea that the buyer should have been more cautious, he is going to court and have to take back title after paying compensatory damages and almost certainly a very large punitive damage cost.

That’s justice.

James Pilant

Buyers of $1.4m US house sue seller over stalker obsessed with their new home | US news | The Guardian
A couple who says they were scared away from their new US$1.4 million home in New Jersey because of creepy letters from a stalker has sued the sellers for not telling them about a person with a “mentally disturbed fixation” on the house.
Derek and Maria Broaddus said the former owners of the home in Westfield, New Jersey, west of New York city, should have warned them of the person who signs the letters as “The Watcher”.
via Buyers of $1.4m US house sue seller over stalker obsessed with their new home | US news | The Guardian.

Financial Truth Saying

Financial Truth Saying

( An introductory note – I reread this the next day after I wrote it and I’m sure to many it comes as shrill and angry. Some years ago, I asked a fellow academic to add a link to my web site, he said he wouldn’t because he had read articles from my web site and they were were shrill. He suggested I moderate my views and seek comments to balance my writing. I never asked anyone to link again.

I wanted to ask him what his blogging had accomplished, who his moderate, restrained and academic language had influenced to do what was right and avoid what was wrong but I was sure he would find that shrill.

If you read the article below, you will get some of my anger, perhaps more than you consider appropriate. I am writing about the legal responsibility of personal financial advisers to tell the whole truth to their clients, –  in most cases, retirees who have spent their lives accumulating resources so their final years might have some degree of comfort. Instead of a fiduciary duty which, for instance, attorneys, have to their clients, these “advisers” have a lower level of responsibility which they use to influence their clients to take actions in favor of the adviser and against their clients best interest.

In my simple naive world, devoid of the “buyer beware” of Friedman style economics, I find adhering to a lower standard of duty to misuse your customers dishonorable, a failure in the duty of a lady or a gentleman, a failure of the legal duty of fair dealing, a failure to adhere to the standards of religion be that faith: Christianity, Islam, etc., and a disregard of the tenets of virtually every Western philosophy up to Ayn Rand and our contemporary worship of greed.

I guess that’s shrill.)

Before I begin talking about the personal financial advising industry, I want you to know that if you write for a while, you begin to develop an admiration for the clever writer. When you are just a reader, it is easy to overlook a clever title or an eloquent lead in, but when you write – it’s different. And here is a lead in that flies right up to the angels:

Congress wants to make your retirement worse.

That’s not what House Republicans are saying, of course. Our elected representatives are trying to save our retirement, they claim. Americans are under threat from “a government scheme,” as Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee put it—one that will likely “intimidate the new investors” and “discourage them from saving,” according to Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. The threat is so severe, “we are at war,” roared Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner last month in an appearance before an insurance brokers convention.

Don’t believe it.

All this hyped-up, martial verbiage involves an ongoing attempt by the Department of Labor and the Obama administration to expand something known as the fiduciary standard, the legal requirement that financial advisers and brokers put your best interests ahead of their own, to cover retirement accounts.

(The selection above is from Helaine Olen writing for the online magazine Slate.)

The feds want to change the standards for advising customers in the personal financial advising industry. Olen explains it in more detail but the story is pretty straightforward. Most in the personal finance industry do not have to adhere to the fiduciary standard, that is, to act as your agent by fully informing you of your choices. They live by the suitability standard, a less stringent standard, which means they can advise you to do things that bring them extra profit while concealing from you information that might lead you to make a different decision.

Financial Truth Telling

The critical issue here is rollovers. Your adviser desperately wants you to take you money and move it into something else (like an IRA) where he can collect fees and be rewarded by his friends in the financial industry. One of the things, the adviser isn’t telling you is how much he makes from advising you to make these kinds of decisions.

So, here is the fight in Congress in a nutshell. The personal financial advising industry says if they have to tell the truth this could cost many millions of dollars and some could go out of business. They want Congress to protect them from the crazies in the Labor Department and the Obama Administration who have this bizarre fetish for the “truth.” After all, “What is truth said jesting Pilate and did not stay for an answer.” On the other side of the issue are the great American people who are not aware that this particular industry’s profit model involves giving the kind of advice one would give to one’s enemies to them.

Financial Truth Saying

So, some in Congress are lining up with the financial industry to preserve the right of non-disclosure to the clients. Think of it like cigarettes. It must have pretty unfair in the minds of tobacco companies to have to tell people their product was dangerous. They must have been furious. And it is just the same in the personal finance. Can you feel the rage? -“Why should I have to tell some old couple that I’m advising them to make me money and them more financially insecure. I mean, hell, they’re adults right. We don’t need the government sticking its nose into our business and acting like truth telling is important. What are these people? Twelve? This isn’t grade school. We’re adults now. If I can convince them to give me money, I should get the money. The government should mind its own business.”

And there are those in Congress who feel the truth in those words and wonder why it is when things are going so well for the industry that the government has to come in and mess it up.

I teach business ethics and I am going to come down on the side of truth telling. It is my belief that if you can’t sell something without some serious non-disclosure, you should not be selling it. Of course, the industry has well financed ties to some members of Congress while the great mass of the American people have little or no contact with members of Congress. Thus I am not optimistic.

James Pilant

A Simple Business Ethics Problem

A Simple Business Ethics Problem

A Simple Business Ethics Problem

AT&T advertised unlimited data plans that weren’t. That sentence tells you everything you need to know in terms of business ethics. Telling someone you are going to provide a service and then not is wrong.

And it is not wrong in just one way. It’s fraudulent misrepresentation. AT&T lied to get customers to pay for a service that wasn’t going to be provided. That’s fraud. It’s a basic violation of contract law.

Usually this would be cured by a lawsuit but since the Supreme Court has made class actions suits very difficult to bring, that leaves as the only sheriff in town the FCC. The word is they are going to fine AT&T a hundred million dollars.

I don’t think that’s right. My first problem is that as far as I can tell no one knows how much money they gained by the illegal act. Punishment should as much as possible be proportionate to the crime. (Take the Charleston church shooting – in that case there is simply no proportionate punishment possible. But this is a business crime.) This is about money and money is quantifiable. Perhaps a multiple – five times or ten times what was taken?

And what’s more I am curious. Who in AT&T thought this was a good idea? I think when a business does something wrong, those making the wrong decisions should have their name in the official documents and thus in the newspapers, the television, the Internet, etc. Public shaming is a useful tool. More importantly, when a corporate executive is climbing the ladder, an internet search showing a few little bumps in the road might slow that process to a crawl – it’s called justice. And it might actually discourage people in these brackets from breaking the law. As long as the only calculation is whether or not you make money and can afford the fine, breaking the law is just another corporate strategy to be used whenever applicable. But putting people in a bad light because they do illegal things, that’s not part of the game and they’re not going to think it’s fair because after all, “It’s just money!” No, it’s not. Lawbreaking violates morality and there should be punishment for this, public punishment.

It is time to change the rules. Because it is obvious that corporate criminality is never going to be stopped by fines. There has to be more.

James Pilant

A&T Loses Big In First Net Neutrality Case | ThinkProgress

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to fine AT&T $100 million for misleading customers with unlimited data plans.

An FCC investigation found that AT&T violated the transparency requirement under the 2010 net neutrality rules by offering “unlimited” data plans and surreptitiously throttling, or slowing, customers’ mobile internet access without telling them. The case does not involve the FCC’s newly published net neutrality rules passed earlier this year.

“Consumers deserve to get what they pay for,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a Wednesday news release. “Broadband providers must be upfront and transparent about the services they provide. The FCC will not stand idly by while consumers are deceived by misleading marketing materials and insufficient disclosure.”

via AT&T Loses Big In First Net Neutrality Case | ThinkProgress.

A Class Assignment For Business Law

A Class Assignment For Business Law

Extra Credit Class Assignments

James Pilant’s Business Law Class

014-1All these are voluntary for extra credit. If you do one, it has to be turned in both in hard copy and as an attachment to an e-mail.

Each of these assignments is worth 10 points. Watch the film and then answer the questions attached to the link.

I want you to watch the entire film

Each link is to an online video of the film which is totally free. If you have a service like Netlfix or Hulu and you can get the film there that will be fine.

The question I want you to answer is listed beneath the film.

How much should you write? Okay, look, you’re not twelve. A yes or no response followed by a single sentence will get you nothing. Write it so that if you were another person reading it, you would realize that the author has seen the whole movie and had given serious thought to the questions.

Love Affair

Charles Boyar has two choices in the film, he can marry a rich socialite and live a life of ease or he can pursue a relationship with a woman without independent means and spend the rest of his life trying to make a precarious living as a painter. Which does he choose and why? Now, explain what decision you would make (choose whichever character you wish). How does his decision and your decision stack up against modern economic thought as expressed in the media?


Once upon a time, a well placed woman of wealth and breeding is persuaded by her friends and family to not marry a handsome captain from the navy. Ten years later he is wealthy and her family’s fortune has dissipated.

The captain can now choose younger, prettier women with better social status. Who does he choose? Why do you think he made that choice? Once again, tell me whether or not under current popular romantic ideas, who should he marry and why?

Jane Eyre

Does beauty allow women to change social class, to move up in the world, so to speak? And if so, what if the woman is plain? Does that make a difference? Can a woman marry up in social class based on ability? Why or why not? Does the story strike you as realistic? Could that really happen? Would you do what they did?


Rebecca is given a place in high society. How does she adapt? Would you have made the same decisions that she made? Do you believe her husband’s story? Why or why not?


Watch the film and answer this question, would it have been better if Higgins had left her in the gutter?

Cyborg She

Our hero uses time travel to solve his problems in the past. What is more important to him, love or money? But what of his cyborg love interest, what is most important to her? And remember she isn’t always what you think she is.

Japan Sinks

(This one is in parts.)

In the film, the Japanese react as a people (as a whole) to the upcoming disaster but are saved by an individual’s sacrifice. Is there a conflict between solidarity of the population and the importance of the individual? Also what if he had acted with the morals of a Wall Street Banker, shouldn’t he happily abandon his country and his friends while cashing in on the underwater salvage of Japanese treasures?


At the time the film was made, there was little really known about the Soviet Union, but you know a lot about capitalism from having lived in the United States. Is capitalism portrayed accurately in the film? Why or why not?

Father Brown, the Detective (1954)

Why isn’t Father Brown exclusively focused on stopping the theft? What are his motives in this movie? Please explain.

Young Mr. Lincoln

What is Lincoln after? Where does his ambition take him? Watch the film and from what Henry Fonda playing Lincoln says about himself and what he wants to do, describe his ethical motivations.

The Mark of Zorro

(This one is silent.)

Why doesn’t our hero remain in Spain? After all, there are many women there and he has plenty of money.

Watch the film and discover from what he says, what his motives are.

Why would anyone want to be a hero? Wouldn’t it be better  to be rich? Why or why not?


Take a look at Korean culture through the lens of this film, and tell me the differences between America and Korea when it comes to capitalism?

Why Pay Women Less?

Why Pay Women Less?

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has filed a lawsuit against ten oil companies for paying women less than men for the same job. Take a moment and look at this quote with a link to the source – which I will follow with my own thoughts.

These Companies Are Paying Women Less Than Men, According To Lawsuit | ThinkProgress
Why Pay Women Less?

The company, which has employed at least 37 clerks since 2010, has also been paying female clerks less than men over that time, according to the complaint. Yet the agency says both genders were doing “substantially equal work under similar working conditions.”

For example, a male clerk with one year of accountant experience and 11 years as a store manager with some bookkeeping experience was paid a starting wage of $17.74 an hour in 2010 and eventually paid $21 an hour, according to the complaint. Yet a woman hired at the same time as him who had 17 years of accounting experience made just $15.07 when she was hired and only ever got up to $16.93, more than a $3 per hour pay gap. Another woman with 10 years experience running her own business and five years bookkeeping experience was also hired at a lower starting wage and only made it to $17.91 an hour by 2013.

via These Companies Are Paying Women Less Than Men, According To Lawsuit | ThinkProgress.

Okay, why?

These companies undoubtedly use computers to calculate salaries and benefits and obviously paying women less than men is going to show up statistically and must be well known in the company. There are fields in which it is possible to claim that men “deserve” more than women, although I have serious doubts about those claims. But what is the field of endeavor here in which women are paid less – accounting. Are numbers subject to physical strength? Can the figures on a page be subject to testosterone influence? Can male posturing move an apostrophe in a large number? I think not.

So, if there is no performance based reason for paying women less, what is it? I have three theories: greed, hatred or custom. If it is greed, you pay women less because it is profitable, there’s money in it. And while that does make logical sense, I’m not really comfortable saying that is the reason. What about custom? The practice of paying women less is quite common and often done throughout entire industries. We can say with assurance that throughout American history women have been paid less (or not allowed to work at all). So, both custom and greed make sense. Greed provides motive and custom provides justification.

I don’t know if those are sufficient reasons. A couple of years ago, I was working on an article about the Fukushima Nuclear disaster. There is a Japanese web site that covers continuing developments and the owners are kind enough to translate a good part of it into English. They said that there had been a change in the birth rate between males and females in the area. I thought that was interesting and might be a good lead. So, I did an Internet search. I never did find out if the numbers had changed. I was swept into a world of Internet misogyny, the likes of which I had no idea existed. The first thousand search results were male oriented web sites explaining how men were oppressed by women, how stupid women were and how to manipulate women. I’m pleased to say that the search engines have changed and those web sites no longer come up on a neutral search. If you want to read that kind of thing, you’ll have to look for it more directly.

I have come to suspect that many males consciously and probably many unconsciously resent women in the workplace and a salary differential is only one aspect of that disdain. Obviously this is just my theory attempting to explain why paying women less is so common.

Business ethics like any discussion of morality and human decisions sometimes leaves you pondering the mysteries of the human heart. Why do we do the things we do, especially when they seem to make little sense.

The corporate format is a human creation that exercises enormous power but sometimes it seems as if our understanding of what is right and wrong has not risen to the same level as our organizational talents.

James Pilant

How Do They Get Caught?

How Do They Get Caught?

One of the joys of teaching is how clever students can be and I have been and continue to be very fortunate in the students who have come to my classes. One day I was explaining how it is illegal to fire someone based on race or sex and a hand goes up. My student goes, “Professor Pilant, since we live in a fire at will nation, how would anyone ever get caught firing someone over sex or race when they could always say they fired them for something else?”

How do they get caught?
How do they get caught?

And I got to tell them the truth, businesses get caught because when they fire someone it is not unusual for them to tell them directly or put it in writing why they did so even when it is illegal. My class was bewildered by this. After all, aren’t these defendants often large corporations with their own lawyers? So once again I told them the truth, many managers fire without ever consulting with the legal department or in the case of small businesses without consulting with an attorney even if they have one on retainer. This didn’t help. They became even more bewildered.

So, I said this – “We live in a nation where businessmen are thought well of. They are given an automatic level of respect whether or not they deserve it. They appear on the covers of magazines. PR firms write endless text glorifying their lives and they are considered to be authorities on everything from education to government to foreign policy. I saw a few weeks ago where a community college’s future plans were made by a set of businessmen (referred to as community leaders) with the help of the President of the school and no one else, not a student, not a professor, not a public official, not an expert in the field of education, just businessmen. That’s how high that respect can go. And they believe it. And believing it they feel they understand the world in a way that others cannot. So, they do things without checking because they believe they already know what is right and correct.”

I would like to note that I ran the search “firing pregnant women” on Yahoo-search. The first search result said this subject falls into employment discrimination law and the second one listed the congressional act making firing women for being pregnant illegal. So, the story with its quote below is astonishing since even the thinnest internet search uncovers the correct answer.

That people who run companies especially small businesses deserve respect is in my mind, a foregone conclusion. It must be hard to do a lot of the tasks involved in creating and maintaining a business. But we need to remember the lesson of the ancient Greeks of the dangers of hubris, overwhelming pride. It is good to have confidence in what you are doing, except that according to the Greeks living an examined life also meant knowing when you’ve found your limits and going no further. Many a Greek story revolves around people destroying themselves because of their pride.

There are real limitations in the training and experience of those in the field of business. They are certainly valuable citizens but there are many kinds of knowledge, kinds of experience and valid ways of looking at the world and its problems that are outside the world of business.

James Pilant


Nonprofit Ordered To Pay $75,000 Over ‘No Pregnancy In The Workplace’ Policy | ThinkProgress

United Bible Fellowship Ministries, Inc., which provides housing and care to people with disabilities, will have to pay a former employee $75,000 for firing her after she became pregnant to settle a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The organization has had a “no pregnancy in the workplace” policy in place that meant it fired anyone who became pregnant and refused to hire anyone applying for a position while pregnant. It admitted that the former employee, Sharmira Johnson, performed her job as a resource technician providing care to residents well and didn’t have any medical restrictions that would keep her from carrying out her duties. Yet it fired her, arguing it was justifiable in order to ensure her safety, that of her unborn baby, and the safety of its clients.

via Nonprofit Ordered To Pay $75,000 Over ‘No Pregnancy In The Workplace’ Policy | ThinkProgress.