James, the Jihadist

James, the Jihadist
James, the Jihadist

James, the Jihadist

I have argued that allowing gays and lesbians to be discriminated against in business transactions is wrong and poor business ethics. I have advocated that this legislation be changed before enactment and if enacted to be repealed. In this, I have acted inside the bounds of political activity traditional in this nation. At no point have I advocated violence against any religious establishment.

Nevertheless, people who agree with me and have made similar public comments have been described as “Jihadists” by Presidential candidate, Ted Cruz. A Jihadist? I don’t think I qualify. I am not currently involved in a Jihad, have not advocated violence against anyone over this legislation, and look ridiculous in a burnoose. I personally am a Christian and I am not part of a conspiracy to wage a Jihad against my own religion. I would find that personally divisive.

Being accused of being a Jihadist is not the only insult that people who share my beliefs have received on this issue. According to former Presidential candidate, Newt Gringrich, we are part of a lynch mob. And he backs up his claim, by explaining that people like me have to be deluded because the bill is “exactly the same as in Connecticut.” I believe he is implying that the bill is like the one in many states and the one passed by the federal legislation during the Clinton Administration. That’s a lie.

It’s not a little lie. It’s a giant hulking monstrous lie. As an attorney, I am well aware that adding a single comma can change the intent or the effect of legislation. The Indiana bill contain two entire clauses not in other bills save for the one in Texas. But the Texas bill has a civil rights exception that protects gay and lesbians. The Indiana bill doesn’t. The Indiana bill was designed like a laser beam to hit a single target, gays and lesbians in the market place. The foundation of the bill was in the fact that neither Indiana nor the federal government has legislation protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination. All the other groups, women, minorities, etc., were protected by previous laws. Gays were the only people without cover The new clauses and the absence of a civil rights protection made the legislation dramatically different from what had been passed before. The bill does look similar to the bills passed before but if it walks like duck, quacks like a duck and has dripping fangs as well as razor sharp teeth, it’s not a duck anymore.

That the bill was identical with other state legislation and therefore did nothing new was a great talking point but that doesn’t make it true. No matter how loud or how often a lie is said does not make it reality.

But there was still more, I am not only described as a Jihadist and a leader of a lynch mob, I also lack perspective. According to Tom Cotton, the new Senator from Arkansas and famous letter writer, I lack perspective because, “In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay.”

No, that’s not how it works. If I point out that a man is starving, and you point out that another man up the street is also starving but that I wasn’t paying attention to his problem – a point has been made. But Cotton’s argument is too distant in nature and form from the situation in Indiana. As an American citizen I can have little effect on the law in Iran. But as an American citizen, in this country, I have both the right and the responsibility to participate in the affairs of the nation. I cannot and will not close my eyes to injustice that I can do something about. And that is where Cotton’s argument fails. However much I may lament the actions of people in other nations, I live here and what happens affects me directly.

Why are the first two criticisms so bizarre? It seems pretty obvious that group of citizens, newspaper writers, politicians and leaders in business are neither Jihadists nor part of a lynch mob. These two criticisms have no connection with any objective reality but they are designed for use. There will be radio shows, television pleas and letters, literally millions of letters, saying this –



And then they’ll talk about this being a critical point in American history and the need to act now, right now, and how sending them money will allow brave men (insert current anti-jihadist fund raiser) to act on their behalf to defend American values.

I’ve seen fund raising letters like these dozens of times; the writing is usually in all caps, although usually the lead statements are in giant blood red letters that virtually scream crisis off the page.  How many of you remember the letters sent out charging that if John Kerry won the Presidency, bibles would be banned? That was in the 2004 campaign but these kinds of fund raising appeals are made constantly preying on those who would believe the worst of their fellow Americans.

To me, it seems obvious that the Jihad and lynch mob lines are set-ups for fund raising letters and Senator Cotton was just commenting. After all, you can’t really do much with a “lack of perspective” charge in a fund raising letter.

In conclusion, there is no Jihad, period. There is no lynch mob. And there is plenty of perspective.

What happened was democracy in action. I wasn’t pleased with all of it, but businesses, individuals, and elected officials stepped up publicly and opposed the legislation and it was changed. That is how things are supposed to work.

I participated in that as an American citizen as is my right under the law. And that is just what I am, an American.

James Pilant

(Below are my sources and the quotes I drew from for the above article. jp)

Senator Says Critics Of Indiana Should Get ‘Perspective,’ Be Thankful State Doesn’t Execute Gays

Appearing yesterday on CNN, Senator Tom Cotton (R) urged critics of Indiana’s “religious freedom” law to get “perspective,” suggesting the treatment of LGBT people in Indiana compared favorably to countries where gay people are executed.

“I think it’s important we have a sense of perspective,” Cotton said. “In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay.”


Newt Gingrich Slams ‘Lynch Mob’ For Opposing Indiana Religious Freedom Law

The fact is, for example, the governor of Connecticut announced he wouldn’t send people to Indiana. Well, Connecticut has exactly the same law. They adopted it 20 years ago. The head of Apple announces that he’s deeply disappointed. Apple sells cell phones in Saudi Arabia, where being homosexual is a death penalty. The level of selective outrage, the opportunity to pick a fight — the news media couldn’t help themselves.


Ted Cruz: ‘Jihad’ Was Waged Against Religious Freedom Bills

“We look at the jihad that is being waged right now in Indiana and Arkansas going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Cruz said during a panel moderated by conservative radio host Steve Deace on Thursday. “We need to bring people together to the religious liberty values that built this country.”

via Ted Cruz: ‘Jihad’ Was Waged Against Religious Freedom Bills.

Religion Is A Weapon

Religion Is A Weapon
Religion is a weapon
Religion is a weapon

Below my comments is a brief piece of an article in which a minister explains from the pulpit (to be succinct)”This is a man’s world.” The current political reality is that it is still very much in many ways a man’s world, but this minister isn’t arguing political reality, he’s saying that to be “right with God,” a church must enshrine male leadership.

The basic conflict here is simple. If women are human beings with intelligence and judgment and in Christianity, a soul, doesn’t it follow that they should have equal rights and full participation in society? If not, what are they? – something not quite finished or whole? The struggle here is between these two kinds of thought. In my experience, there is only one answer, women are equal to men.

Our minister here is using Christianity as a cover for his beliefs about women and this is historically common, the last defense against civil rights for blacks was religion. It was a line of defense against freeing the slaves. It was used to defend denying women the right to vote, and now this “spokesman” for the Almighty finds justification once again to put someone in their place, in this case half the world’s population.

It is written –

King James Bible
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

I can’t help but think that this sword is too often picked up not in the name of Christianity but to justify personal inclination. When used in this way, religion is a weapon. But I do not understand how a believer in a all-wise, all knowing Deity can believe that women are a lesser vessel. Yes, I’m sure you can find some pertinent verses but we as a society have long ago given up witch burning, selling our daughters as bond slaves, killing disobedient children and executing rape victims for not making enough noise during the assault. (We also charge interest on things – strictly forbidden!) Take a look:

New International Version
He lends at interest and takes a profit. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.

I’m sure the banking industry would have a difficult time following that command.

So, we as a society have from time to time rewritten our laws and customs to be out of accordance with a literal interpretation of the bible but perhaps very much in line with biblical intent. So, the bible’s use as shield for misogyny is another belief that we will very likely modify as a society as attitudes change.

I have written and still believe that women’s changing status is the most important business ethics issue of this decade. It is an ongoing struggle and I read virtually every single day of women suffering firing, insult and abuse in the work place. While this minister is something of an obvious buffoon, many of his ilk are far more skilled communicators and they have considerable influence. Generally, they don’t speak of women as being inferior so much as needing protection. Thus, discrimination is justified because women need help in a dangerous world and often they need this help in making good judgments about abortion, contraception, etc.

Business is a part of our culture and like other elements is influenced by religion. And that is why I call attention to the use of relion as a weapon against women. But however much I find this use distressing I still find comfort, wisdom and moral direction in the book. I may be accused of hypocrisy in quoting the book in service to my own beliefs while others using quotes face my scorn but this comes from reading the bible as an evolving document not as a word for word set of commands. In this belief I am very much in line with what my denomination believes.

I believe the day will come when society finds it ridiculous that middle aged men (like the minister described below) believed they could make better decisions for women than the women themselves.

James Pilant

Pastor Fails Hard In His Demonstration Of Why Male Leadership Is So Superior

“Don’t you be ashamed you go to a church with male leadership,” Lytells says in the clip of his sermon, uploaded to YouTube by ‘Bad Preachers’. “Every church that’s right with God oughta have a sign: ‘Male Leadership.’ Because that’s the only kind of leadership, both from Adam all the way to the last part of the Bible. It’s all been male. This is a man’s world!”

via Pastor Fails Hard In His Demonstration Of Why Male Leadership Is So Superior.

The Ethics Sage Discusses the Moral Issues in the Film, Insurgent.

The Ethics Sage Discusses the Moral Issues in the Film, Insurgent.

(Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage give his usual intelligent analysis to a film. Please go to his web site and read the whole entry. jp)

Below is a brief excerpt from this work followed by my own comments.

The Ethics of Insurgent of the Divergent Series – Ethics Sage

What makes “Insurgent” a modern play on morality is that Tris encounters a wide variety of moral issues that can best be viewed through the lens of the film itself. Here are some quotes:  

“That might be your truth; it’s not necessarily mine” – a textbook summary of moral relativism.

“I’m just one person; I’m not worth it” – spoken when Tris considers submitting to death rather than seeing others suffer, reflecting a utilitarian understanding that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, something I recently blogged about.

 “Dark times call for dark measures, but I am serving the greater good” – or, in other words, “the ends justify the means.” We can relate this to the current conflict (war?) with ISIS and ISIL. That is, fighting a war may be wrong but its ends of “degrading” and “destroying” an evil enemy make it justified from a moral point of view.

“May the truth set you free.” Honesty is the best policy and leads to a clear conscience.

via The Ethics of Insurgent of the Divergent Series – Ethics Sage. (End of excerpt)

Films are a vital tool in teaching business ethics.

frontWhile I don’t use any of the Divergent Series in my classes, I’m confident they are useful. Why? Because most motion pictures save for those displaying our modern penchant for special effects over character development almost always deal with moral issues. Some films are more useful than others. For instance, The Wolf of Wall Street glorifies the antics of a criminal. On the other hand, there are films like Desk Set, The Apartment, and Sabrina that illustrate business and class issues, and, not incidentally are some of the greatest films of all time.

Today in class, we used My Life in Ruins to teach Business Ethics. Nia Vardalos may very well have made “The Gone With the Wind” of business ethics films. The film is so crowded with business ethics problems that my students sometimes have trouble writing them down as the film proceeds. That the film is also well-done and funny are added benefits. (Education does not always have to be painful.)

One of the interesting things about using films in class is that those who use documentaries tend to use the same ones (based on my observations and reading other people’s syllabi), while those who use movies vary widely. One of my colleagues sent me her syllabus in which all of her films are very recent whereas my films can go back to the silents (Metropolis). Now, my students give me the impression that making them watch a silent film is roughly equivalent to slowly boiling them in oil. So, that particular one is an optional extra-credit assignment.

James Pilant


Do They Think We’re Stupid? Indiana Republicans Surprised by Backlash?

Do They Think We’re Stupid? Indiana Republicans Surprised by Backlash?

In studying business ethics, one is exposed to many, many individuals who tell you things that are self-serving and often bordering on falsehood. The smart ones use at least a grain of truth in their statements. But sometimes something is said that is so incredibly false, you are not at first able to comprehend that a human being capable of basic ambulatory motions could make such a statement.

Read the following.

Do They Think We're Stupid?
Do They Think We’re Stupid?

Indiana GOP Leaders Shocked Their ‘Religious Freedom’ Law Is Seen As Anti-Gay

“I don’t think anyone anticipated that the characterization of the bill would be, this denies to services to a specific class to Hoosiers. It does just the opposite. It includes all Hoosiers in the religious freedom standard. And it’s a misperception that it denies services,” said Indiana state House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) during a Monday morning press conference with Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R).

via Indiana GOP Leaders Shocked Their ‘Religious Freedom’ Law Is Seen As Anti-Gay.

The law was crafted an an anti-gay act from the very beginning. You want evidence?

How about this from USA Today –

Indiana is just one year removed from a battle to block marriage equality, and where the right for same-sex couples to marry was won only by a court ruling overturning a long-standing ban.

It is telling to opponents of the religious freedom act that the law was driven mostly by the same conservative Christians who lost their fights against marriage equality. It’s also telling, opponents say, that one of the law’s primary sponsors, Republican state Sen. Scott Schneider, has touted the notion — which will be an issue for the court to settle — that Indiana’s RFRA could exempt Christian businesses from having to provide wedding services to gay couples.

And what has the legislature been doing about LGBT rights in the distant past – 2013 to 2014?

This one was 7/9/2013.

Indiana GOP passes law making it a crime for clergy to perform gay weddings

This one was January 14th, 2014.

Indiana lawmakers advance gay-marriage ban amendment

And what does the local press say?

Here is the Indy Star, a Gannet Paper, Dec. 26, 2014:

Same-sex marriage is the issue that won’t go away, no matter how much the state’s Republican leaders may try to avoid it.

Social conservatives, including some state lawmakers, delivered a reminder of that this week when they said they would pursue “religious freedom” legislation that would allow businesses to not serve gay couples.

And what about the defense, I’m seeing all over the internet that this is just like the other religious freedom acts passed in the federal system and many states –

The Indiana law differs substantially from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by President Clinton in 1993, and all other state RFRAs.

There are several important differences in the Indiana bill but the most striking is Section 9. Under that section, a “person” (which under the law includes not only an individual but also any organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or other entity) whose “exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened” can use the law as “a claim or defense… regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.”

… Indiana’s is the only law that explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens.*

(Note – Texas has a similar provision but specifically exempts civil rights.) From the article above.

See, this is just a play for the rubes. You copy the language of a commonly passed law but change key wording to give the law a different purpose. Another key point is that Indiana has no law protecting gay or LGBT rights. That means the law has a far greater sweep than the laws it claims to copy.

Now, if you want to oppose gays or anyone else participating in the marketplace by your speech or legislation. You can do that. You have that right. But to act on that opposition and then feign surprise when you’re caught is ridiculous.

If discrimination based on sexual orientation isn’t bad business ethics, not much is.

James Pilant

The Most Disturbing Paragraph of the Week

The Most Disturbing Paragraph of the Week
The Most Disturbing Paragraph of the Week

Jesus would hate you all — and you didn’t build that: The truth about the ultra-rich and their New York Times apologists – Salon.com

IRS data compiled by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saenz and their colleagues at the top incomes database shows how stark America’s shift from a broad-based prosperity model has been. From 1947 to 1973, the average incomes of the bottom 90 percent increased 99.2 percent, compared to 88.9 percent for the top 10 percent, and a mere 7.4 percent for the top 0.1 percent.  But from 1973 to 2008, the average incomes of the bottom 90 percent fell 6.1 percent, while the average incomes of the top 10 percent continued rising by another 70.8 percent, and average incomes of the top 0.1 percent skyrocketed an astronomical 706.4 percent.

via Jesus would hate you all — and you didn’t build that: The truth about the ultra-rich and their New York Times apologists – Salon.com.

My Comments on this –

I’m told from time to time that the slow destruction of the middle class and the de-professionalization of faculty at colleges and universities are the result of globalization. This globalization process is often described like a natural phenomenon like an earthquake or a tidal wave.

But the economic changes over the last fifty years are not the result of “natural” market forces. First and foremost, the market is an artificial construct. It seems to me that the idea of a complex structure with buying, selling, currency, the problems of shipping and safety, and a vast system of law can hardly be described as a natural process in the manner of lions hunting wildebeests. Second, this is policy – cold, deliberate policy. I can list them beginning with the Reagan tax cuts that eliminated the upper brackets. I would probably end with “Citizens United,” a decision that makes sense only through the prism of the Wall Street Journal. The idea that money is a form of speech is ridiculous but worse is the idea directly expressed in the decision that the resulting enormous rise of money in politics would not give the appearance of corruption.

Let’s have a look at the “appearance of corruption.” How about this, or this (Look at the chart of spending on the last election cycles!), or this, or this, or this? How many do you want? Maybe, just maybe, the Supreme Court got it wrong? Maybe incredible sums of money and the ubiquity of the Koch brothers commercials give the appearance that you can buy any election in the United States any time you want if you’re willing to shell out enough money?

Where’s the business ethics here? It’s very simple. You build a better product. You compete in the marketplace and sell your better product. Capitalism in action! But wait, why do that when you can give several million dollars to Congress or better yet a much cheaper State or local government and be subsidized? Building a better product is hard, purchasing influence is easy. Thus the NFL pays no taxes, the oil industry in spite of being immensely profitable gets government subsidies, factory farms produce food paid for in advance by the federal government. None of these is a better product. Can there be any doubt that multiple leagues would produce more and better sports? Does it seem likely to you that oil companies would founder if left to suffer multi-billion dollar profits without government subsidy? And would farming disappear without government aid?

Where’s is innovation in all this? Is football improving? Does the oil industry compete by making a better product or is it committed to an increasingly obsolete business model? How come we subsidize certain agriculural products but don’t subsidize more healthy products?

We can adopt policies which favor a strong, vibrant middle class. We don’t have to give in to every industry demand even if it is backed by enormous political contributions. Sometimes we may fell and justly that this country is being sold out from under us. We live in society becoming more and more an oligarchy of corporate power and the wealthy. But this is not an inevitable process. Other nations have moved in this direction and yet have the soul democracy once again. The American people are a great and good people. I believe in time that a great people will realize that unrestrained greed is still one of the deadly sins to be shunned like the others.

James Pilant


Five Business Ethics Films!! 3/10/2015

Here is a list of films with business ethics issues. I use these in class. Some are documentaries and some are more conventional movies.

Scandalous women of the 19th century

(Write me a minimum of five sentences using the format in the syallabus to explain whether or not the changes these women inspired in the legal status of women have any relevance in your life today. 8 points extra credit.)

Love Affair

The Charles Boyer character in the film can spend his life with the woman he loves in a state of financial insecurity or marry a beautiful wealthy woman and live a life of indulgence and pleasure seeking. The film is from an earlier era and to them the choice was obvious. What would you choose and why? Is your choice simple and how time do you spend weighing the economic advantages? Could you be happy without financial security?

Three Godfathers

The three men depicted here are bank robbers. Is the film reasonable – does it make sense in the light of our current beliefs? If you were one of the three men, would you have been willing to do what they did? Are there more important things in life than wealth and ease? Could you name some?

Jane Eyre

Jane is a plain girl, with no money, no connection to the aristocratic classes and in fact, very little connection to even the gentile middle class. Rochester can marry a beautiful woman of impeccable breeding who will bring money and influence to the marriage. Is this just some silly Gothic novel designed to alleviate the pain of plain women or is it something of an eternal observation about the fulfilled life as opposed to fulfilling the expectations of society?


According to the film, does the heroine cravenly seek money and position? In a nation heavily influenced by neoliberalism, aren’t we supposed to use the free market to maximize our gains – why or why not? Isn’t matrimony just another form of financial transaction? Aren’t men and women objects of investment and return?

One Law for the People, Another for Corporations

One Law for the People, Another for Corporations

(You might want to read the brief article quote at the bottom of the page – I am commenting on that.)

One Law for the People, Another for Corporations
One Law for the People, Another for Corporations

It is unlikely that any individual found responsible for environment damage to the state of New Jersey walked away with three cents on the dollar of what the state had laid claim to. But then it is unlikely any individual would have the power and influence of Exxon, in many ways the equivalent of a small nation without borders.

This isn’t a fine, it’s a claim. The difference is big. A fine would be a form of punishment to deter the wrongdoer. A claim is what is owed. Exxon contaminated the land and water of New Jersey for many years. This has consequences.

This is an enormous wealth transfer on several levels. First, Exxon does not have to pay the vast bulk of the claim. Second, Exxon profited from evading its responsibilities to not harm the state and country in which it operated. Third, a powerful message has been sent to every responsible public official that once a corporation has been brought to the docket and wrongdoing adjudicated, their efforts, their idealism, and their commitment to the public interest are less than nothing to political figures with other priorities.

On the other side of the deal are the people of New Jersey. It is they who suffer from Exxon’s actions and it is they who will pay for the cleanup. They are, in effect, subsidizing Exxon and its shareholders. For the citizens of New Jersey, this will not be a one time pay off. The people are likely to suffer the effects of environmental degradation for the foreseeable future and the continuing expense will last for decades and will quite likely never be able to restore what was taken.

For the public, the deal is a disaster but for the political class, it is a bonanza. This is an off year. So, any negative publicity will die down before the election. Any left over pain can be dealt with by active public relations financed by campaign contributions given by those whose faith in the kind of justice dealt out in New Jersey justifies the expenditure.

This is not a form of bribery. These are campaign contributions. They only appear as bribery to those without the proper legal education.

Remember what Justice Kennedy said in Citizens United –  “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

It is obvious that Justice Kennedy is right. The campaign contributions and soft money given by billionaires and giant international corporations are just speech – just like you talking to your neighbor about some issue.

A cynic would say that the interests of the nine million people were overridden in the name of corporate influence. But we in America are not cynical. We know that enormous political expenditures by corporations with more income than most nations on the earth are a form of speech representing their valid interest in the lively marketplace of ideas necessary for a democracy.

And we in America owe Exxon and Justice Kennedy our sincere thanks for making this a nation where money is speech and that freedom to speak is sacred.

But today no one owes more to our Supreme Court than the people of New Jersey who will live with the toxins from Exxon for decades or quite possibly, centuries to come.

James Pilant

Christie’s Office Drove Exxon Settlement, Ex-Official Says – NYTimes.com

For more than a decade, the New Jersey attorney general’s office conducted a hard-fought legal battle to hold Exxon Mobil Corporation responsible for decades of environmental contamination in northern New Jersey.

But when the news came that the state had reached a deal to settle its $8.9 billion claim for about $250 million, the driving force behind the settlement was not the attorney general’s office — it was Gov. Chris Christie’s chief counsel, Christopher S. Porrino, two people familiar with the negotiations said.

via Christie’s Office Drove Exxon Settlement, Ex-Official Says – NYTimes.com.

Art and Reductionism

Art and Reductionism

I was listening this morning to the music of Paul Van Dyk. He does techno music and, of course, not everyone enjoys that genre. Nevertheless, I find him quite talented and he is also commercially successful. And that got me thinking. Isn’t he one thing under economic analysis  and another as an artist? And this thought began to trouble me. (Here let me give you an example of his work from the people at You Tube) –

As an economic unit, we can discuss him in terms of record sales,  and perhaps check actuarial tables to see how long he might be expected to live and what profits he might generate over that period. But there are other elements that might be considered. For one thing, when I hear the music I want to dance and I know that I want to hear it again. There is a recognition of pieces of music that I have hard before and the knowledge that this music will be incorporated in that greater experience.

Music is an art subject to creativity. So there are standards other than profitability. We know that a five year tapping enthusiastically on a toy piano is not the equivalent of Tchaikovsky. But measured only by monetary standards, the artistic merits of different works melt away.

Here is an example of a once popular song that you might consider as not being on the same level of talent as the one above-

Imagine yourself as a television or a cable executive. If you have a perception of art as an independent value, you are likely to choose Van Dyk over Stevens. But if you have no perception or much more likely you were taught in business school or in an administrative program that only economic value is important than Stevens might be a better choice.

In fact, under Milton Friedman’s reasoning using anything but Stevens should that music generate the most profit is stealing from the shareholders. A firm has no social responsibility to any stakeholder save the shareholders for they are the economic engine of the organization. Considering the actual power of shareholders in the corporate, this is a fairly comical concept. Here, here and here are vivid examples and explanations of shareholder impotence. (In the third entry, while the author hates the idea of shareholder power, he admits they are currently powerless.)

Perhaps, since in fact, the shareholders are a secondary consideration, we should consider the customer, the audience, to be a legitimate stakeholder? Is there any duty under free market fundamentalism or Neo-liberal doctrine to the consumer? No, they are economic units whose interests are to be weighed in terms of profitability. But there is, if you think of the audience as human beings who may be harmed or degraded by kitsch art and enlightened by great art. But if you do a reductionist analysis – if every element of society from art to a new born child is subject to economic analysis and solely to economic analysis, than the audience is a mass of disassociated atoms who may be used in any manner desired. So why not bombard them with schlock? Why not lie or mislead if that is more popular than the truth? Why not encourage them to hate minorities, despise foreigners and think illegal acts by the government are a pretty good deal? It seems to me that adherence to that kind of reductionism, the idea that monetary value and greed are the basic elements of economic life and life in general, will work to nullify all the thousands of years of philosophy and religion and all the other elements of our cultural heritage that support the concepts of morals, ethics and brotherhood.

I understand the breath taking delight of a unified theory that explains everything. And I have met those who explained to me that economic analysis explains everything from child rearing to heroism and finally to all history. There was a book I read once that explained the American Civil War as purely an economic event. However, my perception is that slavery was a major factor and that the horrifying nature of the practice goes far beyond any economic practice. I worry that if a person were to make decision based on purely economic factors, judging human worth only in terms of value, than slavery begins to make a lot sense. I don’t think so.

Besides slavery, 16 hour days, child labor and moving dangerous industries overseas can all be justified economically. Taking logically to its final conclusion, human rights and democracy are serious impediments to economic development. How about a real life example? How about this one, or this one or this one. It often seems that if a local government questions privatization be it nursing homes or charger school, people begin to talk about abolishing it. Have you noticed what happens when local governments do things that anger corporate interests even in the most peripheral ways? How about this one or this one or this one or this one? These examples show cases where people are losing the ability to make decisions for themselves.

I have been told directly that if I judge one form of art, (if memory serves, my specific example was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), as less worth preserving than other art, I’m an elitist. My student seemed to feel that he had won the argument once he trotted out the word “elitist.” While I am cognizant that much of what passed for high art has been discarded over the years and much that was originally derided as trash has been re-examined and reassessed, I don’t worry too much about the “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” being reassessed as better than “Citizen Kane.” There are standards and many of them have stood the test of time. But I have been regarded as a fool and a pathetic one for not recognizing the obvious truth that people are a means to an end, that rules are for the weak and that I was never going to make real money with my attitude. In other words, standards, whatever they may be, art work or relational, are irrelevant. Monetary value is the thing.

I ask you to reflect. What if you have a child? Maybe schlock is okay for everybody else’s children but what about yours? I think you might consider doing what I did and not have television in the house. In my case that was from when my son was eleven to the present. He’s now 21, very well read and very much a gentleman. I believe that decision was important in raising a child with strong moral beliefs.

If you are willing to protect your child from poor taste, bad morals and just wasting their time on broadcast nonsense, and I believe you do – than together we believe there are standards that are important and useful. If that is the case, that calls into question the premises of free market fundamentalism and Neo-liberalism. It can’t be that everything is quantifiable in terms of value and yet there are important standards resting on other rationales.

Can we use economic analysis if there are other values? Absolutely. All we have to do is remember that this form of analysis is just a tool. Sometimes it’s useful. Sometimes it’s not. Applying it to every human endeavor is taking a valuable form of thinking and stretching it beyond its capabilities. But there are many who find this kind of gross simplification persuasive and because of the seductive nature of these ideas to wealthy elites, it has become a powerful tool for remaking civilization in the image of the market. That’s a form of idolatry. There are worthy ideas but this one destroys other ideas, in particular, the concepts of inherent human worth, the precepts of religion and philosophical reasoning. Can you imagine a society purely designed along the lines of a market?

We don’t have to live in a world where everything is economically valued. We can live with truth and beauty, love and honor. And we can use economic concepts for economic problems while remembering there are other ways of thinking and other ways of making decisions.

James Alan Pilant

Bank Robberies and Business Crime

Bank Robberies and Business Crime

I was looking at the FBI’s bank robbery statistics for 2009, interesting stuff. And it got me curious – what would business crime look like in terms of profitability by comparison?


Violations by Type of Institution




Commercial Banks




Mutual Savings Banks




Savings and Loan Associations




Credit Unions




Armored Carrier Companies








This table is copied with sincere thanks to the FBI from http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/bank-crime-statistics-2011/bank-crime-statistics-2011

That’s 5,014 bank robberies. A little further down you find that the total take on all these robberies was $38,343,501.96. This comes out to an average of $7467.29. To get a middle class income you are going to have a rob several banks.*

Now, let’s have a look at a fairly typical business crime. Here’s a little quote from the SEC

In a complaint unsealed yesterday afternoon in federal court in Denver, the SEC alleges that Kristine L. Johnson of Aurora, Colo., and Troy A. Barnes of Riverview, Mich., have raised more than $3.8 million since April 2014 from investors they enticed into buying positions in their company Work With Troy Barnes Inc., which is doing business as “The Achieve Community.”  In Internet videos and other web promotions, investors were pitched “you and anyone you know can make as much money as you want” by purchasing positions that cost $50 each, and as they progress through the matrix they would receive a $400 payout on each position within three to six months.  Barnes claimed to have hired a seasoned programmer to perfect the triple algorithm investment formula supposedly generating the extraordinary returns.

Unlike a bank robbery where deposits are insured by the federal government, there is little change of recovery under these circumstances. The federal government (SEC) alleges that the funds were used to pay returns for the earlier investors. If true, this would be a classic Ponzi-scheme.

294 Bank Robbed!

I ask you to compare the profits. By any standards, the alleged Ponzi is a much better use of time and probably far safer than bank robbery. If we assume a profit of 50%, that is 1.9 million dollars. A bank robber would have to rob on the average 294 banks to get the same return. If our bank robber hits one bank a day, he’s working more days than a legitimate job at considerable hazard and his work doesn’t have medical insurance or sick leave.

If you do the business crime instead, you get to wear nice clothes, choose your hours and if you figure your profits (1.9 million) by a forty hour week at 52 weeks, that is $918.46 an hour. Now, should you point out there were two of them, you would be right and therefore each would only be getting $409.23 an hour. I would kindly suggest that they didn’t work that many hours.

So, what’s my point? There is business ethics and there is criminal justice. Criminal justice curbs crime and crime pays poorly. Business ethics is also concerned with crime and on a scale undreamed of by the common criminal. Now, of course, the criminal justice is also concerned with business crime. After all the SEC is acting in this case.

But not all business crime is prosecuted and when it is, there are often only fines. Are you aware of the Holder doctrine? Here’s William D. Cohan’s take on it:

That Mr. Holder prefers large settlements to prosecutions is no surprise to anyone familiar with the so-called Holder Doctrine, which stems from his now-famous June 1999 memorandum — when he was deputy attorney general — that included the thought that big financial settlements may be preferable to criminal convictions because a criminal conviction often carries severe unintended consequences, like loss of jobs and the inability to continue as a going concern.

So, if a typical American citizen commits a crime he can expect to go to prison while a bank executive’s whose conviction might have “unintended consequences” will pay a fine. This is where the accused in the SEC case (referred to above) erred – they didn’t run a larger organization where there could be unintended consequences of prosecution.

So, in conclusion, business crime pays hundreds of times better than regular crime, and if done on a large enough scale, prosecution will be waived and fines imposed instead.

It makes it difficult to understand why anyone would want to do something so mundane as rob a bank.

James Pilant

* I have decided to call the amount of money made in an average bank robbery in 2009 – a Pilant Unit. That is, an average of $7467.29 so that the scale of business crime might be better described. In future articles I will refer to business crime in terms of these units. jp

I’m Not Gone!!!

My Kind Readers!

Beginning around the 25th of November, I began to deal with sinus and ear infections.

It was rough. I still managed to go to work (the life of an adjunct is what it is) and stayed even on the bills.

But anything else had to wait. So, I’ve posted but little and for that I apologize.

I finished the third bout of antibiotics last Thursday, the 4th of February. Except for a touch of bronchitis I am very much myself.

Last year, 2014 will gradually fade into memory – my dreams were shattered and what remains is pleasure in books and a love for my students – it will have to be enough.

The blog continues.

So do I.

James Pilant