Patterns of Corruption


Patterns of Corruption

This post is particularly aimed at other professors who teach business ethics. I was on YouTube and found a film by Adam Curtis called The Great British Housing Disaster and it is a business ethics masterpiece. Here’s a piece of if  –

The very banality and consistency in the greed and incompetence of the malefactors here is amazing and in my experience, I have found that attitude commonplace in this country as well.

The film tells the story of how Britain decided to build a great deal of housing in a very short period of time and how that gave opportunity for unscrupulous contractors to build sub-standard housing. It takes you through the whole process from politics at the national level to the local and then, architects, contractors,workers and regulators. We are shown the building process and we see, in this case literally, the “concrete” results of the corruption.

I like the film because it’s well done and because it’s historical. I don’t want to be too topical,  too current, when teaching. When all the students have decided already what they think, it makes teaching more difficult. If you give them history and ethics, you have the opportunity of showing how corruption and incompetence follow particular patterns, and you see these patterns over and over again. If you watch the patterns, you can see the corruption as it develops in many other situations.

Now obviously I do teach on some current events but I prefer to use a film and a subject original to the students so they all begin at the same place.

For those of you who don’t teach, it’s a very fine piece of documentary film making and it is the first work listed in Wikipedia for Adam Curtis. So, it is kind of a preview of his later career.

James Pilant

Did TransCanada Just Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership?


Did TransCanada Just Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership?

Democracy is a precious thing. It is easy to see that throughout history, autocrats of all types have attempted to end or limit government by the people whenever possible. Corporations are not different in this respect. They often and quite publicly prefer the autocratic and the certain over the will of the people and its variability.

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Did TransCanada Just Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership?

As time has gone by the United States has entered into treaties like NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. This agreement like many other trade agreements limits the sovereignty of participating nation states and gives power to international tribunals that are not answerable to the people.

These tribunals have not gained a great deal of public attention. That’s probably wise. The idea that a band of unknown bureaucrats can contradict the will of the people as a community, a county, a state or even a nation is a wonderful selling point if you’re a corporation but probably less than persuasive for the citizens who don’t realize that a big chunk of democracy (control over their lives) just went away.

One of the big chunks of democratic power that was given away was the right of governments to be not be sued by foreign corporations.

And while this has not been well known, it is about to be. You see, TransCanada had a stake in the building of the Keystone Pipeline and since the United States government said no, they are suing for more than fifteen billion dollars.

That will put the rest of us on notice that we can be sued if we obstruct international corporate profit making.

This is unlikely to make passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership easier for once people realize that even mundane decisions in the public interest can be reversed and penalized with money damages, they may decide that free trade agreements carry too high a price.

You may think at this point that I’m being an alarmist. TransCanada has yet to win any money and perhaps you don’t even believe that these international tribunals every really sue anybody. Well, what about Australia?

Let’s say you are a tobacco company and you don’t want people to regulate your product. You can use “free trade agreements” on your behalf. (This is from the Huffington Post

Absent state intervention on their behalf, tobacco companies found a new way to fight efforts to regulate tobacco marketing. They take advantage of an “investor-state” dispute options being built into more free trade agreements between countries, which allows companies to directly challenge regulations they believe discriminate against foreign products. Unlike fighting laws in domestic legislatures or through WTO disputes, which are more formal and predictable, investor-state conflicts are decided by a panel of international arbitrators with no appeal, making them more attractive to multinational corporations.

So when Australia tried to put limits on how cigarettes were sold, the tobacco companies used the free trade agreements and used them well. –

(Further down in the same article -)

PMI has used that tactic to challenge Australia’s proposed “plain” packaging rules, which would eliminate bright colors and branding on packs and cartons, and Uruguay’s plan to require 80% of cigarette packs be covered in warning labels. The company argues that these restrictions on its trademarks and branding are akin to expropriation (which would require the country to pay the restricted company for selling its product unbranded) and violate trade deals between Australia and Hong Kong, where PMI has a subsidiary, and Switzerland and Uruguay.

What kind of democratic decisions could be challenged in the United States under these agreements and who could bring these law suits? Any decision that could affect profitability could be challenged. That would include things as mundane as zoning laws all the way up to federal legislation. Any corporation or citizen of a nation participating in the TPP could sue should they believe their operations are being damaged.

For example, Fayetteville, Arkansas could re-zone an area residential. If property there was owned by a foreign corporation say, one from Vietnam, an international tribunal might very well find that this act amounts to an expropriation of the company’s property and force the community to re-zone and pay damages for its “illegal” act.

Over time as the number and complexities of these “free trade agreements” grows, the city will have to become increasingly lawyered up to stay aware of the effect of city decisions on possible litigants all over the world.

Sound good? If you don’t like what you’re hearing, maybe you should do something to let your representatives from the President down to local government know that maybe we shouldn’t be weakening democracy to protect the profitability of foreign corporations.

James Pilant

Here is an excerpt from an article from the Guardian

For many, the Keystone XL pipeline was a catalyst for environmental action, and when the State Department denied developer TransCanada’s permit application in November, it was a signal that the environmental movement had triumphed over corporate and fossil fuel interests. So when the tar sands company announced this week that it was filing a claim against the United States for $15 billion, under provisions in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), many were outraged.

But TransCanada’s heavy-handed use of the Clinton-era agreement might be the rallying point activists need to stop another, perhaps even more far-reaching, federal action: the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is a massive, Pacific Rim trade agreement that would apply NAFTA-like provisions — including prohibitions on interfering with private investment — to the relationships between the United States and 11 other countries, including Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

It might be the rallying point activists need to stop another, perhaps even more far-reaching, federal action: the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is a massive, Pacific Rim trade agreement that would apply NAFTA-like provisions — including prohibitions on interfering with private investment — to the relationships between the United States and 11 other countries, including Japan, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The Earth Moved in Oklahoma


The Earth Moved in Oklahoma

The selection that I have posted at the bottom of this page is from the Guardian and it tells of a 4.2 magnitude earthquake is almost certainly related to the practice of fracking in that state.

This is a business ethics issue. In the past, companies have polluted severely damaging the water, the air and often the top soil. But this is new. We have companies whose disposal of fracking waste water by injecting it deep into the earth is undermining the stability of the land itself.

It’s a new kind of pollution. What do you even call it? – Foundational pollution? Instability pollution? Deep earth interference? Or maybe – earthquake enabling? That large bodies of water could cause earthquakes has been known for some time. The mental leap from the idea that moving water into a man-made reservoir could destabilize fault lines to the idea that directly injecting fracking waste water deep into the earth could cause similar instability is not big.

I have a strong suspicion that the risks were already understood back at the beginning of the Bush administration when Dick Cheney’s energy task force created a package of protective laws for the fracking industry many of which simply prevented the collection of information.

Should energy companies be liable for damages caused by earthquakes which result from the injection of waste water into known fault lines? That’s a good question that I am sure will be before the courts in the next decade. I am so confident of this that I am also confident that ALEC will have legislation preventing these kinds of lawsuits up on state legislative agendas before the end of 2017.

Inflicting earthquakes upon citizens of this country is wrong. It’s understandable if there was no perceivable risk but this is hardly likely to be the case since finding an oil company without highly reputable geologists is highly unlikely.

It appears to me that this problem is easily solvable. We do not allow the industry to inject waste water near known fault lines and to stop injecting should evidence of a fault line develop.

We have discovered how to play havoc with the pillars of the earth. Could anything be more arrogant than this Frankenstein like willingness to play God?

James Pilant

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/01/oklahoma-earthquakes-oil-gas-industry-wastewater-injection

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake struck north Oklahoma City early on New Year’s Day, the latest in a series of temblors in the area in recent days that has prompted state regulators to call for more restrictions on oil and gas operators.

No injuries and only minor damage were reported with the quake, which struck at 5.39am on Friday near Edmond, about 16 miles north-east of Oklahoma City, according to the US Geological Survey.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission issued a statement on Friday saying its Oil and Gas Division staff were taking action in response to the earthquakes in Edmond and that details should be available on Monday.

“The issue is extremely complex, as the initial review of the data for the area in question has not identified any oil and gas wastewater disposal wells that are both high volume and in the state’s deepest formation, a combination that researchers have identified as being at the highest risk for inducing earthquakes,” the commission release stated.

My Mother’s Name is not Invalid!


My Mother’s Name is not Invalid!

My Mother's Name is Not Invalid.
My Mother’s Name is Not Invalid.

By means of one of those routine IT e-mails, I got one of those announcements that I had to change my e-mail. A continuing unpleasant duty is changing the password every so often, and I often joke with my students that due to the frequent changes and the large number of passwords each faculty member has to master -that half the passwords on campus are written on something underneath or attached to the computers themselves. (I keep a word file with mine.)

Anyway, so I attempted to change my password and when I did, it said I wasn’t finished. There was an error. My security question was wrong. The question is – what is your mother’s middle name? And the answer was wrong. How was it wrong? My mother’s middle name is four letters long and there must be five.

That’s right. The IT people have decided all on their own that names less than five letters long are invalid. I am certain that my mother’s middle name appears on her birth certificate and I am certain as an attorney that under the laws of Oklahoma, the United States and under the law of nations, that name is valid. It also appears to me that under the customs of this nation, the name, a relatively common one, is acceptable to one and all.

Yet, it is invalid.

I like to think of IT people as normal people. Their children are apparently named things like John! or Ann&* or Jo^87 and they are probably a little more fascinated with Dr. Who than the average American but I still like to think that a human heart beats within them.

So, let us try reasoning with them.

TO Those in the Information Technology Department.

“People name their children sometimes on a whim and other times after a relative. Sometimes, they even name them after themselves. Many of them have pre-computer era names. They are all letters, and at the current time, whatever your insistence, while they do have a capital letter and a “small” letter, they do not have a number, a special character like an _ or a space.”

“Your insistence that people follow arbitrary rules that you have developed in an apparent cultural isolation chamber is unwise. People are likely to become angry and disillusioned that you are making important decisions in their lives just because you can. I do understand that you have reasons for these ideas. It is highly likely that if we use letters from the Cyrillic alphabet or perhaps even Japanese phonetic symbols, it will make our passwords and names more difficult to predict for those trying to break into the system. And yet, we must remember that computers are here to facilitate our work and that they are here to serve us.”

“And so are you.”

“So, let us who create the product at our joint enterprise continue with our and our relatives’ too short names and we will leave you in peace to do whatever it is that you do in your department.”

James Pilant

 

Steven Mintz Writes a Perfect Paragraph


Steven Mintz Writes a Perfect Paragraph

The paragraph at the bottom of the page is from The Ethics Sage‘s latest post called – Bespoke Tranche Opportunity: It’s déjà vu all over again

The Ethics Sage
The Ethics Sage

I call it a perfect paragraph and in terms of business ethics, it is. The lessons of the 2007 financial crisis that would have made an intelligent man cautious about financial innovation have not been learned. The one lesson that has sunk in, is that if your institution is big enough and influential enough not only will the government prevent its failure, you will keep your job and with a little luck your bonus.

The Ethic Sage’s analysis is correct. There is going to have to be more government regulation. If not, we risk another global catastrophe.

The financial crisis and its aftermath created a hole in the moral ozone that is supposed serve as a check on excessive, risky behavior by investment bankers. It is a breach that, in my opinion, is irreparable absent any dramatic steps to better control the risk appetite of some in the financial services industry. This saddens me because the last thing we need is more government regulation. Unfortunately, it may be necessary because the very ethical standards that are supposed to protect the public under capitalism have broken down. Adam Smith in his iconic The Wealth of Nations stated that: By pursuing his own interest he [the capitalist] frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. His theory no longer describes the way our free market economy works and its breakdown explains, in part, the economic gap in our society.

As always, I recommend you to go to The Ethic Sage’s blog and read the entire post. Further, you should favorite the site and read it regularly. I do.

James Pilant

Hidden Dangers!


Hidden Dangers

At the bottom of the page are four documentaries. They are listed not in the order in which they appeared on television (BBC) but chronologically by era – Tudor, Victorian and Edwardian. Please note there several hundred years between the Tudor and the Victorian but, you know, “television.”

006-1These documentaries are significant in terms of business law. For one thing, they demonstrate social change. If you watch the films you will note that while women were treated badly during the Victorian era, the sufferings of women in the Tudor period are appalling.

For another, these are largely pre-regulation societies, and I’m referring directly to business regulation. You’re going to see electric companies simply making up the rules as to proper voltage, insulation and wiring as they go along. You’re going to see food adulteration; sour milk made to taste okay but still sour and bread that appears nourishing but is actually full of inert filler. You’re going to see beauty products that kill, maim and disfigure women. It would not be incorrect to say that the idea of regulating business developed because of all these deaths over many years.

These documentaries are also windows into the past. If you have been in one of my classes, you know that I am a fierce critic of television portrayals of American history. Often overly dramatic, these television shows portray women very much as they live and act today, not to mention having an incredible focus on beautiful outfits. Women did not act in the past as they do now. They were very limited in how much participation in any form of social activity they were allowed and they were certainly almost always placed at a safe distance from power. That some women were able to be influential should not be considered as proof that women were influential but as amazing exceptions to the general rules. For almost all women through almost all of American history, they were relegated to the “women’s” sphere. And as to the glamorous clothing portrayed in these TV shows and movies, a lot of women’s clothing styles in the past were ugly and bizarre. It takes tremendous effort on the part of clothing designers to make this stuff look good. And this is because imposing ridiculous, nonsensical and cruel standards of beauty on women has never gone out of style.

I hate these portrayals because when there is a strong implication that women were always vital, respected members of society, this implies that no action was really necessary to give women a fuller role in society and belittles the terrible trials suffered by women who advocated for a more equal and better world. And I don’t like the emphasis on fashion and clothes because it implies a level of sophistication and beauty for past eras of crass stupidity, rampant disease, and moral degradation as well as high levels of illiteracy and superstition.

So, have a look at several bygone ages and see how other people have lived and suffered.

James Pilant

 

Hidden Killers of the Tudor Home BBC Documentary 2015 – YouTube

Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home – YouTube

New Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home – YouTube

Hidden Killers of the Edwardian Home – YouTube

 

The End of Subcontracting as We Know It?


The End of Subcontracting as We Know It?

This afternoon the National Labor Relations Board ruled that in many cases an employee of a sub-contractor is joint employee of both the sub-contractor and the contracting company.

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The End of Subcontracting as We Know It?

How do you determine who is joint employee? It would appear that the board is going to use some of the same standards used to determine whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor.

It’s about time.

The practice of sub-contracting janitorial services, etc. has long been a cover for labor abuses. Companies have been using sub-contracting to evade labor laws and avoid the consequences of poor working conditions and sub-standard pay.

Can I document this kind of abuse? How about hereherehere or here?

We’re talking about using sub-contractors to commit fraud in non-profits, government contracts and Medicare. We’re talking about using sub-contracting to create sweat shop conditions while providing deniability to the principal company.

This was long overdue and it is of critical important because this kind of subcontracting is almost an endemic practice by American businesses. It’s about time that an employee of a company employed through what is essentially a shell company is considered an employee of the main company.

James Pilant

From the NLRB web site:

In the decision, the Board applies long-established principles to find that two or more entities are joint employers of a single workforce if (1) they are both employers within the meaning of the common law;  and (2) they share or codetermine those matters governing the essential terms and conditions of employment. In evaluating whether an employer possesses sufficient control over employees to qualify as a joint employer, the Board will – among other factors — consider whether an employer has exercised control over terms and conditions of employment indirectly through an intermediary, or whether it has reserved the authority to do so. 

From The Hill:

The National Labor Relations Board on Thursday handed down one of the biggest decisions of the Obama presidency, ruling that companies can be held equally responsible for labor violations committed by their contractors.

At issue is whether waste management firm Browning-Ferris is responsible for the treatment of its contractor’s employees. The Houston-based company hired Leadpoint Business Services to staff a recycling facility in California. 

The labor board determined Browning-Ferris should be considered a joint employer with the Phoenix-based staffing agency. As a result, the company could be pulled into collective bargaining negotiations with those employees and held liable for any labor violations committed against them.

This is a sharp departure from previous labor laws that hold companies responsible only for employees who are under their direct control by setting their hours, wages, or job responsibilities. Companies could avoid those requirements by hiring staffing agencies and subcontractors that deal more closely with the workers.

Work Hard or Go to the Right School?


Work Hard or Go to the Right School?

Many Americans, probably most, belief in merit. They believe that if you work hard, do the right thing and achieve that they will be rewarded and that reward will be in some relation to the effort put out.

But is merit actually rewarded?

29There is strong evidence that we live in a two tiered society. Two groups of people, one a group of the very well off are able to afford the finest private schools for their children as well as many other advantages. The other, those whose children are relegated to the public or charter school systems will almost never rival the success or income of the first group.

Currently there is a Ivy League Prep School under a moral cloud for the male student’s custom of scoring points by having sex with the a certain of co-eds. I am unhappy that this is apparently taking place. But there was more upsetting news in the article. What I then read is quoted at the bottom of the page but let me pull a section out.  –

Secretary of State John Kerry graduated from St Paul’s in 1962, alongside former FBI director Robert Mueller. Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau is an alumnus as are 13 US ambassadors, three Pulitzer Prize winners, two World Series of Poker winners, actor Judd Nelson and sons of the Astor and Kennedy families, according to the school’s website.

This is where the one percent go. This is where the connections that lead to wealth, influence and power are made. This is the difference between struggling to make a living and a golden road of unending triumph.

Perhaps this doesn’t disturb you. Maybe you believe that you have earned your station in life?

But I am a teacher. I have college students who I am very proud of. And I have every reason to be proud of them. Every day I teach I see their obvious intelligence, their willingness to do more than necessary and an understanding that there are things that are very wrong in our society and that they will be called upon as a duty to remedy these failings.

And not for one moment at any time, do I consider my students to be less talented, less motivated and lesser people that the privileged few who have the opportunity to attend St. Pauls.

Nevertheless, I am aware of the tragedy clearly expressed here. Merit is not being rewarded. Parental income is being rewarded. Can there be anything clearer thatn that success in this society is only partially based on merit if it carries any weight at all?

Not one of my students, no matter how talented, no matter how kind, how genuine, how hardworking or intelligent is likely attain the success of the worst student at this prep school.

That’s wrong.

The very idea of business ethics implies merit. It implies that you hire based on capability. It implies fairness and square dealing, honesty in negotiation and a desire for mutual benefit.

I have met business people who roll their eyes when I say these things and look at me with the contempt one would have for a foolish child.

I welcome their contempt. I welcome their disdain. There is some justice in this world and a final justice in the next. I have faith in the necessity of the one and the inevitability of the other.

My students should have the same chance as those that go to elite prep schools. In fact, we should all be judged by our individual merits rather than who are parents are and what school we went to.

And when businesses hire on any other basis than merit, they have failed a fundamental test of business ethics.

James Pilant

 

Rape case puts focus on elite prep school’s alleged sexual tradition | US news | The Guardian

Founded in 1856, St Paul’s is an Episcopal school nestled on 2,000 pastoral acres (800 hectares) on the outskirts of downtown Concord, New Hampshire’s capital. It enrolls about 530 students and admitted girls for the first time in 1971. Tuition, room and board currently totals $53,810.

The school belongs to the Eight Schools Association, a sort of Ivy League for prep schools in the US north-east.

Secretary of State John Kerry graduated from St Paul’s in 1962, alongside former FBI director Robert Mueller. Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau is an alumnus as are 13 US ambassadors, three Pulitzer Prize winners, two World Series of Poker winners, actor Judd Nelson and sons of the Astor and Kennedy families, according to the school’s website.

The school also has a robust international presence: 17% of the 2014-15 class came from 25 countries and notable alumni include Bernard Makihara, the former CEO of the Mitsubishi Corporation, and Edmund Maurice Burke Roche, a Conservative member of the British Parliament and the maternal grandfather of Diana, princess of Wales.

via Rape case puts focus on elite prep school’s alleged sexual tradition | US news | The Guardian.

Cooked Like a Tuna


Cooked Like a Tuna

i_236Three years ago, a worker at a tuna plant was slow cooked to death in a giant pressure cooker with six tons of tuna. (Please read the brief selection from the Guardian below my commentary.) The federal government has a surprising number of rules about the necessity of not killing your employees. In this case the rules being dealt with are the “lockout tagout” rules and cover employment situations where such precautions are necessary like the 12,000 lb. capacity ovens at Bumblebee.

Some writers on the web have pointed out the similarities of this incident to one of the stories from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. This is from the end of the book’s Chapter 9 –

... Worst of any, however, were the fertilizer men, and
those who served in the cooking rooms. These people could not be shown
to the visitor,--for the odor of a fertilizer man would scare any
ordinary visitor at a hundred yards, and as for the other men, who
worked in tank rooms full of steam, and in some of which there were open
vats near the level of the floor, their peculiar trouble was that they
fell into the vats; and when they were fished out, there was never
enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,--sometimes they would be
overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the
world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard!

Of course, the feds took little interest in such things at the time, The Jungle, was published.

There are many today who sincerely believe that businesses will self-regulate if the feds would only step away and allow the invisible hand of the free market to rule. This is one of the beliefs held by Milton Friedman in what must be considered one of his more comedic moments. The idea that humans will become kind and good and willing to suffer monetary loss for worker safety if only the government would step away is more appropriate for small children than adults with experience of a capitalist society.

James Pilant

Bumble Bee Foods settles for $6m in death of worker cooked with tuna | US news | The Guardian

Jose Melena, 62, died three years ago in a 270F oven at the seafood company’s Santa Fe Springs plant after a co-worker mistakenly believed he was in the bathroom and filled a pressure cooker with six tons of canned tuna.

“This is the worst circumstances of death I have ever, ever witnessed,” said deputy district attorney Hoon Chun, who noted he had tried more than 40 murder cases over two decades. “I think any person would prefer to be – if they had to die some way – would prefer to be shot or stabbed than to be slowly cooked in an oven.”

Bumble Bee, its plant operations director Angel Rodriguez and former safety manager Saul Florez had each been charged with three counts of violating Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules that caused a death.

via Bumble Bee Foods settles for $6m in death of worker cooked with tuna | US news | The Guardian.

Reason is Basic to Decision Making in Business Ethics


I was on Facebook the other day, and one of my relatives posted about Obama’s visit to Oklahoma. I spend the first 44 years of my life there and many of my relatives still live there. Some of the comments were, in my mind, bizarre. Obama was evil incarnate according to these individuals. One comment stood out. The writer claimed that anything whatsoever that Obama said was a lie. That is really over the top. It’s simply not possible to lie about every single thing. How would a person who believed such a thing have any opportunity, the smallest chance of analyzing a federal policy in terms of logic or benefit or usefulness with that kind of idea in mind?

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Reason is Basic to Decision Making in Business Ethics

I remember a few years ago, a famous cartoonist came out against Obama. He said it was because Obama was enforcing the federal marijuana laws against states where it had been legalized. I always thought that he had formulated a reason that made sense, not only that, he had taken a stance that the President or his administration could take notice of and change that decision if they so desired. You can change policy but if someone just hates you, there really isn’t anything you can do.

I have opposed Obama since the middle of the first term. I write about business ethics and his stance on that issue has been disastrous. Millions of Americans, who had been misled about the prospects of home ownership, often by deliberate fraud, had their homes taken from them. The government failed to act to save them or prosecute the venal thieves who took the most valuable thing that these people would ever own in the lives. And besides overlooking these crimes, the government under Obama’s leadership, failed to use the criminal law to prosecute the banks for their crime.

I taught business ethics against a backdrop of the federal government of the United States taking the law and making the biggest corporate crimes in the history of the world, a matter punishable by fines, a cost of doing business that has resulted in nothing but a wave, a moving wall of wrong doing that could right now take the world into a second financial catastrophe. It is a dereliction of duty that I cannot forgive or forget. Instead of taking the opportunity to make the international banking system a safe bulwark for the wealth of peoples and nations, it is now an international casino wreaking havoc upon weaker nations and constantly searching for the next shill, the next big score, knowing with absolute certainly that if they make a mistake they will be rescued with public money and at worst penalized with a fine. They have taken a nation of law that was often imperfect and created a two tier system where the wealthy and well connected walk free no matter what they have done.

But, once again, I, like the cartoonist I mentioned earlier, have an actual reason to oppose the President. I oppose him on a policy basis. This is principled upon the idea that in a democracy, we can stand for different things.

I’m a business ethics writer. So, it is entirely appropriate to ask, what about business ethics am I trying to say?

Very simple, for a few hundred years, Western Civilization, in particular, the United States, has been conducting an experiment in whether or not people can rule themselves. Democracy is a difficult process and the American example has features that made it even more difficult: for instance, a bifurcated legislature and three part government beset by “checks and balances.” This form of government requires opposing parties to cooperate in at least a minimal manner for government to function. Unreasoning hatred makes this impossible. 

And there is another factor, the Enlightenment. The founders believed that their dramatic compromises (they clearly understood the foolishness of the two house legislature) would be mitigated by the enlightenment values of knowledge and reason. This nation, its businesses, its corporations, its legal systems, ad infinitum is meant to operate in a thinking environment of reason and logic. 

How do you talk about ethics and good decision making in regard to the Presidency or any other issue, when human reason is removed from the equation? If instead of talking about the facts, we just emote?

Don’t for a minute doubt the temptation to hate in business ethics. When you review the millions of Americans who have and will have their property stolen by banking institutions most commonly investment banks, it is difficult to write without emotion. The knowledge that conscious evil wrong doing is not only tolerated but rewarded by billions of dollars in salaries, stock shares and other benefits is difficult to take.

This is what I want to say. Business ethics cannot function in an environment of unthinking emotion.  We can only find our way as a free people by thinking with reason and facts and only then acting.

I know that reason and logic are often slow and they are often tedious. They often lack the black and white certainty of 1940’s Western or the latest article in any of countless blogs but they are the means by which the best decisions can be made.

James Pilant