Popular Revolt in the Arab World (via Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon)

These events are hardcore business ethics matters. It is the economic theories of the Chicago School of Economics that propels the austerity measures all over the world. It is the intense privatization movements again pushed by American philosophies and business interests that is a factor in these conflicts. I will cover the IMF and its part in these uprisings in more detail in my next posting.

There are few commentators I trust as much as J. N. Nielsen. Certainly very few are as well read.

I strongly recommend his writings.

James Pilant

Popular Revolt in the Arab World Thursday Tunisia’s authoritarian government of several decades duration has fallen to a popular uprising. This was not a perfectly bloodless revolution, but bloodshed was definitely kept to a minimum, largely because security forces took the side of protest … Read More

via Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon

Illusions of Free Markets

Chasing Fat Tails has an interesting post. It is a discussion of the issue discussed in the book, Illusions of Free Markets, Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order, written by Bernard E. Harcourt.

Harcourt’s book is vital and bracing reading, and once read isn’t easy to forget.  Its two central ideas, that “free market” rhetoric masks the inevitable regulation that must occur and encourages mass incarceration, start popping up everywhere once you start to look for them.  It touches on any rhetoric about regulation, any argument about prisons, and any idea that’s concerned about affecting change in either.

The argument isn’t perfect.  Those familiar with recent trends in the industrial-prison complex will already be asking: what about the steep rise in private prisons?  Doesn’t that interfere with the book’s claim that incarceration is strictly the province of the government?  (For the record: yes it does, and it’s an instance of the power of free market rhetoric that it can infiltrate a long-held province of legitimate state action).  But the intellectual history is too airtight, the relationships mapped too perfectly, to dismiss.

I share the author’s skepticism about free markets and the “natural order.” To me, the natural order sounds very similar to the divine right of kings. After all wasn’t that the nature of reality in the 16th century?

Humans are not an orderly species. They vary in talent, morality, training and experience. To expect a clockwork mechanism based on an inevitable economic cooperation is the height of delusion. Yet, I encounter it everyday.

You can knock down every premise of the free market fundamentalist and it comes back like Dracula in a Hammer film.

I will write about this in more length later. Right now, I would like you to read Chasing Fat Tails and take a look at the book on Amazon. There are two more reviews there you might find interesting.

James Pilant

The ‘Customer’-Physician Relationship (via The Monday Morning Business Ethicist Blog)

A wonderful discussion of Kant in the light of hospital policy. I both recommend you read it and put The Monday Morning Business Ethicist Blog on your favorites. Better yet, subscribe.

James Pilant

The 'Customer'-Physician Relationship Medicine is subtly shifting from an emphasis on what is ideally best for the patient to an environment where hospitals are marketed from survey results and physicians are instructed on how to encourage customers to check the ‘Excellent’ box when rating their care. The danger in primarily viewing a patient as a consumer is that well known adages like ‘the customer knows best’ can gravitate toward motivations based primarily on the profit motive ra … Read More

via The Monday Morning Business Ethicist Blog

Freedom to, freedom from (via The Hannibal Blog)

Sometimes, I think when looking at my blog, you can chart my intellectual journey by what I think is important at the time. I suspect that Andreas Kluth does something of the same thing. Here’s his thoughts on negative and positive liberty.

James Pilant

Freedom to, freedom from Two years ago, near the beginning of my amateurish exploration of the concept of freedom here on The Hannibal Blog, I dabbled a bit in the nuance between negative and positive liberty. As it happens, there is a much, much better treatment of that distinction in this lecture by Hunter Rawlings, a classicist at Cornell (as well as that un … Read More

via The Hannibal Blog

Business Ethics Roundup 1/1/11!

Let’s start with a small disclaimer here. I have 42 business ethics web sites (by my definition which is broad) listed on my favorites in that single category. I have 56 business ethics “related” sites on my favorites. So, I ‘m never going to to get more that a partial glimpse at what’s going on. With that out of the way, let’s start the new year rolling!

The Crane and Matten Blog explain why business ethics is more significant culturally than CSR.

Here’s a quote CSR is also, as might be expected, a lot more business-friendly than business ethics. In fact, people often tend to use CSR when they’re talking about the good things companies are doing, and business ethics (or a lack of them) when talking about the bad things they do.

The Ruder Finn Ethics Blog discusses ethics and giving while providing some fascinating statistics.

Here’s a quote We give for many different reasons. We may give as an expression of friendship and love or just reciprocate. Retailers, economists and Wall Street eagerly all hope that people will spend much this year are and thus sustain the slow recovery of our economy. The National Retail Federation expects an increase in 2010 Holiday sales of 2.3% to $447.1 billion. (Gifts from the rich to the rich.)

From the web blog, Business Ethics Training, we have a review of the book, Ship of Fools: How Corruption and Stupidity Sank the Celtic Tiger.

Here’s a quote With all the talk of toxic assets (real estate) and the resulting fallout in the States – its easy to overlook what happened in Ireland. Particularly the situation with NAMA (National Asset Management Agency), that holds the toxic assets.

From the web site, Ethix: Business Technology Ethics, we have a book review of After the Fall: Saving Capitalism From Wall Street—and Washington by Nicole Gelinas

Here’s a quote Gelinas key message is that capitalism needs clear rules in order to flourish, and that must include allowing bad businesses to fail. Bail outs only encourage further bad behavior, and what we have seen in the recent financial meltdown is simply a lesson forgotten from what happened in the 1920s and ’30s.

David Yamada’s Minding the Workplace has several posts. I recommend you read his year end closing, but the one I discussing is the next to the last. He explains what one should do if bullied at work.

Here’s a quote There’s a lot of cheap and sometimes dangerous “one size fits all” advice out there on how to handle workplace bullying situations, especially in newspaper work advice columns. These resources are no substitute for understanding the dynamics of workplace bullying and how they relate to one’s specific circumstances.

Net Neutrality – Obama Caves, A Young Turks Interview With Timothy Karr

This is 18 minutes and 23 second. A bit long for many of my readers. Nevertheless, this is a good explanation about how the new rules amount to a surrender on net neutrality.

James Pilant

Will Wall Street Ever Pay For Its Crimes? Or Just Its Fair Share Of Taxes?

These are brief interviews with Les Leopold. Here is a sample of his writing from Huffington Post

We got into this crisis because Wall Street invented and pedaled fantasy financial instruments that turned out to be junk. While their party lasted, those complex derivatives were a gold mine for the largest financial institutions. According to the New York Times, the profits from the nine largest commercial banks “from early 2004 until the middle of 2007 were a combined $305 billion. But since 2007, those banks have marked down their valuations on loans and other assets by just over that amount.” In other words, the profits weren’t real.

He also has a book called The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It.

Internet Dead.

From Steven Axelrod on Salon

The internet as we know it is officially doomed, as of today, and I’m already feeling nostalgic. Funny that a technology could move so fast across the landscape of my life – from a geeks-only fluke to a curiosity, to a useful tool, to a powerful engine of procrastination and finally a central venue for all my communications, research, entertainment and shopping, only to be reduced to the closed down, controlled, censored corporate cash cow it’s about to become, with the Obama administration’s blessing.

Internet, we barely knew ye.

But of course the Proprietors of our Nation couldn’t allow this internet business to go on the way it was heading. What a frightening thought – free, unobstructed communications, with no control and no profit … people just saying whatever they want, whenever they want, leaking documents, downloading YouTube videos that make Proprietor-controlled media outlets look like liars. You knew there’d be repercussions after the “Colbert bombed at the Press Association Dinner” narrative was reduced to one more punchline, a million downloads later.

He’s right. It will take a while but these things you’re reading like my blog, the sites you surf will probably go the way of the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon.

You might be curious as to why I’m not outraged myself.

In fact, my most fire breathing, screaming fits of anger were over this issue some months ago.

I simply realized that the Obama administration will sell out the internet in a total reversal of the President’s stated position. As far as the President is concerned, words have no meaning. He says whatever is necessary to get whatever he wants at the time.

You want to argue with me.

If so much as one person objects, I will happily put up the You Tube videos where the President declares that he absolutely supports net neutrality and will not compromise. I put them up on a previous post. It took me about a minute to find four separate events where he said these things.

So, it was inevitable.

The best guide to this President’s actions are to go on You Tube, run the issue and see what the President said during the campaign. Expect him to do the opposite and you will only rarely be wrong.

The independence of the internet was critical to the kind of support and networking, the Obama campaign used to win election in 2008. You see, the President isn’t even smart.

It was unwise politically, damaging his own campaign infrastructure and limiting the influence of the blogosphere which did so much for him during the campaign. It also alienates the aforementioned bloggers, who if they are anything like me, will never forget this latest outrage.

I’m not going to forget it.

What happens to me and this blog. Well, I’m going to keep going and I have a monitor that tells me the loading speed for the web site, when it gets longer than say five seconds, I’ll start considering shutting down.

I am stubborn though, maybe I’ll hang on until it’s just me and some close friends who tell me that they log on when don’t or can’t.

And it gets better. Our President is planning on fixing the tax code next year.

Of course, he’s going to cut up Social Security like a butchered steer, George W. Bush’s dream come true.

I’d like someone to tell me what the hell happened?

I want to know.

I can get being betrayed.

I can get changes of allegiance.

I definitely understant political expediency.

But this President makes decisions that don’t even make sense from an election point of view.

Earlier, I said that you could take the opposite of what the President said as a guide, but there is another one. If there are two options and one is the more politically foolish, the White House chooses that one.

Net neutrality is dead. Happy Christmas.

James Pilant

We Invite You To Predict When China Will Overtake America – The Economist

The Economist magazine asks this intriguing question.

It posts a comparison of economic growth between the two countries and points out that at the current rate of economic growth, China will overtake the United States in 2019. They then suggest you plug-in your estimates of growth for the Chinese and Americans and arrive at your own figure.

Okay, here’s my prediction of when the Chinese are going to overtake the United States.


It’s all nonsense. Chinese corruption is endemic. Their real estate market crashed two years ago. They had to do an economic stimulus of 400 billion dollars two and a half years ago. They have foreign policy disputes with almost every bordering country and a large number of those that are not. They are building a fleet to challenge the American Seventh fleet in the South China Sea. The difference in economic development between the coastal and interior provinces borders on the incredible. There are rumors (probably true) of gathering Muslim unrest in the far West. I could go on.

It seems likely to me that the estimates of economic growth put out by the Chinese government bear a strange similarity to East Germany’s constant high economic growth before the country disintegrated in 1989.

And watching the Chinese lurch from one foreign police misstep after another hardly gives one any confidence in the nation’s future. If you’re willing to force the Philippines to take your lead painted toy imports by threatening economic retaliation, you have only the vaguest concept of a) right and wrong and b) how you appear to the rest of the world. If one of your ship captains decides to deliberately ram a Japanese naval vessel and you get him out of it by threats, that might not have long term positive results. If a dissident gets a Nobel Peace Prize and you demonize the award rather than keeping a discrete silence and resort to every measure short of blackmail to discourage other countries from attending, you’re not demonstrating balanced judgment. If when faced with a dissident receiving a Nobel Peace Prize, you create, fairly instantly,a bogus “Confucius” prize which you then present to the former President of Taiwan who admits he doesn’t know what it is and fails to appear for the ceremony, you don’t impress anybody.


This is all just part of the policy narrative from the media beltway. As always, they only ask hard questions of ideas they oppose. This isn’t one of them. The terror of Chinese competition, of their eventual success, is a reproach to criticism of free trade and authortarianism. It calls the very importance of democracy for economic success into question. It makes the idea of open society with rights of privacy seem unnecesary to a nation’s future.

When China has failed to become number one, it will have outlived its usefulness, their will be a new narrative of America losing out. Will it be India, Islamic nations, South Asia or even a resurgent Japan? Who knows? But its’ necessary. It’s a club against policies you don’t like and it works.

James Pilant

Is Regulation A Form Of Socialism?

The Economist says that many of the charges of socialism directed at financial regulation are misplaced. Such regulation has been a normal part of the American economy for more than fifty years and was in effect during the height of the cold war.

Apparently all over the United States, charges of socialism and communism are bandied about as if Soviet style governing committees has sprung up all over the United States. Ironically, many of these same individuals are worried by the specter of Sharia law, not a likely possibility and fully contradictory to a anti religious Marxism. The latest and quite possibly strangest concept of all is liberal facism. Liberals were opposed to both Italian and German fascism early on and paid for it in blood. Yet the example of their courage to the point of sacrificing everything has no effect on the current dialogue. It is okay to affiliate one of the opposing belief systems that brought down Nazism because the phrase, National Socialist, has the word, socialist, in it? Is that academic analysis? Does that bespeak intelligence? Or judgment?

Read what the Economist has to say.

From the Economist

The Economist is in favour of free markets, but both words are important. If banks are too big to fail, then their cost of capital is implicitly subsidised. This creates barriers to entry and encourages risk-taking at the taxpayers’ expense; the market is thus not truly free. In an ideal world, we ought to be able to let banks fail in the same way that we let widget manufacturers fail. But since bank failures have a devastating economic impact, we need to have some approach to regulating them. Markets also have externalities, a concept long established in academia; a chemical company cannot be free to pollute a river, for example.

To say that any further regulation is socialism, or that any consideration of inequality is misguided, seems wilfully blind. If banks earn huge profits, and their traders huge bonuses, only because of an implicit state subsidy, that seems a legitimate matter of public concern. For those who believe this is the road to Cuba, one might easily respond that the other camp is on the road to 18th century France, where wealth was concentrated in the hands of a tiny, hereditary elite. A gross caricature? No more than the Cuba example. After all, the evidence suggests that social mobility is falling in America and Britain, probably because the wealthy can gain advantages for their offspring via private education.

The issues of education, a level playing field and “too big to fail” are not going away. The issue of whether to regulate or not to regulate is a legitimate one. There is no religious imperative to not regulate. The same people who say that Marxism failed and would have failed no matter how it was practiced are unwilling to believe the same thing about unregulated markets, but the evidence is clear. Unregulated markets are inherently predatory. There is no historical example that can be pointed to where this was not the case.

Market choice and regulation are choices of policy. They require intelligence to apply. They are not matters of faith.

James Pilant