Wikileaks And Ethics


The ongoing Wikileaks controversy has a large number of ethical elements. The best commentator on this is Chris MacDonald. I subscribe to his site and I’ve watched as he hit one ethical aspect after another. I firmly believe that the Wikileaks controversy will be an ethics textbook staple for the next twenty years and that MacDonald will probably write the quoted article.

Here’s his lineup –

December 9th, 2010 Wikileaks, Credit Card Companies and Complicity

December 11, 2010 Should Companies Judge the Ethics of Those with whom They Do Business?

December 13, 2010 Wikileaks & Mastercard: Should Companies Do Government’s Bidding?

December 20, 2010 Wikileaks and NGO Legitimacy

If you are are a teacher, these articles provided excellent teaching opportunities. If you are one of my readers, this is a business ethical analysis of complicated set of moral problems.

Whoever you are, I recommend the articles.

James Pilant

Update – Professor MacDonald has added another post on this subject. This one is called Corporate Citizenship, Apple and Wikileaks. This one was posted on his web site on December 22, 2010.

Federal Reserve Proposing Mortgage Rule to Eliminate Key Foreclosure Protections (via Rortybomb)


Rortybomb has it right here. The Federal Reserve is rushing into to save the banks from their forclosure fiasco. I have blogged on this. I was expecting Congress to rush to the banks’ aid but apparently the Federal Reserve is going to beat them to it.

The banks, the forclosure industry, they never seem to lack for friends in all the right places. Have you noticed that? Where are the homeonwners’ friends? Where are our friends? Is the only value in this society cold hard cash?

Read this. It’s good writing.

James Pilant

In the early 2000s the subprime lender Household Finance settled the largest consumer fraud settlement in U.S. history. Household Finance paid a whopping $484 million in fines to a joint settlement with a group of attorneys general. One month later Household was acquired by HSBC, the London financial giant, for $16.4 billion, setting off a bidding war on subprime dealers by the highest parts of Wall Street. It's like they were being rewarded, ins … Read More

via Rortybomb

A Property-Owning Democracy (via Understanding Society)


From Understanding Society

The past thirty years have taken us a great distance away from the social ideal represented by Rawls’s Theory of Justice. The acceleration of inequalities of income and wealth in the US economy is flatly unjust, by Rawls’s standards. The increasing — and now by Supreme Court decision, almost unconstrained — ability of corporations to exert influence within political affairs has severely undermined the fundamental political equality of all citizens. And the extreme forms of inequality of opportunity and outcome that exist in our society — and the widening of these gaps in recent decades — violate the basic principles of justice, requiring the full and fair equality of political lives of all citizens. This suggests that Rawls’s theory provides the basis for a very sweeping critique of existing economic and political institutions. In effect, the liberal theorist offers radical criticism of the existing order.

This post takes John Rawls, quotes his writing in the context of what he considers a just society and then compares that with our current situation. The author is not pleased. Many of the objections that Rawls would have made according to this author are the same or similar objections that I would make myself.

The veil of ignorance: great thought experiment (via The Hannibal Blog)


In this 2009 posting, The Hannibal Blog, discusses (approvingly) Rawls’ concept of the “veil of ignorance.” It’s a good discussion.

James Pilant

The veil of ignorance: great thought experiment What if we could get together to form a new kind of society … and we did not even know who we would be in that society? This is a famous thought experiment, proposed by the Harvard philosopher John Rawls in his 1971 book, Theory of Justice. Jag, of "idiomology" fame, mentioned it in response to my previous post on (Einstein's) thought experiments, and it … Read More

via The Hannibal Blog

Varieties of Liberalism(s) (via Chasing Fat Tails)


Yesterday, I called attention to a post from Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon about a comparsion between the writings of John Rawls and Aristotle. Today in Chasing Fat Tails, I find further discussions on the importance of Rawls.

James Pilant

Over at Crooked Timber, John Holbo has a good post on Zizek's supposed critique of liberalism. Holbo is see what Zizek has to say about liberalism, qua political philosophy, but he's disappointed to find that Zizek (shock of all shocks!) basically straw-mans liberalism (qua political philosophy) by equating it with neoliberalism: "I’m writing an article on (wait for it!) Zizek on liberalism, and one point I want to make is that when Zizek critiqu … Read More

via Chasing Fat Tails

A 12 Cent Credit Card Fee?


From the Houston Chronicle

A proposed cap on the fees that banks charge for debit card transactions would substantially reduce the cost for businesses. But it’s started a death watch for debit card rewards and renewed predictions that free checking is done for.

At issue is who will ultimately benefit from the savings? The Federal Reserve’s proposal to cap these fees, officially known as interchange fees, at 12 cents per transaction would enable retailers to pass on annual savings of $10 billion to $13 billion to consumers. But banks and card networks maintain that retailers will pocket the savings. This would leave consumers to bear the brunt of the new law through higher costs for banking and reduced rewards programs.

In releasing its proposal Thursday, Fed staff members said they found the cost to banks for processing is between 7 cents and 12 cents per transaction. Yet every time a customer swipes a debit card, the average fee is 44 cents.

The banks are making out like bandits and then telling us it’s for our benefit. I always worry when someone says they are doing something for my own good. I can’t help but feel that someone is going to hit me.

Banks love to bill as if some dedicated employee was carefulling examining the transaction, which was undoubtedly true in 1947. The actual current circumstances is a high speed computer instantly calculating the transaction.

We can adjust for the times.

James Pilant

Commerce Department Calls For Internet Privacy!


From the Star Tribune

The Commerce Department is calling for the creation of a “privacy bill of rights” for Internet users to set ground rules for companies that collect consumer data online and use that information for marketing and other purposes.

The proposal, outlined in a report Thursday, is intended to address growing unease about the vast amounts of personal information that companies are scooping up on the Internet — from Web browsing habits to smart phone locations to Facebook preferences. That data is often mined to target advertising.

The new report is intended to guide lawmakers, industry and a White House group looking at the issues surrounding Internet privacy.

Absolutely necessary.

There’s enough tracking software on my computer to slow it down (and I play Fallout 3, that means power). We don’t even know who these people are. Who is playing with our data? Who’s selling it? And for what purpose? Scammers? Is is the Russian Mafia, the Communist Chinese or the North Koreans operating in the only area where their technology is equal to the West (there might be another exception for counterfeiting, they’re really good at that)?

This proposal is important and I hope something comes of it.

James Pilant

Jayaraman Rajah Iyer Comments On “Who will regret giving insider minnows free lunch?”


I am pleased to reproduce my comments I posted at Reuters: It is a case of `Matsanyaya’ matsya means fish nyaya means justice, where big fish swallows the smaller ones. I agree with you, Hedge Fund managers may feel lucky this time but they are always vulnerable, waiting for the tsunami with patience. But please address the issue direct – what’s wrong in getting the insider information and what’s the need for insider probe? The system provides for such misfeasance. It is like match fixing. The team member is bribed to act in a manner the fixer walks away with the loot in a speculative market.

What’s the solution? Fix the system. Correct the situation at the core corporate level. We allow legally loopholes within a balance sheet and then yell about the misuse. It has happened before and continues to happen i.e. Intangible Asset, an oxymoron. This in my opinion singly sucked all the money in the banking system to unproductive enterprises creating a bubble of speculative transactions. Hedge Funds is the outcome of the intangible asset enterprise stoking the fire of greed.

IASB-IFRS is repeating the same error, like the person who sold Eiffel Tower twice, to introduce Hedge Accounting. Please see Exposure Draft Hedge Accounting http://wp.me/p18MVb-5u and comment upon it directly to IASB.

My suggestion is to bring the inside information out, twice over to the public arena by Governance Reporting on a real-time monitoring basis identifying the critical areas: Please see HACCP of Governance http://wp.me/p18MVb-5i and other areas I have covered in my blog.

I do not know whether giving reference to my blog would be considered by Reuters as infringing the House Rules. If so, please do not hesitate to advice me for my knowledge.

Jayaraman Rajah Iyer

Progressivism, Liberaltarianism, Roll-Out Neoliberalism. (via Rortybomb)


This is hard going. It deals with the philosophy behind regulation and the policies against regulation. But it’s not that simple. Like all reality there is a mix of characteristics. If you want to improve your grasp of the intellectual background of the economic wars in our government, this is a good piece to read.

James Pilant

Will Wilkinson blames progressive financial reforms for the revolving door Peter Orszag recently went through. Oh no, not progressive financial reform.  That's where I live! Our Peter Orszag problem: Mr Fallows hits the nail on the head, but what this structural injustice means, politically and ideologically, remains unclear. In my opinion, the seeming inevitability of Orszag-like migrations points to a potentially fatal tension within the progre … Read More

via Rortybomb

Retailer Replaces Stolen Nativity Scene!


OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — KMBC.com
Costco has given an Overland Park family a miniature ox and donkey to replace the ones stolen from nativity set while they were at church.

Wendy Connelly said her children, Wendy, Lorelei and Gryffin, were disappointed when the animals were taken from their yard. The nativity set was a gift from their grandma.

“They’ve been praying and praying for this, and they even said a prayer again last night and on our way to school. So, it was really exciting to see it happen,” Connelly said.

Connelly said they called Costco headquarters to find the replacement and there was only one display left in the country.

Connelly said her daughter, Lorelei, was heartbroken when the animals disappeared.

“It’s very heartwarming to see her now with her animals back and taking good care of them as usual,” Connelly said.

The family told KMBC’s Kerri Stowell said they’ve rigged a special system so the new pieces don’t wander off.

This is the kind of business philosophy we need, the kind of thing you can show as an example to others.

Congratulations, Costco!

James Pilant