Are Things As Bad As They Seem? (via Info Ink)

Yes, they are every bit that bad.

James Pilant

The partisanship…..the extremism……lack of respect…….the out right lies…….the misinformation (and yes, it is different from lies)…….and it all comes down to the American voter….YOU voted for morons and now you are paying the price for that vote…..I know, what could be so bad we might get lower taxes and balanced budget and spending controls….what could be so bad? Glad you asked!  While you were bobbing and weaving through t … Read More

via Info Ink

Was the Norwegian atrocity strategic? (via Balneus)

I was wondering about this myself. Targeting an opposition youth camp is a leadership decapitation strategy. However, this author got the idea out before I did and developed it beautifully. Please give it a read.

James Pilant

I am suspecting that Breivik's targetting of the best and brightest youth of the left in Norway was not to strike terror – but to remove talent, to weaken the left. It's wiped a massive proportion of the talent the left has, talent about to enter real-world politics over the next decade. It has gutted the left's talent pool, effective for the next few generations: – the young talent so tragically removed would doubtless have had children and gran … Read More

via Balneus

The Non-Rich (via Cassandra’s Tears)

I get depressed about it as well.

James Pilant

… what are we to do? It's a very depressing situation.  Guy dumps something like 299 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, was in charge when 11 people in his company died and gets a $400,000 safety bonus. You and me would go to jail for decades.  He gets a bonus.  What's up with that? Bankers foreclose on military families.  They take the house of people are actively in a warzone.  They kick the wife and kids out.  Is anyone going to … Read More

via Cassandra's Tears

A World with More Men than Women (via Hwaairfan’s Blog)

I like the current one where there are more women than men. But that, of course, is merely my personal preference, I have no practical rationale.

There is something vaguely funny about radiation causing more male births. I’m sure there are a number of good jokes in there. However, it does demonstrate that our genetic structure gets played with when radiation changes in level.

Read the article. It’s fun.

James Pilant

A World with More Men than Women A World with More Men than Women The idea might seem quite appealing to some men, especially those who have unprocessed overriding issues to deal with, however the likelihood of that happening, even in the short term seems to be the findings of scientists at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, Germany. They analyzed data on population U.S. and 39 European countries for the period 1975 to 2007, and found that this is in fact a trend. As women live long … Read More

via Hwaairfan's Blog

Organisations as Corporate Citizens (via Johan’s Lean Leadership Blog)

Mini-governments, privately run and profit motivated, may not be the best way to organize a society. There are too many competing motives for the public good to be first. In fact, for a profit seeking organization public good may mean a diminishment of profit.

After all, isn’t the modern idea of salesmanship the creation of needs followed by the necessity of purchase to solve the created problem?

I like the ideas here.

James Pilant

Organisations as Corporate Citizens Who can it be now?Who is staring back at me?If Corporate citizens step in to fulfill Government’s role (facilitate civil, social and political rights) what happens when it no longer serves their self-interest and the activities lose their appeal due to a below-average return of social investment? Is there any real immediate sanction to prevent this de-vestment from occurring apart from consumer activism? Is it strong enough to prevent corporation … Read More

via Johan’s Lean Leadership Blog

Are Businessmen Morally Older Than Ten?

Lawrence Kohlberg

When I was in law school we were taught that when a business had to decide whether or not to break the law, if the penalty was a simple fine, you would just decide which was least expensive and pay that cost. So, if the fine were cheaper than your profits, break the law and pay the fine. I was always troubled by that, the assumption that a fine was just a part of doing business.

My perception is that this is major current of thought in modern business. Profit makes right, not as catchy as might makes right, but still probably what a great many businessmen have been taught, believe and put into action.

What does this have to do with my title? Excellent question. According to the research of Lawrence Kohlberg, children at around the age of ten progress to a higher level of moral understanding moving from consequence thinking to considering the intent behind the action. I quote:

At approximately the same time–10 or 11 years–children’s moral thinking undergoes other shifts. In particular, younger children base their moral judgments more on consequences, whereas older children base their judgments on intentions. When, for example, the young child hears about one boy who broke 15 cups trying to help his mother and another boy who broke only one cup trying to steal cookies, the young child thinks that the first boy did worse. The child primarily considers the amount of damage–the consequences–whereas the older child is more likely to judge wrongness in terms of the motives underlying the act (Piaget, 1932, p. 137).

So, catch my thought? When a businessman considers the costs of performing illegal or unethical acts only in the sense of money, he is reverting to the very first stage of moral development, that of less than a 10 year old child.

Now, there are six stages in Kohlberg’s theory:

1) Obedience and Punishment Orientation

2) Individualism and Exchange

3) Good Interpersonal Relationships

4) Maintaining the Social Order

5) Social Contract and Individual Rights

6) Universal Principles

Now, you could make a good argument that this kind of business thought (Milton Friedman, etc) actually falls into the second level where self interest and avoidance of punishment become primary concerns.  However, making moral decisions at the second level of Kohlberg’s six stages is just about as insulting as reasoning at the first.

My second point is when business is considered only as a money making endeavor, all the other levels of moral development don’t just become irrelevant, they become a block and a hazard to making maximum profit.

People who hold values from the other four stages might very well have difficulty succeeding in a corporation.

Let’s look at level 3, Good Interpersonal Relationships.

They believe that people should live up to the expectations of the family and community and behave in “good” ways. Good behavior means having good motives and interpersonal feelings such as love, empathy, trust, and concern for others.

It might be difficult to evade taxes, shift jobs overseas, to fire employees who are too old, if you try to live up to these expectations. Now, that generally that is not much of a problem, because if you want to do these things, you can get people (once again, Milton Friedman) to tell you that what you are doing is right and true. Not only is doing these things not wrong, they are in the long term good for everybody and in the long term will contribute to a more successful and happier society.

Now, as someone who professes and teaches ethics, I might point out that using wrong doing and “ends justify the means” thinking is more likely to produce more wrong doing and “ends justify the means thinking” than it is to produce a “good” or “successful” society.

Level 4 thinking means a person begins to consider “society as whole” as a factor in moral decision making. Breaking the law, damaging the environment, treating people badly, acting in the interest of a foreign government or corporation or trading partner to the detriment of your own country, etc. are acts that damage society as a whole. A businessman willing to maximize profit at all costs with this level of moral development has to believe that the long term benefits of illegal and unethical actions will produce in the long term a better society or embrace simple villainy as a way of life.

At level 5, you are essentially talking a language modern business on the Friedman model may have serious difficulty understanding. A “good society” might very well be one where real people with real influence might seriously believe that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. What makes for a good society might in some people’s minds to be things other than money. If the “free market” solves all societal problems in the long term, other thought is just childish rubbish that must be tossed aside as part of the debris of history.

One of the reasons for the absence and continuing decline of moral values in American business is the lack in this society of individuals at the 6th level of moral development. Nothing could be more detrimental to the profit model of societal success than the proposition that there are universal principles by which a society should function. I read a lot and I promise you that the great thinkers, leaders and holy men of history have not been friendly to profit as a primary goal of the good society.

Kohlberg’s six levels of moral development give us insight into how we might consider thinking about ethical problems. Presumably it is better to think at a higher level than a lower one. If you accept that thought than an alarm bell should go off anytime a belief system calls for ignoring higher values and using the earlier ones.

(The quotes for this article are from  W.C. Crain. (1985). Theories of Development. Prentice-Hall. pp. 118-136.) With my grateful thanks!

James Pilant