The Gender of Business

Business is male. Make no mistake. Everything about it smacks of the male mentality.

First, the obsession with competition. You have to be #1, you have to outcompete your competition. So hierarchy, rank, is everything. As is an adversarial attitude. It doesn’t have to be that way. Business could be a huge network of co-operative ventures, each seeking to better the whole. But no, we have to be better than, stronger than, faster than – Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Wrong with Profit?

Many would say it’s simply undeserved.  By any standard – be it need, ability, effort, or accomplishment/contribution.  In this respect, one might be tempted to compare profit to the ridiculously high salaries of sports stars.  And senators.  But salary is not profit.  Even if a salary is ridiculously high, it is still a salary, a payment for services rendered; and as such it is, in theory, deserved.  Or at least earned.

Profit, on the other hand, Read the rest of this entry »

A Millennial New Year’s Resolution

This was written, of course, in January 2000.

I don’t do New Years’.  I especially didn’t do this New Years.  Though the chance to join in worldwide celebration of an error in addition (our calendar is such that there wasn’t a year zero – 1 A.D. came right after 1 B.C., so actually we’ve just begun, not finished, the 2000th year A.D.) (and A.D., well that’s a whole mess of mistakes, not the least of which is marking time across the entire planet according to a religious myth) – what was I saying, oh yeah, while joining with humanity worldwide to celebrate, indeed to proclaim in song and dance, our F in arithmetic had its attraction, I declined – because even if they’d gotten it right, the arbitrariness of it all is pretty insulting.  I mean, I’ll celebrate and reflect when I have good reason to – but our fascination with base ten is a mere evolutionary happenstance, and to rejoice at the occurrence of multiples of ten serves merely to reassure us that we do indeed have ten fingers and toes.

Nevertheless, I ended up watching several hours of the “2000” telecast.  Not the midnight champagne and crowds part, but the performance parts throughout the day: I realized early on that it would probably be another thousand years before so much art was given so much air time.  Certainly I’d never see Jean-Michel Jarre on tv again.

But pretty soon the irony (and the heritage schlock stuff) spoiled it, and I stopped watching.  I’m referring, of course, to the fact that  Read the rest of this entry »

Networking and Mentoring: Legitimizing ‘Connections’

Networking and mentoring, while two distinct activities, both seem to endorse using people; this is bad enough, but they also, partly therefore, support the ‘It’s who you know, not what you know’ mentality. In the interest of justice based on merit, both should be discouraged.

Consider networking. On a superficial level, networking refers, harmlessly enough, to ‘making contacts.’ But networking is not so incidental, not so accidental. Networking is ‘developing and maintaining contacts.’ For what, you may ask. Good question. An article in Incentive by Steven M. and Harvey J. Krause provides the answer: “The goal of networking is to create a pool of people and information that you can use for a variety of goals: increasing the quality of your product or service, decreasing customer attrition, gaining customers or getting a job that your competition never even heard was available” (July 1995, p.71). The key word, of course, is ‘use.’ Many people think it’s wrong to use people, especially to use them as a means to your own ends—and I’m one of them. Read the rest of this entry »

Profit and Loss – and You’ve Lost Your Marbles

Years ago, Joseph Schumacher examined the ethics of unlimited growth and concluded that “Small is beautiful.” The business world, with no shortage of conglomerates and an increasing number of mergers, seems to have missed the message.

One might quip ‘Well, that’s because hedonistic greed governs the business mind,’ but a quick survey of a second year Business class – in which not one student answered the question ‘Why is profit good?’ with ‘Because it gives me pleasure, it makes me happy, I wanna be a rich sonovabitch’ – suggests that either denial starts early or something else is going on. (Or both.)

Most students responded, by the way, with something like ‘Profit is good because it enables you to expand: to hire more people, to establish branches in other cities, to increase production.’ ‘And why is this expansion good?’ ‘Well, because then you can make more profit.’ (Can you say ‘circular’?)

The concept of limitlessness is ingrained in business policy and practice. Why is this so? Read the rest of this entry »

Suicide, Insurance, and Dead Sugar Daddies

I’ve been thinking that, with the exception of those who are paralyzed or severely physically debilitated, people who seek euthanasia are cowards. They are grossly inconsiderate and amazingly irresponsible. I mean, if you’re ready to die, then die. But do it yourself! Don’t ask someone else to kill you, and then live with it. What an awful request to make, of anyone! It’s your life – it’s your death.

However, just recently the insurance connection clicked into place: if you suicide, the company won’t pay – so it’s for the sake of your loved ones that you endure or entreat –

So all these intellectual and ethical gymnastics we’re sweating over – passive/active, terminal sedation or physician-assisted suicide, the double effect, euthanasia or eugenics – it’s all because the insurance companies won’t pay? Wouldn’t it be so much easier, and, I suspect, cheaper, to simply legislate that they must? (Especially when the suicide simply hastens – what would otherwise be a slow and painful – death?) The financial desires of a certain private sector industry should not override our freedom to die!

Well, they don’t really. Read the rest of this entry »

Casual Day at The Office

Every second Friday is ‘Casual Day’ at the office–the principal lets us wear jeans to school. I need two degrees to do my job, but apparently I just can’t seem to dress myself.

In addition to that of infantilizing the subordinates, Causal Day underscores the tradition of hypocrisy, the tradition of pretending: financial advisors who work on your portfolio at home probably do most of their work in jeans and a sweatshirt; they just change, they just put on the facade, the uniform of authority and competence, when they’re in their office. Do they think we’re idiots? Do they think we judge a book by its cover, do they think we’re fooled that easily?

Well, yes, they do. And they’re right. Behold the power of a suitcoat and tie: it says ‘I’m to be respected’. Anyone up on charges who borrows a suit for his day in court knows that. Oh, but the judge would be a fool to be suckered in by that. Yes–and so are we. Read the rest of this entry »