The Futility of Teaching Business Ethics or Why Our World Will End

There are four reasons why teaching ethics to business students is an exercise in futility.

1. The profit motive trumps everything. As long as this is the case, there’s no point in teaching students the intricacies of determining right and wrong. Whether something is morally acceptable or not is simply irrelevant to them. It might come into play when two options yield the same profit, but how often does that happen? And even so, other concerns are likely to be tie-breakers. Read the rest of this entry »

Ethics without Philosophers

Could someone without a business degree become a marketing consultant?  Then how is it that people without philosophy degrees are becoming ethics consultants? [1]  Is it that people don’t know that Ethics is a branch of Philosophy just as Marketing is a branch of Business?  Doubtful.  Is it just the typical male overstatement of one’s expertise? [2]  Perhaps.  Is it that people think they already know right from wrong, they learned it as children, there’s really no need for any formal training in ethics?  Possible.  I have certainly met that attitude in business ethics classes and ethics committees. [3]  Or is it that ethics consultants (advisors, officers, practitioners, and so on) don’t really act as consultants about ethics?  They act as consultants about managing ethical behavior.  No, not even that.  Ethical consultants, practitioners, officers, focus on how to increase the likelihood that employees will follow some specific professional code of ethics or, more likely, the ethical rules the company’s elite want them to follow. [4] [5]

As far as I can see, business ethics taught by business faculty, ethics programs run by managers, and so on    any applied ethics taught by non-philosophers    is superficial at best.  [6] First, following a code if just an appeal to custom, an appeal to tradition, which philosophers consider a weak basis, even an actual error in reasoning: just because it’s common to do it that way, doesn’t mean it’s right; just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean it’s right. 

Second, legal moralism is prevalent: if it’s legal, it’s right, and if it’s not illegal, it’s not wrong.  Few philosophers (and I daresay few intelligent people) accept this equivalence of moral rightness and legality.  After all, slavery was once legal, and even at that time many considered it wrong and had excellent arguments to support their position (which is, to some extent, why the law changed    ethics should determine law, not the other way around).

Third, the so-called ‘media test’ and ‘gut test’ are essentially nothing but appeals to intuition, which is nothing more than childhood conditioning that makes us say X ‘feels’ wrong.  I think it far better to approach ethical issues with thought, to consider the many rational approaches to making decisions about right and wrong, such as an appraisal of values, principles, consequences, and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Frankenstein, meet Dr. Spock

Thanks to genetic research, we may soon see people with the money to do so making sure their kids are born-to-succeed – parents paying to guarantee their kids have the right stuff.  I’m not talking about a straightened spine or a functional optic nerve.  I’m talking about designer kids: those made with healthy bodies, intelligent minds, and perhaps a certain specific ability to boot. Read the rest of this entry »

In Commemoration of the Holocaust

I’m not saying it didn’t happen.

I’m not saying that, in any way, it was okay.

But I’d like to point out that a devout Jew would’ve done, would do, the same thing to the Germans – if God told him to.

‘Oh but God would never command such a thing.’

Take a better look at your Bible: Read the rest of this entry »

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

I don’t.

First, I’d have to do a lot of research to figure out which organizations are really what they say they are. Names like “Lands for Life” (“Lands for Private Profit”), remind us that you can’t judge a book by its cover. (And that PR departments are masters of deception.) So that would take a while. Sending $10 or $20 to the wrong group, well, that’s not such a big deal, but I wouldn’t want to be giving or lending several thousand to the bad guys by mistake.

And of course it’s not all black and white. A solar energy company may keep its female engineers at the secretarial level. So are they the good guys or the bad guys?

And even good intentions are not good enough. I’d need to know which groups are really going to make a difference. There’s no point in funding something that’s just an ineffectual feel-good enterprise. Which organizations have what it takes to really do something? I have no idea. Because I don’t know what it takes. So I guess I’d have to hire someone to advise me, perhaps an ex-loan officer, someone who can look at a business plan and tell me whether it’ll go. I’d also have to hire someone to assess the research plan. I mean, that guy who claims he has the technology (and it’s cheap and portable) to neutralize radioactive material – is that for real?

Then I’d have to figure out how best to distribute all that money. $100,000 to ten groups? $50,000 to twenty? The whole million to one?

And that sort of depends on what I decide about priorities, about problems and solutions. How best to change/save the planet? (With or without the human species?) Do I support those out to save our ecological environment because without that we’re toast, or do I figure we have time to get to the root and focus on education programs, or do I decide we don’t have time for anything but coercion and get behind political/legislative powers?

So, no thank you, I don’t want to be a millionaire. Fulfilling the responsibility that comes with a million dollars would be a full-time job for at least a year. And frankly, I’d rather sit and watch the sun sparkle on the lake.