It’s Business.

One of the weird quirks to capitalism is that we have created a separate and NOT equal world of ethics inside of business.

So that we walk into work and we do things that we would NOT do in our personal lives. Things that would be rude or mean or just morally wrong to us in our personal lives are considered OK if it’s in business because the basics of Business Ethics is – make money and do whatever it takes to make money.  We may add in “as long as it isn’t illegal” but ONLY because illegal acts add a cost on it that makes it not profitable.

We think it’s fine to suspend our morals (what we think is right or wrong) when we walk into business because there’s a different code of ethics (rules of conduct) inside those walls.

No one thinks particularly about it.  It’s just how it is.  Many people have made Capitalism into greater moral authority than their particular God.  And they do it without even thinking about it.  Because it is so very prevalent in society.  It’s the Capitalism Exemption.

I think that eventually humans will have to face the vile hypocrisy that we all pretend is not a problem.  But it is.  It’s deeply embedded into some of the biggest problems this world faces, including climate, war, discrimination and poverty.

It’s also something every single one of us sees happening and does everyday in ways we don’t even notice until the big ugly thing happens. Then everyone is sort of weirded out but they nod their heads knowingly – Its Business.  Its OK.

But it’s NOT OK!  If something is morally and ethically wrong – it’s wrong in all parts of this world.  Business is not a parallel universe in which morality can be temporarily suspended so that we can apply Business Ethics to the situation.   The morality of an issue remains the same, even when we ignore it in the name of profit.

I say these things as an non-believer, whose moral compass is somehow managing to ping louder over the moral outrages that are perpetrated inside of business than many of the people who claim a strong belief in a deity.  If those folks wish to continue to hold what they consider to be the high moral ground they need to stop working the Capitalism Exemption.

Indeed, we all need to stop working the Capitalism Exemption.

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9 thoughts on “It’s Business.

  1. The truth is that the entirety of our lives is guided by a moral compass even though we try to sideline and pretend that it’s okay to get away with it and tweak the ethics. Great post.
    You are invited to my monthly blog party which is taking place at the moment. It’s a lovely opportunity to connect with other awesome bloggers like you and I hope to see you. The party link is titled, Summery blog party live link…Regards, Jacqueline

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  2. I am a bit out of the work loop these days. The last couple of places I’ve worked, have been ethical and there’s hasn’t been all the backstabbing I’m used to and people trying to walk over you to get to the top.
    I personally try to be the same person everywhere I go and uphold my ethical values. Sure, I get tired and don’t always take a stand (particularly when my kids fight and I’m a bit like “whatever”)
    xx Rowena

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  3. Captialism like Democracy doesn’t work for every place. You can’t impose those values on people who reject it. There are some countries where a monarchy or a benevolent dictatorship keeps things from going into chaos.

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  4. Good post. We need people in America to be more aware that our system is not pure capitalism. It is fettered by some basic governors to keep things a little more fair – insider trading rules, anti-collusion rules, anti-monopoly rules, disclosure of expectations and results of publicly traded companies, no interlocking boards, etc. These were introduced to combat the Robber Barons who ran the country over 100 years ago.

    Even with these rules, with the obscene amounts of money to run for office and the wealthy favored tax breaks, we have a land of the haves and have nots. Our country is once again run by an oligarchy. Fans of the new champion of the common man who is the GOP candidate might take note that his tax plan heavily favors the wealthy, so it is same old same old, just masked by a superb marketer.

    We could start with asking our candidates tough questions and making them answer them. We need the truth out of them as are problems are real. We could hold companies even more accountable as we do with other leaders. I consulted with CEOs and business leaders during my career and while I encountered some excellent, egalitarian leaders, I also encountered some of the greediest SOBs you will ever want to meet.

    I don’t mind people wanting to make money, but let’s hold leaders accountable with legitimate goals and governance. Let’s make sure they go about it the right way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to lament the stockholder. How having stockholders made a business choose short term plans that nearly always hurt the long term viability of the business. And that remains true.

      But the stockholder makes a company fare more accountable. Makes at least some miniscule level of public ethics apparent.

      I now work for a small family owned business. They have no problem doing things that stun me. They have no accountability to anyone but themselves. And to them it’s just business. They aren’t terrible humans, and they honestly feel absolved of any moral quandary because Business Ethics are different.

      And I by extension am implementing their business choices.

      As grouchy farmer comments – is the person who is just following orders absolved? Nope.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read both comments. Excellent. Stockholders of publicly traded companies offer some governance, much more than in closely held companies. Yet, in the former, at the end of each quarter, companies go dialing for dollars seeing which expense accruals they can reverse into income. They must meet their quarterly estimates. You are right about the short term focus at the expense of long term growth .

        As for the taking orders, you are right it does not absolve someone of responsibility. If your boss asked you to do something illegal, you should push back. Your name and the company’s name are important. Arthur Andersen was a highly reputed accounting firm that no longer exists because of a few bad apples. Marsh & McLennan Companies, which remains a fine company, paid a $800 million fine for the actions of a few. Tyco International and Adelphia were run by CEOs that thought the companies were personal piggy banks.

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  5. I’ve been fortunate in that my current employer, the school district and my previous employer, are/were very ethical organizations. Unfortunately this seems to be the exception these days.

    We seem to have this curious disconnect between what we claim we believe, and what we actually do, especially in a business situation. Ages ago I used to know a lawyer who expressed sorrow over the level of poverty in this country, but at the same time was working for a law firm that routinely sued those very same poor people on behalf of wealthy slumlords. I really wanted to demand he explain how he could spend his evenings condemning how the disadvantaged are treated, while during the day he worked for a law firm that sought to take away what little resources those very same disadvantaged had. I bit my tongue and didn’t, but now I wish I had. I would have liked to have tried to understand how he could disconnect his claimed personal beliefs with his actions at work.

    I’m sure some would resort to the old “I was only following orders” excuse, that because they were given orders to do it by some higher power it absolves them of any responsibility.

    That excuse was tried during the war crimes trials after World War II. It was rejected then, and it should be rejected now.

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    1. Yeah. I have this problem with the “following orders” thing right now.

      The place where I work does things I find morally repugnant. The most recent one was this week and very much a reflection of this issue. Someone requested that they have a white driver. (its a black car business) The manager/owner was righteously angry at the request but did not refuse.

      I work there and there are lots of things that are far less overt than that, but which nevertheless bother me. But its my job. Its my security and I’m not particularly proud that I can’t seem to find it in myself to look elsewhere for a job. I doubt I could get one anyway.

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