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Ethics is a branch of philosophy that deals with morality, and the moral code/ideology used when differentiating between right and wrong is critical (e.g., consider that Hitler used national socialism - aka Nazism - as his ideology to decide what was and wasn't ethical). Ergo, calling something legal doesn't make it ethical. Likewise, passing a law to make something illegal doesn't mean that it is unethical.

Ludwig von Mises once wrote about capitalism: "If one rejects laissez faire on account of man's fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action." According to Merriam-Webster, capitalism is "an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market." In other words, capitalism - real capitalism - hasn't any government involvement.

political ethicsContrast this with socialism (i.e., "any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods"), communism (i.e., "a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production"), and fascism (i.e., "a political philosophy... that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition"). Do you see the differences between the different economic definitions?

We believe we can punish politicians who are unethical or don't do what they promise by voting them out of office. In other words, we believe that the political market works properly. We believe that politicians will be punished by their "customers" or "stockholders" (i.e., voters) and removed from their jobs if they fail. We believe that we can sue the government for failures. We understand that it doesn't guarantee that politicians will be ethical, but we think that politicians will understand that they will be rewarded if they are loyal to us.

Yet, for some reason, we don't think the business market works like that. Why? Why do we think the feedback mechanism properly works in government but not in business? How much more ethical do you think businesses would be if they couldn't gain any advantage from the government? Do you think businesses would be more ethical if universities taught students the ethics of capitalism? How would you increase ethics in politics?

Under the dubious proposition that the current economic crisis was caused by a sudden outburst of greed (as though greed did not always exist), a new growth industry in America is the teaching of "business ethics" at the university level.

Business ethics courses tend to cherry-pick isolated examples of unethical behavior in the business world and insinuate that such behavior is inherent in all businesses. This ignores the reality of how markets work and misinforms students. Dishonest business people will be punished financially as customers cater to their competitors while suppliers refuse to do business with them. In cases of negligence, such as the BP oil spill, chief executives often lose their jobs, the company is sued, and the firm's stock price plummets, as was in fact the case with BP. Such market feedback mechanisms do not guarantee ethical behavior, but they do reward it with customer loyalty - and profits. No such feedback mechanism exists in government, which is where much larger ethical problems exist.

Business ethics courses typically combine anti-business moralizing with advocacy of more government regulation of business and, subsequently, a greater politicization of society. In doing so they actually encourage unethical behavior because it is politics, not markets, that is inherently immoral...

Well, they understood that when government uses its legal monopoly on coercion to confiscate one person's property and give it to another, it is engaging in what would normally be called theft. Calling this immoral act "democracy," "majority rule" or "progressive taxation" does not make it moral...

In order to finance a campaign, a politician must promise to steal (i.e., tax) money from those who earned it and give it to others who have no legal or moral right to it. There are (very) few exceptions, but politicians must also make promises that they know they can never keep (i.e., lie). This is why so few moral people are elected to political office. The most successful politicians are those who are the least hindered by strong moral principles. They have the least qualms about confiscating other peoples' property in order to maintain their own power, perks, and income.

Business 'ethics' wrong focus. It's government, not the corporate world, that is inherently unethical


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on May 2, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=544

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