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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Highest Business Ethic Of All

I participate in discussions on other blogs. One of the blogs I periodically visit is the Business Ethics Blog administered by Chris MacDonald. Though Chris is far more conservative than I am, I very much appreciate and enjoy his blog. Whereas some try to control the blog discussions, Chris is very open in terms of letting discussions go on and is very patient with views with which he disagrees. Below is a part of a discussion that brings up an important ethical question for the business community. The blogpost was on whether it is right boycott Sodastream considering the jobs they give to Palestinians. The link to the post for this discussion can be found here


Chris MacDonald on 
Linda, Raj, Curt:
Now you see why I suggest that it’s not surprising when consumers choose to be agnostic about a war of both guns and words that has been going on for decades. You’ve illustrated my point nicely.
Chris
Reply

       ...
  • Curt Day on 
    Chris,
    For a consumer culture that, for the most part, is apathetic to its own government and its flaws, this is no surprise. If we have proven anything, we’ve shown that as long as people have what they want, they will ignore the abuse and exploitation of others. There is a synonym for Western individualism in a consumer society, it is called selfishness.
    ...
    • Chris MacDonald on 
      My point is that even non-apathetic consumers will be frustrated by any attempt to sort through this issue in a finite amount of time. Just look at the exchange above! Several well-informed (it seems to me!) individuals can’t agree the basic facts of the story. A newcomer to the topic would be baffled.
      ...
  • Curt Day on 
    First, those who are not apathetic will work through the frustration simply because being non-apathetic means one cares. But those who are consumers first, will be frustrated and that is my point about business ethics. That it is good for business to embrace a consumer culture and yet the more people embrace that culture, the less they will care about things that really matter ...
    ...

    The problem illustrated in the discussion is that the more we become consumers, the less we care about others And this concerns business because they are our bartender metaphorically speaking. They are the ones serving us drinks. And the question becomes, should business have the responsibiity to cut us off for the sake of society and even the world or is its only responsibility that of making a profit?
  • We should note that not feeling responsible for more than one's own immediate welfare is a concept that easily passes from business to consumer. Just as business can follow the maximization of profit ethic, so the consumer can always shop for the lowest price. And in looking for the lowest price, the consumer can become cold to the suffering some have had to experience in providing the same low prices as well as other suffering. The suffering in order to provide low prices can range from the paying of poverty wages to the employing of sweatshop labor to the trafficking of labor or some combination. Examples of other suffering comes can be seen in today's wars and occupations or from famines. The consumer can also ignore the environmental impact that the production of some products cause and how that impact can hurt how others live. For when price is king, all other concerns becomes moot.

    So as businesses look to maximize profits, they can objectify us consumers by taking us for all we have. But as they do that, they drain from the consumer the energy and care needed to seek or provide help for others. 

    There is also another problem. As us consumers become drunk with more and more goods and services, we stop caring for ourselves. What happens is that as we focus more and more on being consumers, we care less and less about who is control. As long as we are getting our goodies, we feel life is good and we pay no attention to the people in control--remember the famous line from The Wizard Of Oz about the man behind the curtain. While we've been consuming, some businesses, especially big ones, have used their wealth to purchase political power and have used that power to shed themselves of their own responsibilities for maintaining society while working the system in order to benefit themselves. Such businesses become society's parasites much like the alien invaders from the movie Independence Day. So as the tax burden is shifted from the rich to the plethora of consumers----the trend for this shifting tax burden has precedent in France before its revolution --and the infrastructure enters into a state of disrepair, consumers eventually wake up to the effect. But by then it might be too late to do anything as we as we start to suffer just like the people we have ignored suffer.

    I guess it is asking to much to expect business to not turn us into mindless consumers by cutting us off after we have had too much. But if business won't cut us off, who will? How will we ever stop so we can care about others and what matters? How will we ever learn what our leaders and representatives need to learn before entering office? What they, in fact all of us, need to learn is that caring about how one's actions can affect others, especially those who are most vulnerable, is a necessary condition for any worthwhile society to survive.



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