Sunday, November 3, 2013

Idle Thoughts -- The Myth of Amoral Business

In your view Is the "myth of amoral business" true? Why or why not?

In the myth of amoral business, businessmen often excuse their own excesses by declaring that the purpose of business is to make a profit. They declare that there is no other purpose. Therefore ethics and morality are irrelevant to a business.

This attitude became very popular back in the Reagan years when a similar phrase was also very popular, "greed is good."

This attitude has certainly been believed by many businessmen, including some who made themselves quite wealthy, both in the past and in the present. There are difficulties with this position, both moral and practical.

If a businessman acts in a manner that is truly unethical, he can hardly expect others to treat him any better. By establishing that complete ruthlessness is the order of the day, he invites others to be completely ruthless toward him. This alone should give any businessman reason to avoid this particular declaration.

Furthermore, it is bad business to conduct yourself in this matter. Businesses depend heavily upon repeat customers and customer loyalty. What customer will be loyal to a businessman who thinks that he has a right to abuse and deceive his customers? Only in a monopoly situation when a customer has no alternative will this function.

Furthermore, even if there is a monopoly, businessmen should remember that customers are also voters. People who feel that they are being cheated and abused by businesses will begin to elect reform candidates who declare that once they get in office they will heavily regulate the industry in question. The less ethically the businessman conducts himslef, the more severely he can expect be regulated, and perhaps arrested, when his angry customers finish at the ballot box.

But there is also a moral aspect. Every human being is a member of the society. Those who abuse a position of trust in that society are certainly not behaving in a moral manner. Even if your relationship with the businessman is a personal one, how much will you trust someone who has clearly stated that he believes he has no moral obligation in his business dealings?

The idea that businesses should be run solely for profit is shortsighted and self-destructive. It is also not as scientific as those who believe in the myth of amoral business would like to believe. Every biologist knows that evolution does not mean that the strongest and most aggressive wins. Evolution means that the best adapted wins. And the best adapted may be the most cooperative, not the most aggressive.

What this really is social Darwinism, a distortion of evolutionary science which should be called social Spencerianism, since Spencer believed it before Darwin's theory was published and simply took over and distorted the scientific theory for his own purposes.

Businesses and businessmen are members of society. They have the same duties and responsibilities shared by all members of society. That is to say, we should all work cooperatively for mutual benefit.

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