I wrote a paper on business ethics for a sociology class in modern problems. I doubt that I converted my professor, but I did get an A in the class.
(The entire paper is online here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1usbodrlpcimvthhKE_gA_0PeH60SOTTZcXDvzktYJz0/edit?hl=en )
Martha Stewart, the savings and loan scandal, junk bond raiders, … Over the last 20 years, moral failures in capitalism have paralleled the increasing profits to both the corporations and to their chief executive officers. The gap between rich and poor widens. For most people, from 1980 to 2008, wages have risen about two or three times (unadjusted for inflation), while executive compensation has increased 600% over the same period. Since 1980 corporate profits increased over 500%, while taxes on them only tripled. Inequalities in income and wealth represent a grave structural problem in our society for which mere structural solutions may be insufficient. Or so it is claimed.
There is, indeed, a moral crisis in business: capitalists fail to make their case. Consequently, those who are drawn to business come in large numbers through corporation management, not free enterprise. Generally speaking, public education and mass entertainment are both hostile to enterprise. College education, in particular, is decidedly leftwing, socialist or Marxist. It is easy to find sociology professors who advocate for government control (or ownership) of major industries (or all businesses). The equal and opposite case does not obtain: it is hard to find professors of economics or management who advocate for privatization of police and courts or laissez-faire in banking. In short, the deck is stacked. The playing field is not level. And this is not surprising.
Ayn Rand’s “philosophical detective novel” Atlas Shrugged has sold six million copies over the last 50 years, a steady trend. It is seldom assigned reading. Usually, it is recommended from person to person as in the narrative above. In the autumn of 1991, the Library of Congress commissioned the Book-of-the-Month Club to poll its members on “Books that Made a Difference in Readers’ Lives.” Atlas Shrugged placed second, behind the Bible. Random House hosted an online voting that sought the best English-language novels of the twentieth century and Atlas Shrugged placed first. When Modern Library polled its editors and readers separately for the “100 Greatest” novels of all time, none of Rand’s works appeared on the editors’ list, though all of her fiction made the top ten among readers.
Seen from the top, Atlas Shrugged is the story of heroic innovators in business and finance who resist the anti-capitalist looters and moochers from Washington D.C., whose State Science Institute has created a weapon of mass destruction to be used against the American people. On a deeper level, Atlas Shrugged is about the nature of sex, romance, integrity, and your place in the universe. The heroic action in Atlas Shrugged shows why there is no dichotomy between theory and practice: morality is practical. The plot of Atlas Shrugged turns on reality, reason, self-interest and financial profit. Fifty years ago, Atlas Shrugged told the story of a woman who ran a transcontinental railroad.
An arch-capitalist who taught egoism, Rand identified her worst enemy not as Karl Marx but Immanuel Kant. She called him the destroyer of Western civilization. To her, Kant’s theory of noumenaand phenomena completely severed the mind from reality. Objectivism is the unification of rationalism with empiricism. There is no mind-body dichotomy, no analytic-synthetic dichotomy, no contradiction between fact and value, between is and ought. Facts are necessary truths. Drilling down into the bedrock of philosophy, Rand organized her novel, Atlas Shrugged, into three parts, each named for one of the axioms of Aristotelian logic: Non-Contradiction, Either-Or, A is A.
So, it was when the Academy of Management Review published “Integrity in Organizations: Beyond Honesty and Conscientiousness” by Thomas E. Becker of the University of Delaware.[i] Becker’s thesis is that integrity is more than a loose synonym for other virtues. Honesty is a necessary but not sufficient condition for integrity. Conscientiousness is highly regarded in business – and some businesses administer tests to measure it – but it may not correlate to integrity.
"For example, the stereotypical absent-minded professor might be rather careless (misplacing things) and somewhat disorganized (not writing down ideas or plans) but still have high integrity by acting in accordance with moral values and virtues (e.g., reason, purpose, and independence). In summary, although the morally laden element of conscientiousness may be pertinent to integrity, the morally neutral elements are not.[ii]
Becker offers this definition:
"Integrity is commitment in action to a morally justifiable set of principles and values, where the criterion for moral justification is reality – not merely the acceptance of the values by an individual, group, or society. Because survival and happiness are the ultimate standards of morality, life – not subjective opinion – is the foundation of integrity.[iii]"
[i] Becker, Thomas E., “Integrity in Organizations: Beyond Honesty and Conscientiousness,” The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 23, No. 1. (Jan., 1998), pp. 154-161.
[ii] Ibid, page 158.
[iii] Becker ibid, page 158
(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 2/10, 7:17am)