Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The New Ethics vs. The Classic Ethics


The standards of conduct that we grow up with, that we learn from our family and community, that we embrace could be called moral values or ethics - "ethics" as “a theory or system of moral values” as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

In his autobiography, In Memory Yet Green, Isaac Asimov described how his father, an atheist, would not steal, not because it had a moral value, but because his father did not want his peers and his community to label him as a thief. Pride, respect, and social interface count for a lot as the glue that holds our secular society together.

I am thinking of scales for early 21st century thinking in America and perhaps the global world too in general.

First, I am thinking of human scales, the size of a house, the height of a tree, the relationship of man to his environment.

Next, I am thinking American and or global business and thinking that CEOs make hundreds of times the wages of the average American worker. That if you grow up in rich burbs, and you get educated in Ivy League comfort and rise up the corporate ladder, you have never known or can know what average Americans or average wages or street scale ethics might be. You are in whole different league from the rest of the majority of the realm of mere mortal beings.

A recent number of secular things hit me from the daily media assault on my senses that stuck to the wall of my consciousness.

One has to do with $50 million dollar corporate jets for failed executives at failed financial institutions and paid for by taxpayer’s money. The other has to do with $18 billion dollars of commissions and or bonuses being paid out by failed executives in failed financial institutions and paid for by taxpayer’s money.

At one point in time, there were reality checks on executives at large corporations. Reality checks? The stock holders might object to your questionable expenditures.

Stockholders? Thirty seconds on the stock exchange of a municipal pension plan invested for those critical thirty seconds and then sold for a profit or loss thirty seconds later – those stockholders I do not believe knew that they had these assets.

Those nanosecond stockholders perhaps did not know that they had responsibilities as stockholders and they did not exercise their options of oversight to the corporate system. And if not the stockholders, than ethics would dictate…

Do I sound like some nineteenth century school master or boring country itinerate preacher? YES!

Reality check, stockholders, investor, ethics? Do some of these words sound like they are from a Latin Bible and you cannot read Latin?

There are an awful lot of untouched, unrefined, under-defined, misunderstood touch points – sound bite clich├ęs – words –concepts -that roll off the lips of the divine Public Relations talking head.

What am I talking about?

Too much of the communication in the hardened artery media is archaic, charmed and sounds too much like a good snake oil sales pitch of half or a whole century ago. Upon examination, our ways of doing business and government do not reflect reality and or human scales.

Enough said. In the months and years ahead, I pray that our national government gets a life, scales back and learns to spend and tax along the simplest and most efficient human scales possible.

As for American business, if you have to teach a course in college in ethnics, then you probably don’t have any to begin with. That is not my original idea. I believe I read in once in connection to something said by some British philosopher. Correct me and or tell me the right quotation please.

The new ethics of failed economies, private and government, are nothing new. They are part of human nature. Prudence dictates that future endeavors in business and government takes a logical and semi-regulated approach to everything to counterbalance the ruthlessness and lawlessness now decaying in the streets – Wall Street and Main Street – in America – fossils of the recent age of no ethics.

The new ethics of the past generation is like the New Coke; forget it – a bad product from visualization, inception all the way up to hyped and forced onto the public introduction.

I want the classic drink and the classic form of ethics, old fashioned, and scaled to things human and average.