Ethics & Economy – Conscious Manager – Online Magazine A holistic approach to self, business and life. Mon, 29 Jul 2019 12:33:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Video: Global Food Economics by David McWilliams Sat, 30 Mar 2013 12:06:14 +0000 Punk Economics video takes some altitude and looks at the global food economy: where it is now, how we got here – and what we might see in the future. This is vital stuff for all of us – take a look and let me know what you think!

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How do you feel about economics? Fri, 18 Mar 2011 10:19:33 +0000  

Economics is a subject that polarises like few others. To some, it's an immoral calculating machine.

How do you feel about economics?

a. It’s all about money, a gospel of the spreadsheet that feeds greed and selfishness. It’s a tool of the powerful. It even dares put a price on life.

b. It loves you no less if you’re generous. It’s honest in facing hard choices – like who to save and who not in healthcare. It has a moral commitment to freedom and studies poverty every bit as much as wealth.

c. It’s a science, stupid. Cut the morality tosh.

Economics is a subject that polarises like few others. To some, it’s an immoral calculating machine. To others, it’s an amoral – not immoral, but amoral – science, descriptive pure and simple. To still more, it has a positively moral commitment to freedom by trying to increase people’s choices.

A few years ago, it seemed money needed no excuse. Now greed seems evil again. Well, to some it does, as they rail against bankers or corruption. To others the pursuit of self-interest is still the surest way to prosperity for all. What’s more, they argue, it’s also the most moral. 

What’s puzzling is that morality so often comes thumping into it – when the subject has been taught for generations as if morality was someone else’s job.

The economic historian Roger Backhouse says there was an historic split from “normative economics” – what we should do – to “positive economics” – the description of what we do in fact.

Some seem to blame this approach for the crash, implying that it somehow separated economic ideas from what people really are. Off goes the money into some virtual world that’s nothing to do with me, back comes profit. So goes the parody.

An interesting question is whether this intellectual divorce might change in the light of the global economic mess of the last few years, in which much of the anger has been righteous. At least one leading economist, John Kay, thinks we should go back to talking about political economy, instead of economics, to show that moral values are still inescapably in there.

Weasel words

A few years ago, it seemed money needed no excuse. Now greed seems evil again. Well, to some it does, as they rail against bankers or corruption. To others the pursuit of self-interest is still the surest way to prosperity for all. What’s more, they argue, it’s also the most moral.

Because for everyone who sees self-interest, another will see self-reliance, a virtue. Some want higher tax for the common good; others see tax as theft or waste. “The common good?” Weasel words for dependency, they say.

And that’s the problem with morality in economics. It makes the dry economic calculus for rational, utility-maximizing individuals a good deal more elusive. “Good” and “bad” sure complicate the sums.

But here’s what’s odd about those sums. With the exception of John Kay, who is prepared to consider the possibility that morality might cost, I’ve seldom met anyone who doesn’t think their morality pays off.

If you think government should get off our backs and encourage self-reliance – for moral reasons of course – you probably think cutting it will be good for the economy too.

If you think the government should help people more, you probably also think with uncanny conformity that this would be good for economic growth.

Whatever our morality, it’s efficient. Funny that.

Does it suggest that inside every economic rationale there’s a moraliser trying to get out? Or that behind every moral belief there lurks self-interest?

But that’s only one perspective on economics. We left hanging some of the others.

Over to you

Maybe economics is not really moral at all. Maybe it’s mechanical, the study of a great sorting machine. Or maybe it’s neither, the economy being more like a great animal, the sum of the wills and instincts of millions of capricious individuals, like you and me.

These three perspectives are how we tell the story of economics in a new BBC Radio 4 series.

The point is that there’s not just one story of economics, which feels as if it means more separate things to more people than perhaps any other subject I know. The standard definition – the study of the allocation of scarce resources – scarcely scratches the surface. So what does it mean to you?

Author: Michael Blastland presents The Story of Economics, a three-part series on BBC Radio 4, starting on Wednesday 16 March at 1630 GMT.

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The Gita and business ethics Sun, 13 Mar 2011 17:23:17 +0000

"Wherever there is Krsna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion." Bhagavad-Gita 18.78


The word ‘ethics‘ comes from the Greek word ‘ethikos‘. It refers to one’s moral character and the way in which society expects people to behave in accordance with accepted principles.

Business ethics is the code of good conduct that a business adheres to in its daily dealings both with other businesses and with customers.

Most philosophers conclude that ethical failure occurs because of lack of character. Virtuous people will live ethically. Therefore, we need to think about the desired virtues and how one can develop those virtues.

Aristotle’s virtues for the city state included prudence, justice, courage and self- restraint. Christians added faith, hope and love. Over time, a number of others were added – compassion, generosity, empathy, hospitality, modesty and civility.

In the month of Magha (December) 5,000 years ago, on the battlefield at Kurukshetra just before the start of Mahabharata war, Krishna outlined to Arjuna a system of ethics that has withstood the test of time. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna not only how to build character but also the root cause of ethical failure and how to avoid it.

Krishna outlines 26 qualities of a gentleman – to be merciful, obedient, truthful, equitable, saintly, magnanimous, mild-mannered, clean, simple, charitable and peaceful. He should have surrendered to God and not be greedy or possessive but remain steady and determined, free of the six bad qualities, not gluttonous, sober, respectful, humble, grave, compassionate, friendly, eloquent, expert and concise.

It is easy to give a list of positive qualities that we can all agree upon. Yet, even though hundreds of trainers work day and night to teach people good character, when it really matters, people’s character still fails. Why?

Krishna answers in chapter three, verses 37 and 38:

“O Arjuna, it is lust… later transformed into wrath, which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world. As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, the living entity is similarly covered by different degrees of this lust.”

To maintain good character, we must overcome kama, that is, lust or selfish desire. Most people think kama means just sexual craving, but it simply refers to an overwhelming desire for anything, such as lust for power. Greed, dishonesty and corruption are all byproducts of lust. To be happy, successful and well situated, the Gita says, one must control lust.

Gita’s solution to the ethical failure and downfall of corporations and society and family is controlling the senses with spiritual strength. Ethics is linked to spirituality. For the last century or more, western businesses separated work and spirituality. Kurukshetra was also about mind control. Every one of us, whether as manager or employee, is fighting his own battle, his own Kurukshetra. The Gita can help us to learn to regulate our senses, control our minds and gain spiritual strength.

The Gita is as fresh in insight and as relevant today as it was 5,000 years ago. If only every manager, administrator, politician, employee, worker and others pick a copy of the Gita and spend a few minutes daily reflecting on its message, one can experience the positive transformation. Who doesn’t wish to be disciplined, to achieve home-work balance and bring peace and harmony in a secular environment?

The US-based writer is ISKCON member and consultant on contemporary management topics based on the Gita.

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Ethic in business is important unless… Thu, 23 Dec 2010 18:43:31 +0000

Business ethic is vital unless…

Social Responsibility: Companies can have a substantial impact on the lives and well-being of citizens from other

Striking a balance “between integrity and sensibility,” the U.S. Department of Commerce  issued a set of business-ethics guidelines that it hopes will restore confidence in the U.S. economy by making it easier for the public to understand what constitutes unethical behavior and for corporations to fulfill their moral and legal obligations. An excerpt of the regulations, including codified exceptions, follows.

 nations and should therefore avoid doing business with suppliers or partners who participate in unfair labor practices, including slave labor or child labor, the payment of starvation wages, unsafe work environments, or ethnic, racial, gender, or sexual discrimination. Unless . . .
a) the products manufactured by the supplier/partner are clearly labeled “Made in China.”
b) the celebrity endorsing the clothing line has a talk show.
c) the company thoroughly investigates child-labor allegations against the supplier/partner and is assured that “Asians always look younger than they really are.”

Investigatory Response: Employees or officers of a company that is under criminal or civil investigation shall not destroy documents or data that could be construed as pertinent to that investigation. Unless . . .
a) they’d like to keep their jobs.
b) they could have sworn the shredder also made copies.
c) they thought they were helping in the fight against terrorism.

Environmental Responsibility: Companies have a moral and legal obligation to protect and preserve the environment and should ensure that their operations, and those of their partners, suppliers, subsidiaries, and licensees, adhere to environmentally safe practices. Unless . . .
a) it costs too much.
b) see a).

Financial Deception: Purposely concealing or misrepresenting a company’s financial information, or misappropriating corporate funds for personal gain, is unethical and punishable by law. Unless . . .
a) the artwork bought through such means is really good.
b) the bill for that new shower curtain is a few thousand dollars more than you thought it was going to be.
c) the chief executive’s wife wants Jimmy Buffett to perform at her birthday party.

Executive Responsibility: A company’s chief executive officer shall be directly and wholly responsible for that company’s employees, directors, and actions, including but not limited to financial activities and statements, extracorporate agreements, and product/service claims. Unless . . .
a) the chief executive missed that meeting.
b) the previous chief executive really started it.
c) the chief executive is later elected Vice President of the United States.

Defective or Deceptive Products/Services/Practices: Any company that knowingly produces or provides a defective product or service is in material breach of ethical and legal standards and will suffer appropriate negative consequences. Unless . . .
a) they were just kidding.
b) the company legally changes its name and insists it was that other company that did those things.
c) the offenses are ongoing.

Unfair Trade Practices: Any company that participates in unfair trade, including but not limited to coercing partners, suppliers, or distributors into signing exclusivity agreements, forcing customers or clients to use unwanted company products or services, or underselling in the market in an attempt to starve out weaker competition, shall be guilty of anticompetitive practices.

Avail the resources from Labor Law Compliance Center and get expert help and HR solutions to ensure that you only the straight path and do not violate rules when it comes to the growth of your business.

Unless . . .
a) Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson presides at the company’s trial.
b) the company is actively involved in worthwhile charities, specifically the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
c) the company’s headquarters are located, say, 13 miles northeast of Seattle.


Board of Directors: A company’s board of directors, acting in its fiduciary capacity on behalf of all shareholders, shall be liable for all financial statements emanating from the company. Unless . . .
a) they can prove that they do not know what the company actually does.
b) actually, a) should cover most directors.
c) the company is doing, like, some really weird stuff.

Whistle-blowers: Employees who make allegations of illegality or indiscretion against a company (aka whistle-blowers) are protected by law and must not be harassed or made to suffer economically or psychologically for their actions. Unless . . .
a) by sheer coincidence their department was going to be downsized anyway.
b) they really have what it takes to work the mail room.
c) you discovered their surprisingly poor job-performance review just now.

Regulatory Addenda: 1. In order to facilitate adoption of these policies, and in due consideration of the logistical and psychological burden that these regulations may have, Tuesdays will heretofore be designated “Ethics-Free Days.”

2. All of the regulations contained herein shall be considered binding and factual in all respects — unless the calendar month in which these regulations appear contains a day commonly known as . . .

3. April Fools.

Author: Andrew Marlatt is the author of Economy of Errors: SatireWire Gives Business the Business (Doubleday/Broadway, 2002).

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A Story about Frogs – The Power of the Tongue Fri, 24 Sep 2010 07:24:30 +0000 two frogs & power of tongue

An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day.

A story about frogs that teaches an important lesson. A group of frogs were travelling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead.  The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit with all of their might. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead.

Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He fell down and died. The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out.  When he got out, the other frogs said, “Did you not hear us?” The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

Speak life to those who cross your path. The power of words … it is sometimes hard to understand that an encouraging word can go such a long way. So from this day forward, think before you

This story teaches two lessons. There is power of life and death in the tongue. An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day. A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. Be careful of what you say. Speak life to those who cross your path. The power of words … it is sometimes hard to understand that an encouraging word can go such a long way. So from this day forward, think before you.

Author: Alex Todorovic has been teaching, training and coaching professionals from all walks of life and spiritually inclined people for the past 25 years. He had spoken and trained people in 17 countries and had coached over 350 clients in over 1500 sessions. His focus is holistic success and spiritually based coaching. his courses include gita coaching, building caring communities, the power of choice and excellent questions – excellent life

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10 Myths About Business Ethics Wed, 08 Sep 2010 19:01:15 +0000

Business Ethics

Many believe business ethics is a recent phenomenon because of increased attention to the topic in popular and management literature.

Business ethics in the workplace is about prioritizing moral values for the workplace and ensuring behaviors are aligned with those values — it’s values management. Yet, myths abound about business ethics. Some of these myths arise from general confusion about the notion of ethics. Other myths arise from narrow or simplistic views of ethical dilemmas.

1. Myth: Business ethics is more a matter of religion than management.

Diane Kirrane, in “Managing Values: A Systematic Approach to Business Ethics,”(Training and Development Journal, November 1990), asserts that “altering people’s values or souls isn’t the aim of an organizational ethics program — managing values and conflict among them is …”

2. Myth: Our employees are ethical so we don’t need attention to business ethics.

Most of the ethical dilemmas faced by managers in the workplace are highly complex. Wallace explains that one knows when they have a significant ethical conflict when there is presence of a) significant value conflicts among differing interests, b) real alternatives that are equality justifiable, and c) significant consequences on “stakeholders” in the situation. Kirrane mentions that when the topic of business ethics comes up, people are quick to speak of the Golden Rule, honesty and courtesy. But when presented with complex ethical dilemmas, most people realize there’s a wide “gray area” when trying to apply ethical principles.

3. Myth: Business ethics is a discipline best led by philosophers, academics and theologians.

Lack of involvement of leaders and managers in business ethics literature and discussions has led many to believe that business ethics is a fad or movement, having little to do with the day-to-day realities of running an organization. They believe business ethics is primarily a complex philosophical debate or a religion. However, business ethics is a management discipline with a programmatic approach that includes several practical tools. Ethics management programs have practical applications in other areas of management areas, as well. (These applications are listed later on in this document.)

4. Myth: Business ethics is superfluous — it only asserts the obvious: “do good!”

Many people react that codes of ethics, or lists of ethical values to which the organization aspires, are rather superfluous because they represent values to which everyone should naturally aspire. However, the value of a codes of ethics to an organization is its priority and focus regarding certain ethical values in that workplace. For example, it’s obvious that all people should be honest. However, if an organization is struggling around continuing occasions of deceit in the workplace, a priority on honesty is very timely — and honesty should be listed in that organization’s code of ethics. Note that a code of ethics is an organic instrument that changes with the needs of society and the organization.

5. Myth: Business ethics is a matter of the good guys preaching to the bad guys.

Some writers do seem to claim a moral high ground while lamenting the poor condition of business and its leaders. However, those people well versed in managing organizations realize that good people can take bad actions, particularly when stressed or confused. (Stress or confusion are not excuses for unethical actions — they are reasons.) Managing ethics in the workplace includes all of us working together to help each other remain ethical and to work through confusing and stressful ethical dilemmas.

6. Myth: Business ethics in the new policeperson on the block.

Many believe business ethics is a recent phenomenon because of increased attention to the topic in popular and management literature. However, business ethics was written about even 2,000 years ago — at least since Cicero wrote about the topic in his On Duties. Business ethics has gotten more attention recently because of the social responsibility movement that started in the 1960s.


Many people react that codes of ethics, or lists of ethical values to which the organization aspires, are rather superfluous because they represent values to which everyone should naturally aspire.

7. Myth: Ethics can’t be managed.

Actually, ethics is always “managed” — but, too often, indirectly. For example, the behavior of the organization’s founder or current leader is a strong moral influence, or directive if you will, on behavior or employees in the workplace. Strategic priorities (profit maximization, expanding marketshare, cutting costs, etc.) can be very strong influences on morality. Laws, regulations and rules directly influence behaviors to be more ethical, usually in a manner that improves the general good and/or minimizes harm to the community. Some are still skeptical about business ethics, believing you can’t manage values in an organization. Donaldson and Davis (Management Decision, V28, N6) note that management, after all, is a value system. Skeptics might consider the tremendous influence of several “codes of ethics,” such as the “10 Commandments” in Christian religions or the U.S. Constitution. Codes can be very powerful in smaller “organizations” as well.

8. Myth: Business ethics and social responsibility are the same thing.

The social responsibility movement is one aspect of the overall discipline of business ethics. Madsen and Shafritz refine the definition of business ethics to be: 1) an application of ethics to the corporate community, 2) a way to determine responsibility in business dealings, 3) the identification of important business and social issues, and 4) a critique of business. Items 3 and 4 are often matters of social responsibility. (There has been a great deal of public discussion and writing about items 3 and 4. However, there needs to be more written about items 1 and 2, about how business ethics can be managed.) Writings about social responsibility often do not address practical matters of managing ethics in the workplace, e.g., developing codes, updating polices and procedures, approaches to resolving ethical dilemmas, etc.

9. Myth: Our organization is not in trouble with the law, so we’re ethical.

One can often be unethical, yet operate within the limits of the law, e.g., withhold information from superiors, fudge on budgets, constantly complain about others, etc. However, breaking the law often starts with unethical behavior that has gone unnoticed. The “boil the frog” phenomena is a useful parable here: If you put a frog in hot water, it immediately jumps out. If you put a frog in cool water and slowly heat up the water, you can eventually boil the frog. The frog doesn’t seem to notice the adverse change in its environment.

10. Myth: Managing ethics in the workplace has little practical relevance.

Managing ethics in the workplace involves identifying and prioritizing values to guide behaviors in the organization, and establishing associated policies and procedures to ensure those behaviors are conducted. One might call this “values management.” Values management is also highly important in other management practices, e.g., managing diversity, Total Quality Management and strategic planning.

Carter McNamara

Carter McNamara

About the author: Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, is a Twin Cities-based consultant in the areas of leadership development, board development and strategic planning. He has managed in a wide variety of organizations including startup, public-private, small and large nonprofit, and large corporation. He received comprehensive ethics training as an employee in a large defense contractor, various ethics classes and continuing research in business ethics. In addition, as a manager, he has struggled through several major ethical dilemmas (one was quite public) so he knows and understands the experience. He has led development of several codes of ethics and conduct, as well. Carter holds a BA in Social and Behavioral Sciences, BS in Computer Science, an MBA, and a PhD in Human and Organization Development.

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