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Business Ethics? What a Concept

Posted on May 30, 2009
Flickr / Patricia Drury

By signing the pledge, Harvard students give some credence to the school motto Veritas—truth.

In what can only be the beginning of social revolution, 20 percent of Harvard’s MBAs have signed an ethics pledge, vowing not to advance their “own narrow ambitions” at the expense of others. But the question remains, where exactly is the other 80 percent of the class?

The New York Times:

When a new crop of future business leaders graduates from the Harvard Business School next week, many of them will be taking a new oath that says, in effect, greed is not good.

Nearly 20 percent of the graduating class have signed “The M.B.A. Oath,” a voluntary student-led pledge that the goal of a business manager is to “serve the greater good.” It promises that Harvard M.B.A.’s will act responsibly, ethically and refrain from advancing their “own narrow ambitions” at the expense of others.

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By EdwinC, June 30, 2009 at 11:19 am Link to this comment
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20% is better than 0%.

It is a given fact that not all of the pledge takers will follow it, but isn’t the symbolic notion of it enough to change the mindset of at least one MBA hopeful? Although the pledge’s results might be little, if it is enough to prevent one more Madoff, then the world is better for it.

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By C. Curtis Dillon, June 1, 2009 at 12:56 am Link to this comment
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Certainly ethics classes and even oaths are an important symbolic step all business leaders should take but that is hardly enough.  Situations arise and profit opportunities appear which will tax the ethical convictions of all these graduates at one time or another in their careers.  Imagine trying to push your ethical position when your boss tells you that you can either complete the unethical (and even illegal) transaction or find another job!  And the overwhelming pressure to keep up with “Jones” when he/she is making more money than them and getting those juicy promotions while their ethics hold them back will test their metal every day.

Our founding fathers selected the adversarial form of government we have just for the simple reason that a system of checks and balances works better at keeping greed and unethical behavior under control.  This only breaks down when one group (Repubs or Dems ... doesn’t really matter) controls all branches of government.  So, given that our founding fathers saw this ethical quagmire as a possibility, why should we automatically assume our business elite won’t fall into the same behavior?  They are human and subject to human frailties. Thus, we absolutely need some form of checks and balances (regulations and watchdog agencies) which can trim the excesses we all know will come if we allow unrestrained behavior.  The disaster on Wall Street was as much a government oversight failure as a greedy grab for money and power.  Our elected leaders need to be reminded that they work for us, not the businesses that contribute billions to their election coffers (ohhh, I see the problem ... they actually work for these businesses.  Our votes are just a nasty inconvenience they have to endure every once in a while.)  We are doomed as a country if this festering connection between business and politics is not broken.

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By brewerstroupe, May 31, 2009 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

Headlines that will never appear:

Psychologist cures Mental illness

Sociologist publishes useful study

MBA creates Wealth

Academic institutions have become, like politics and the Medical establishment, captured by vested interests and are now traffickers in qualifications that signify nothing more than the fact that the holder has raised enough cash to purchase them.

From time to time throughout History, society eases it’s demand for rigor and pseudo-sciences flourish. Untested hypotheses are accepted as fact.

A rehabilitation program for sexual offenders devised by Britain’s foremost psychologists was recently canceled when it was discovered that the recidivism rate among offenders who took the course was higher than those who did not.

The current financial crisis was made in Harvard, nurtured by Harvard and now, responsibility is denied by Harvard.

It seems that the public’s appetite for Alchemy never diminishes - and neither will it until the philosopher’s stone of capitalism, unearned profit, is recognized for what it is, an irrational dream.

As long as simple folk believe that a stone that can change base metal into gold could exist, they will be ruled by those who are more than willing to supply the promise that it does.

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By mill, May 31, 2009 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment
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The pledge by the Harvard elite is as worthwhile as loyalty oaths in the 1950’s “red scare” days.  If they’d cheat relatives, friends and others out of their money, surely their signed ethical oath won’t even slow their step

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By godistwaddle, May 31, 2009 at 9:32 am Link to this comment

I don’t think I’d trust 20% of a bunch of vicious, predatory capitalists.

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By paul bass, May 31, 2009 at 8:23 am Link to this comment
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just a marketing stunt…
why are these kids in Harvard Business School in the first place.
most likely to “serve the greater good.” and not their “own narrow ambitions”.
and i assume right after they sign the “oath” they drop out and donate their tuition to a charity and go to a school that would be able to explain to them what a “greater good” is

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By coloradokarl, May 31, 2009 at 7:03 am Link to this comment

Of course some compassion towards the working people is in order. Are these the same young “Christians” who wore chastity rings in junior high and then convinced themselves that oral and anal wasn’t REALLY sex? My hat is off but I will keep my belt tight, thank you…...........

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By Purple Girl, May 31, 2009 at 6:23 am Link to this comment

Going After the Universities Who Spawn these Social Delicits is priority One for The Dept of Education.
I have personal experience with the mind bending education cirriculum of these Institutions. My neice raised by a single mother, reliant on Social programs to make ends meet, became “Apathetic” to the Woes of the less fortunate once she got her PhD in Economics.A once empathic and compassionate child became a Cold hearted self centered Bitch.Sad but True.
I want every College and University afforded acceditation to be evaluated for the societal Value of their programs.
This is why I also scoff at such useless criticism by ‘Scholars’ who do nothing but bitch instead of provide Real concrete solutions to this Economic meltdown. Where were they for the last 3 decades during the reinstiutionization of the Feudalistic cast system called ‘Trickle Down’? Reviewing their Lesson plans on Supply side Economics? Reading the WSJ’s acclaims for the legalization of Of Shroe Accounts as a means to siphon liquidity out of the Economy? Reciting their philosophy that the reason the lower economic stratas are not as well off is because they are lazy or studpid- certainly not a result of wealth and resources being hoarded or siphoned off by the Priviledged ‘Wealthmakers’? Figuring our how to once again skirt the reality that the economy is reliant on product production provided by labor, instead of their beloved fallacy of paper and promises? Adding yet another technique to swindle the poor saps out of their Retirement nesteggs- Go E- Trade, Love those suckers who swim with the sharks.
These Institutions ahve been educating their students in Economic TREASON. Teaching them to not only swindle the American Citizens, but to bar them from accessing the Free Market - acting as devourers of small innovative companies or killing them through predatory maketing and Geographics.
These institutions and their faculity have conspired to committed Economic Treason through indoctrination and mind control- the Deans of these Business Colleges and Presidents of the Universities should be tried as those who polluted the minds of the youths in Nazi Germany. “Ethics” is not a elective Luxury class, it is a requirement in developing the minds and morals of the next generation of American Citizens. and is that Not Exactly WHY we send our Children to these institutions of Higher Education- to assure the continuity of our Great Independent Nation?the Crimes committed By the Wall street Bankers not ony destroyed our citizens livilhoods, it has indentured US to other foreign nations as Our Creditors. These Money people have been indebting US and Selling US off for Decades to any foreign investor or Multinational with the highest bid.That is TREASON!And WHO taught them the ‘value’ in that?

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By G.Anderson, May 30, 2009 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment

Business Ethics, an Oxymoron.

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By Samson, May 30, 2009 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment

Got laid off by a Harvard business school guy.  Maybe its personal, but I’d say the other 80% has the attitude of “$%#@ you, I’m grabbing mine.”

I just wish the billions of us who ain’t from Harvard would start treating them the same way.  There’s more of us.  #$^$# them!

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By Folktruther, May 30, 2009 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment

20% of MBA’s signing an ethnic pledge is the beginning of a social revolution?  Apparently trutdig just says anything off the top of its head in trying to legitmate a corrupt and oppressive ruling class.

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