Tag Archives: Ethics

Capitalism (8th)

A prominent economist, (Milton Friedman, I believe), once declared that the whole “social duty” of a corporation is to make as much money as possible for the owners.

Here’s a different viewpoint: “Corporate social responsibility is measured in terms of business improving conditions for their employees, shareholders, communities, and environment.”

“But moral responsibility goes further, reflecting the need for corporations to address fundamental ethical issues such as inclusion, dignity, and equality.” —Klaus Schwab

Which do you prefer?

Politics (8th)

Concerning Liars

The disinformation promoted by various political, business, and media liars for their own power-  and wealth – seeking motives is an unarguable threat to democratic government, a fact noted numerous times, of late, in various writings, with varying degrees of precision.

Of all of them the quotation below is one of the most concise.

“It is a form of coup, but with a loud nationalist hyperbole disguising the threat to democracy.”

“To hold power, or challenge it, in a democracy, requires continual argument and discussion, the precondition of which is a commitment to truth-telling and a shared acceptance of facts, however differently they may be interpreted.”

“Trash these preconditions and we inevitably slide into a universe of division and distrust, impervious to rational argument.”

“We are all belittled.”

—Will Hutton (an Observer columnist quoted in The Guardian)

During the 2020 campaign, I posted the following, which, now slightly altered, bears re-posting.

Many citizens are distressed by the shabby state of political debate, characterized by lust for political power to be gained by telling unending lies.

The level of pure, unadulterated falsehood is arguably equal to that displayed by any totalitarian state propaganda rag in existence.  

How did such blatant disregard for simple truth become such a popular tool for manipulating voters?

Presently I have no explanation to offer, and it’s true that politicians throughout time have never been noted for squeaky clean conduct—the only known rule of politics being that there are no rules.

That having been said, I find the present level of disregard for simple truth to be as extreme as anything I’ve ever seen in a communist party newspaper.

It’s worth considering that polling consistently indicates we are much more tolerant of lies told by our preferred party than we are of lies told by another party.

Such polling results have led operatives of all parties to the same conclusion:

Whoopee!  We can get away with this!

“We the people” are therefore partly responsible for this situation, which will improve when we care enough to penalize any and all parties for their part in such shameless bastardization of our political process.

Democracy is much like farming—cultivate carefully or shut up about the weeds!

End note—Last week’s post, Is God a Verb? has been extensively reworked.

The Press…

Snark-free remarks about print journalism…

“Hard news” refers to strictly factual news coverage, giving the reader the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a story—nothing else.

The facts of the story are reported to the limit of the reporters’ ability to discover and confirm them by deadline.  In journalism, the filing deadline is like an 11th commandment.

“Thou shalt file thy story by deadline!”

Frequently we read that the subject of a story, or some spokesperson was asked for their comment on the content of the story.

12th commandment—”Thou shalt report both sides of a story!”

If people won’t comment, or don’t reply to emails or phone calls requesting comment, at least the reporter(s) gave them a chance to tell their side.  Reporters won’t wait forever for a reply to requests for comment. (Remember the 11th commandment.)

In no case will a reputable publication make up something out of whole cloth, so-called “fake news.”

After all, its reputation ranks as one of its key financial assets.

Consider—should readers come to regard it as no more reliable than one of those publications displayed at supermarket checkout stands, the sort that prints utterly incredible stories with astounding headlines like “How I Got Raped By An Elephant and Found God,” then that publication is doomed to go belly up.

Concerning bias—

It’s imperfectly understood by the body public.

Stories selected for publication, whether favoring left, right, or in some proportion, also possible use of emotional trigger words and/or subtle appeals to negative stereotypes can amount to bias within otherwise strictly factual hard news stories.

This is easy for alert readers to spot, so, overall, hard news is trustworthy content.

On the other hand, editorials, aka “op eds” or “think pieces”, are basically someone’s opinion.

Rules for editorials are looser than for hard news.

In editorial pages, entertaining but otherwise useless sarcasm, plays on words, and slick propagandizing can sometimes be found masquerading as rational discussion.  So it behooves us not merely to read, but to peruse in an aggressively skeptical frame of mind.

More on bias—

Just six corporations own 90% of all media outlets in the United States.  What does that suggest to you about real diversity of viewpoint?

In cases of conflict between corporate interests and those of the people, ownership of these six gigantic media corporations will side with…?

This aspect of media bias will be a new consideration to hordes of readers.  But it’s a fact of American life.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about fact checks.

No news outlet is staffed by archangels, so the occurrence of a factual error, (a wrong date, a name misspelled or, in competitive hot pursuit of a scoop, something more significant), should not surprise us.

Reputable publications routinely publish correction of errors.

Failure or refusal to print correction / retraction is a red flag.

Reading such a publication can still provide useful information, but we should cross check anything smelling even mildly fishy.

Our duty as citizens is to be knowledgeable about public affairs—being deceived is no excuse for failure.

“There is no more important struggle for American democracy than insuring a diverse, independent and free media.”

—Bill Moyers

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

—Various sources, among them Andrew Jackson

Politics (2nd)

” Why, of course, the people don’t want war…That is understood.  But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship.  Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same way in any country. ”

Herman Goering

“Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purposes…and you allow him to make war at pleasure.”

“I am a firm believer in the people.  If given the truth they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.  The great thing is to bring them the real facts.”

“We, the people, are the rightful masters of both congress and the courts, not to overthrow The Constitution, but to overthrow (those) who pervert The Constitution.”

—Abraham Lincoln

Capitalism (2nd)

Federal law requires that corporation officers function in the financial interests of the owners, (shareholders).

A prominent economist, (Milton Friedman, I believe), once declared that the whole “social duty” of a corporation is to make as much money as possible for the owners.

It would seem that this combination of law and “social duty” has produced a pattern of conduct, a portion of which may be described thus:

•  The corporation will pollute the environment whenever doing so is deemed to be cheaper than installing and maintaining pollution controls.  Is there ever a time when dumping pollutants into the environment is more expensive than installing and maintaining pollution controls?  Perhaps—if the offending corporation is caught at it and is penalized by the government or loses in a court of law.

•  Weak or nonexistent labor unions enable corporations to offer fewer benefits and to pay lower wages.  Therefore “union busting” is to be accomplished by any means possible.

•  Government regulation inconsistent with maximizing a corporation’s profits is to be defeated by lobbying, also by contributions to reelection campaigns, in exchange for favorable legislation.  The same benefit may also be obtained by means of carefully concealed bribery.

•  Human beings are to be replaced by machinery whenever possible, because machinery will do a job much more cheaply than a human being, (no pay, no benefits, no paid breaks.)

•  Conclusions of scientific research militating against a corporation doing anything at all to maximize profits are to be discredited by means of covert, well-funded disinformation campaigns, also by reminding purchased politicians who paid the bills for their last reelection campaigns—continue to vote the “right” way and $$$ will continue to flow into your next reelection campaign treasure chest.

•  In relentless pursuit of maximum profits, corporations have all too often abandoned any shred of loyalty to the government / society that gave them birth, (gave them their charters), outsourcing jobs to any country providing cheaper labor, even including the “parent” nation’s most implacable political enemy.

This has the treble effect of strengthening the enemy’s economy, while depriving the “parent” nation of a certain amount of tax revenue, as well as depriving its citizens of jobs.

“Profit motive”, touted as justification (!) for all such conduct,  does not justify literally anything.

To be clear, I don’t advocate abandoning “free market” capitalism.

I do advocate carefully considered changes to eliminate its more glaring flaws.

Taxes (1st)

Property taxes pay for public school systems.

Nobody argues that.

However, a coworker observed that “by enacting property taxes, the government essentially eliminated private property, because one never comes to the point of full ownership of ones property.

There’s always another payment due.

One basically ‘rents’ from the government.  Failure to pay results in eviction. 

Property taxation thus enabled the government to ‘land-grab’ the whole country.”

This argument holds water logically.  And we all know politicians can be pretty tricky.

But I’m wary of jumping to conclusions.

Your comments in support or rebuttal, are welcome.