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Friday, June 3, 2011

Ignoring Institutional Conflicts of Interest

I submit for your consideration the thesis that people, particularly in American society at least, tend to have keen radar for conflicts of interest specific to individuals while institutional conflicts of interest tend to go undetected. The reason may be that a conflict of interest in which a specific person benefits is more tangible (e.g., receiving a bribe of $50,000) than is the on-going pressure on a department or organization to pursue an unethical policy or decision from an institutional conflict of interest. It may also be that we, as human beings, are more envious when another human being enriches oneself unethically than when an institution profits at the public’s expense—even if the ethical and financial damage of the latter is greater.

The full essay is at Institutional Conflicts of Interest, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.