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Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Corporate Apology

In classical literature, an apology can mean a defense, such as Plato’s Apology. In modern parlance, an apology is known as an expression of genuine sorrow and an acceptance of responsibility for having caused harm to another person. Consumers should be on guard lest a company use the semblance of an apology for marketing purposes.
Robert Bacal advises that an apology be used as a strategy to use “along with other techniques."[1] According to Bacal (p. 19), “perfunctory or insincere apologies are worse than saying nothing at all.” Accordingly, he advises that a “sincere apology can help calm a customer, particularly when you or your company has made an error. You can apologize on behalf of your company.” However, how can an apology be both sincere and geared to manipulating a customer?

The full essay has been incorporated into On the Arrogance of False Entitlement: A Nietzschean Critique of Business Ethics and Management, available at Amazon.

1. Robert Bacal, Perfect Phrases for Customer Service, 2nd Ed. (New York: McGraw Hill, 2011), p. 19. Italics added.

The European Council and the U.S. Senate: Intergovernmental Institutions in Modern Federalism

As part of comparing the U.S. and E.U., pointing to similarities between the U.S. Senate (especially as originally designed) and the European Council is particularly valuable because both institutions constitute the intergovernmental, and thus international, aspect of their respective unions. By contrast, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the E.U. Parliament constitute purely governmental, or “national,” bodies irrespective of the state governments. Hence both the E.U. and U.S. governments are hybrid governmental/intergovernmental, and thus neither national nor international.

The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires.

Conflicts of Interest: A Kantian Explanation

In a conflict of interest, either two duties conflict or a duty conflicts with self-interest—whether the “self” be an individual or an association of individuals (e.g., a department or an organization). Where two duties conflict, that which corresponds with the wider “constituency” is presumed to be ethically superior to that which is relatively narrow. For instance, a duty to society is typically thought (admittedly by the public) to ethically supersede a fiduciary duty to stockholders. This assumption is problematic because property rights are not charged with putting society first. Therefore the question of which duty is superior ethically-speaking may come down to one’s vantage-point. To be sure, the duty that is further from one’s self-interest can be said to be superior in most ethical theories with the notable exception of egoism. That theory defeats the typical ethical take on conflicts of interest even where a duty is pitted against self-interest itself.

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

Federalism Facilitating Self-Preservation

The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property (Locke) or happiness (Jefferson) can all fit within a federal system that enables its two systems of government—that of the federation itself and the republics  or (member) states—to check and balance each other. The alternative, at least for a federal empire, may be a return to the state of nature.

The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires.

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 at Amazon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wall Street Banks: Price-Making and Law-Breaking?

According to the New York Times, The U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that “two Goldman employees, Deeb Salem and David Swenson, tried to manipulate prices of securities used to bet against mortgages. Both tried to help Goldman pile on larger bets against the mortgage market, and they wanted to be able to buy such negative bets more cheaply, the report said. Goldman, as a broker, was able to affect prices in the market through the bids and offers it gave out. Mr. Swenson wrote in May 2007 that the bank should try to ‘start killing’ prices on certain positions so that Goldman would be able to ‘pick some high quality stuff,’ according to the Senate report. The strategy, Mr. Swenson wrote, would ‘have people totally demoralized.’ The pair were [sic] unsuccessful in their attempt, and both denied making it to the Senate committee. Mr. van Praag said last week that the report had no evidence of manipulation. Still, the Senate report said that ‘trading with the intent to manipulate market prices, even if unsuccessful, is a violation of the federal securities laws.’”

The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business: A Malignant Mentality of Mendacityavailable at Amazon.com.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FIFA: Weaving an Unethical Web

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. Unfortunately, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international association of soccer, has “repeatedly faced charges of corruption while operating with a lack of transparency and little oversight,” according to the New York Times. Even though corruption necessarily involves a proclivity among individuals, institutional processes and structure can come into play. In such cases, it is not sufficient to isolate and remove the sordid persons.
The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business: A Malignant Mentality of Mendacity, available at Amazon.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fox News Journalism: The Proverbial Canary in the Coalmine?

Is it fair to stockholders to run a news network in service to politically partisan objectives even if they are put before profit?  In regard to journalistic ethics as being something that a viable republic requires, could a partisan media in general lead to the downfall of a self-governing people? 

The full essay is at "Partisan journalism as the Default."