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Friday, August 1, 2014

On the Duty of Public Service: The Case of Rep. Eric Cantor

Public service, such as holding public office and defending the homeland under attack, is rooted historically in a duty rather than being intended to further personal ambitions. Hence, public advancement is a reward for having gone beyond the call of duty in one’s public service. To be sure, it is not unheard of that an elected official views his or her post as a launching pad for personal enrichment, whether in terms of wealth or power. When this aim becomes primary, the duty aspect of the public service can easily fall away like a tadpole’s tail off a bumpy toad. U.S. House representative (and majority leader) Eric Cantor is a case in point, both in why he lost his seat and his decision to resign it early rather than finish his term.

The complete essay is at “On the Duty of Public Service” 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bad Boy Banks Enabling Inversion: Can a Firm Be Patriotic?

The “corporate citizenship” literature has it that companies in the private sector can indeed be “good citizens.” Even though a company cannot vote or be drafted, citizenship is said to fit as an apt description of what is organizationally speaking a profit-seeking machine. To say that a company is a good or bad citizen is, moreover, to anthropomorphise (i.e., apply human characteristics to a non-human). Furthermore, in their managerial capacities, the people who run companies are duty-bound to act in the financial interest of the stockholders, and only then in the broader societal interest. Even so, an ethical basis does exist on which some of the banks can be viewed as culpable.

The full essay is at “Enabling Inversion” 

Humanity Getting Ahead of Itself: A Mass-Extinction Event Already Underway

Around 252 million years ago, the “Great Dying” took out 90% of the world’s species. About 66 million years ago, a meteor caused the extinction of three out of four species, including those known to us as dinosaurs.[1] After 1.8 million years of existence, our own species is triggering yet another mass extinction event, according to a study in the journal Science by Stuart Pimm and Clinton Jenkins. According to Pimm, species are now going extinct at about ten times faster than scientists had thought. Prior to the arrival of homo sapiens (i.e., our species), the extinction rate was about 0.1 out of a million species per year; as of 2014, the rate had climbed to 100 to 1000 species per 1 million.[2] Behind this evolutionarily abrupt bump is not only the complicity of our species, but also unforeseen consequences that could easily take homo sapiens out of the equation.

The full essay is at “Humanity Getting Ahead of Itself

[1] Seth Borenstein, “World on Brink of Sixth Great Extinction, Species Disappearing Faster than Ever Before,” The Huffington Post, May 29, 2014.
[2] Ibid.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Timothy Geithner: A Regulator Beholden to a Bank?

In her article in The New York Times, Gretchen Morgenson raises the possibility that Tim Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve from 2003 to early 2009 and U.S. Treasury Secretary during Obama’s first term, was a captured regulator, “a man locked into the mind-set of the very bankers he was supposed to oversee.”[1] I contend that while a shared mindset was part of the mix, he was actively doing the bidding of Wall Street, and one bank in particular, which he owed big time. That is to say, it is not just that he worked with Republicans such as Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed, and Henry Paulson, Bush’s Treasury Secretary. There is more to it in him being portrayed throughout his confirmation hearing for Treasury as “a tool of Wall Street.”[2]

[1] Gretchen Morgenson, “Geithner, Staying on Script,The New York Times, May 17, 2014.
[2] Timothy Geithner, Stress Test (Random House: New York, 2014), p. 2.