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Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Managerial Society of Carrots and Sticks

In a society of managerialism, a particular value-set is salient; it can be characterized overtly or tacitly by technique as a functional means of manipulating resources (human or material). This orientation issues in an instrumentalism wherein even other human beings are viewed as means rather than as ends in themselves. Furthermore, an assumption of incrementalism rather than real change tends to accompany the orientation because the status quo is the default where the focus is on instruments. The managerial orientation can be so engrained in generally accepted “organization speak” that the modern herd hardly recognizes the penetration in modern society itself.

The full essay is at "A Managerial Society."

See also a related book, available at Amazon: On the Arrogance of False Entitlement

The U.S. Senate as Protector of the Interests of the Rich

In the U.S. Constitutional Convention, Governeur Morris said on July 2, 1787, that the “Rich will strive to establish their dominion & enslave the rest. They always did. They always will. The proper security [against] them is to form them into a separate interest.” By this he meant the U.S. Senate. The democratic principle in the U.S. House and the aristocratic spirit in the U.S. Senate “will then controul each other.” (Madison, p. 233) Having the State Legislatures appoint their U.S. Senators—as was the case until 1913—would defeat the independence of the Senate, and hence its function as a check on the excesses of democracy in the U.S. House.  Such excesses had just been evinced in Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts, wherein the legislature there had sided with the former soldiers who had not been paid for their service but were still to make payments on their debts. In other words, one of the purposes of the U.S. Senate as originally envisioned was to protect property (including creditor interests). 

The Banking Lobby: Writing Its Own Ticket in Washington

The Huffington Post observed in 2012: “Wall Street's campaign spending and lobbying power is so intimidating that banks have repeatedly stuck the public with the tab for their losses and no one in Washington stops them.” This was a significant change to be sure from President Jackson depriving the Second National Bank of the U.S. of funding in 1832.

The full essay is at "The Banking Lobby."


Loren Berlin and D. Levine, “Robo-Signing Settlement Might Not Provide Homeowners With Needed Help,” The Huffington Post, February 2, 2012.

The Catholic Ethical Stance on Greed

Catholic economic, social and political ethics from Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes (The Church in the Modern World) encyclical in 1965 through the relevant encyclicals of John Paul II are “especially critical of the risks of avarice, acquisitiveness, and waste in consumerist societies, the indifference of many affluent people toward the poor, and the swing of governments away from redistributive taxation, welfare ‘safety nets,’ and foreign aid to poor nations, toward a kind of ‘economic rationalism’ that encourages and enacts hard-heartedness and selfishness.”

The full essay is at "Catholic Stance on Greed."


Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, Vol. 1, Ruth Chadwick, ed. (New York: Academic Press, 1998), p. 486.

On the historical Christian views on the relationship between wealth and greed, and the associated theory of justice as love and benevolence, see: God's Gold, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.

When the Cameras Are Off: Who Are the Politicians?

In Game Change, a journalist account of the 2008 U.S. Presidential race, the two political reporters conducted hundreds of interviews and had unusually close access to the campaigns. As a result, the reporters present some pretty interesting political morsels. For example, Hillary Clinton considered Bill’s administration to have been “a tactical and operational disaster” (p. 43). ouch! She would never have said such a thing in front of a microphone. This raises the question: do we, the voters, know candidates as well as we think we do? I contend that we do not, and, moreover, that this partially explains why we are so surprised when our elected representatives behave less than with maturity while in office.

The full essay is at "When the Cameras Are Off."


John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime (New York: Harper Collins, 2010).

The Basis of American Aristocracy: Wealth & Property

In the constitutional convention of the United States in 1787, the property-interests were well-represented. Even so, a fear of a plutocracy was voiced by those property-protectors as well. While one might conclude at first glance that the wealthy delegates were duplicitous, their position was not self-contradictory, even if the bias toward wealth is discomforting for those of us who value representative democracy.

The full essay is at "Basis of American Aristocracy."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Vertical and Horizontal M&A: A Bias in Antitrust Policy?

The Obama Justice Department developed a track record in challenging horizontal mergers and acquisitions—those in which a company buys a direct competitor—in industries that are already highly concentrated. In deals that are not between direct rivals, such as those that occur in vertical integration, the Obama Administration approved the deals, albeit with the imposition of legally binding restrictions on the acquirer’s ability to use its “in house” supplier to engage in unfair competition.


Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011) is an intriguing story based on vocational functionalism, which in turn is based on deism. In other words, the film essentially applies an early modern theological "argument from design" to a pillar of modern society: one’s profession. In this regard, the film is not just a kids’ movie. The visual "3D" feature is not where the real depth of the film is located. The story achieves its fullness beyond the visuals in having several levels around a core philosophy, which serves as the story's core meaning. For this reason, Hugo has the potential to become a classic. In this essay, I explore the philosophy that lies at the basis of the film's story. I begin with deism and tie it to functionalism. 

The full essay is at "Hugo."

Bureaucratizing Leadership into Management

Fuqua/COLE surveyed 205 executives of public- and private-sector companies. Based on the results, I provide a critique that renders transparent some of the questionable assumptions that leadership-advisors and even business leaders themselves may have without realizing it. 

The full essay is at "Bureaucratizing Leadership."

Has American Catholicism Become Unavoidably Republican?

Putting a religious faith through a particular political ideology can be regarded as artificial because the transcendent is not limited to the confines of particular ideologies. Were it otherwise, the transcendent would not go beyond the limits of human cognition, perception, and sensibility. Leaders of religious organizations should thus be particularly careful lest they inadvertently cut transcendence short. Practically speaking, that some members could feel marginalized or leave the organization altogether is a capricious cost that can be avoided. In other words, according to religious criteria, no reason would exist for such marginalization or departures. Unfortunately, religious leaders can easily dismiss this drawback out of a desire to channel the religious through their particular ideologies. I suppose this is a form of idolatry. 

The full essay is at "American Catholicism and Political Ideology."

This book may be helpful for tips on how to sidestep the political: Spiritual Leadership in Business.  See also Christianized Ethical Leadership.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Nietzschean Critique of Customer Service (Oh, Yeah!)

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. According to Business Ethics for Dummies, corporate apologies should be sincere, as soon as possible, and be coupled with a correction to the problem.[1] Consumers should be on guard lest a company use the semblance of an apology for marketing purposes, and, more generally, to manipulate, which in itself belies the “apology.” Robert Bacal advises that an apology be used as a strategy to use “along with other techniques.”[2] An apology as a technique in a strategy is a means, and thus as such it harbors ulterior motives. This invites “perfunctory or insincere apologies,” which are “worse than saying nothing at all.”[3] Even a sincere apology as a means to get something suffers from ulterior motives. For example, Bacal 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.”[4]  A sincere apology is mutually exclusive with an ulterior motive, especially one that is self-beneficial in some way; the orientation must be to the error.  The manager who wants to give the impression of an apology in order to disarm the aggrieved customer therefore falls short, for such manipulation eclipses genuine sorrow.

See also the non-duplicate section on apologies in ch. 4 of On the Arrogance of False Entitlement: A Nietzschean Critique of Business Ethics and Management, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.

1. Norman Bowie and Meg Schneider, Business Ethics for Dummies (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011), 239.
2. Robert Bacal, Perfect Phrases for Customer Service, 2nd Edition (New York: McGraw Hill, 2011), 19. Italics added.
3. Robert Bacal, Perfect Phrases for Customer Service, 2nd Edition (New York: McGraw Hill, 2011), 19.
4. Robert Bacal, Perfect Phrases for Customer Service, 2nd Edition (New York: McGraw Hill, 2011), 19.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Unethical Business at Volkswagen: Loans Cut off

As R&D was at a premium in car companies reorienting to electric and even driverless cars, Volkswagen could ill-afford the suspension of the European Investment Bank’s low-cost financing in 2017. The company “was barred from receiving European Union research funding over allegations it misused a previous loan to cheat on emissions” by programming “11 million cars to fool regulators.”[1] At issue were the company’s “use of so-called defect devices, software that caused pollution controls in diesel motors to work properly only when the engine computer detected that an official emissions test was underway.”[2] Accordingly, the European Anti-Fraud Office concluded that the company had misled authorities about how €400 million ($472 million) was used ostensibly to develop engines to be more fuel efficient and thus pollute less. I contend that the company’s reply was worse than none.

The full essay is at "Unethical Business at Volkswagen."
A related book: Cases of Unethical Business, can be obtained in print or as an ebook at Amazon.com.

1. Jack Ewing, “European Bank Cuts Funds to VW Because of Emissions Fraud,” The New York Times, August 1, 2017.
2. Ibid.

Monday, July 31, 2017

On the Arrogance of False Entitlement: A Nietzschean Critique of Business Ethics and Management

Nietzsche is perhaps most stunning in his eviscerating critiques of modern morality and, relatedly, Christianity. His pessimistic attitude toward modern management is less flashy, but no less radical, for the business world would look very different were it populated by Nietzschean strength rather than so much weakness that in spite of which—and because of which, seeks to dominate even and especially people who are stronger. Accordingly, this book provides formidably severe critiques of both business ethics and management and sketches Nietzsche’s notion of strength as an alternative basis for both. Nietzsche’s notion of the ascetic priest as a bird of prey with an overwhelming urge to dominate eerily similar to both the business manager and the ethicist. Therefore, the last two chapters are on Nietzsche’s unique take on Christianity, and John D. Rockefeller, a devout Baptist ostensibly compatible even with being an acidic monopolist. 

Institutional Conflicts of Interest: Business and Public Policy

Typically people react emotionally much more severely to an exploited conflict of interest when a person gains a personal benefit such as through a bribe. If company, or even an office or department thereof, stands to benefit inordinately, American society typically looks the other way on the institutional conflict of interest rather than taking it apart. This may just be human nature. However, the troubling institutional arrangements within an organization or between them may be tolerated because of the erroneous assumption that conflicts of interest are unethical only when they are exploited. Accordingly, the book provides a solid grasp of the structure and essence of the conflict of interest in order to make the case that it is inherently unethical. Examples of institutional conflicts of interest readily come from business, with particular attention to corporate governance and the financial sector, as well as from how business and government relate, such as through regulation The reader should come away with a sense of just how pervasive and ethically problematic institutional conflict of interests are. 

The book, Institutional Conflicts of Interest: Business and Public Policy, is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.com

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Spanish Recovery: On the Roles of Budget Constraints and Exports

In 2007, the E.U. state of Spain “was hopelessly addicted to a credit-fueled construction boom that produced a shattering bust, leaving banks collapsing in the face of bad loans.”[1] A decade later, the state’s economy was “expanding at around 3 percent” over the previous year, “producing goods for export, generating jobs,” and pointing to possible E.U.-wide economic recovery.[2] The Spanish economy had returned to its pre-crisis size, according to the state’s government, yet the economy had not yet solidified a firm foundation and unemployment was still stubbornly high.

The full essay is at "The Spanish Recovery."

See Related: Essays on the E.U. Political Economy, which is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon. 

1. Peter S. Goodman, “Spain’s Long Economic Nightmare Is Finally Over,” The New York Times, July 28, 2017.
2. Ibid.