Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Business School Ethics

I was sitting next to Larry, an acquaintance of mine at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.  He is also a professor at the Haas School of Business.  I forget what the issue was, but I said, “Hey, that’s not the right thing to do!”

Larry said, “Well, it’s legal.”  He meant that it was OK to do it because it was legal.

There it is, right there.  Business School Ethics.

Remember all the Harvard Business School guys at Enron?  They thought that most of what they were doing was OK to do because it was legal.  Well, they were certainly wrong on the first count, and it seems they were wrong on the second as well.  Locked up, Skilling is at least.  Many of the others got away.

After their downfall you would think the B-School would have been embarrassed.  If they were, I didn’t hear about it.  As a doctor, I thought, they need a Hippocratic Oath of some sort.  I saw some discussion of that in the press but it seemed to peter out.  I can see why.  After all, an oath to be ethical would be very controversial at a school of business.

This is precisely Mitt Romney’s problem.  He is part and parcel of the whole ethic of business.  Trying to win allegiance from rednecks he says, “I have some friends who own NASCAR racers.”  Right, Mitt, you’re right in there.  “Corporations are people, too, my friend.”  It’s so deep you can’t erase it.  It’s just who he is.

So, I hope this business with his wealth and tax-avoidance and off-shoring his money goes on and on.  His defense is so pathetic – “It’s legal.”  These laws were passed (and paid for) by guys like him, so of course it’s legal.  If he pays less than 15% of his income to taxes – “It’s legal!”  Great, Mitt, what an ear you have.  It’s not tin, it might be aluminum.

At last the Dems and the press are getting onto an issue that should stick.  It is so emblematic of who he is. 

People left out at the bottom?  “That’s the nature of capitalism.” 

Poorer people not being able to find health care?  “They should have thought about that when they were in school.” 

Demo a $3 million house and erect a $10 million one with a 12 car garage with an elevator?  “Well, I can afford it and I have a big family.”

Thanks, Mitt, you’re a real prince.

What have we come to, when he is more acceptable than the other Republican candidates were?


Budd Shenkin

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