Funny Business: Ethics in the Enron Age

In all the coverage of the corporate balance-sheet scandals of late, how many articles or columns have you read asking the fundamental question, "How did we get here?" Moreover, if Machiavelli was right and we should only utilize ethics for the good of the state or if each person is left to "shuck and jive" around reality by his own choices, a la Jean-Paul Sartre, then why all the fuss? Why are we Americans (most of whom, not coincidentally, stand to lose out in the stock market) scandalized by these developments? Why all the microscopically intense coverage from a media establishment that often seeks to swerve around the appeal to transcendent ethical standards?

Could it be that, when the day is done and our own welfare is impinged, we really know that an ethical base built on solid ground is desirable? Recent events in the corporate sphere force us to ask why such a widespread ethical breakdown has occurred. This collection of writers holds forth the notion that, not only are stable ethics desirable, but that they are unattainable aside from the bedrock of transcendent truth. (These authors also challenge those who posit the impossibility of such transcendence. So does public reaction to the scandals.) An examination of the biblical worldview provides just such an immovable moral base. These writings declare that, without the intervention of the God who provides this firm setting, people left to their own devices will corrupt the very morals they long for when "it hurts." Take some time to examine the featured online book, Loving Monday, as well as the other thoughtul resources in our Special Focus.

—Leadership University Editor/Webmaster, Byron Barlowe

Featured Online Book:

Loving Monday: Succeeding in Business without Selling Your Soul
John D. Beckett
Mr. Beckett spent years working to discover the moral standards by which companies and individuals should conduct themselves in the work place. "Loving Monday" is the result of that effort. If the atmosphere in today's companies concerns you, we suggest you take a look.

Featured Articles:

"Business" and "Ethics": Can These Terms Be Used in the Same Title?
Ray Cotton
This essay grapples with some of the problems Christians face trying to operate ethically in today's business world. It examines the question, "Who makes the rules? It discusses ethical guidelines for the real world and the cost of living ethically while offering ten global principles for success.

Professional Ethics without Religion
Dr. Otto J. Helweg
It seems that writers on professional ethics attempt to dissociate ethics from religion. There are philosophical reasons why this is not only bad strategy but fundamentally flawed logically. If each individual does not have an existential reason for being ethical, all the codes in the world cannot produce ethical behavior. This paper argues that a theistic presupposition is a sufficient, if not necessary, condition to supply the existential motivation. Moreover, professional societies should encourage rather than discourage their members to integrate their theological inclinations with the appropriate ethical codes. Though the principles are generally applicable, the paper is written from the perspective of an engineer.

You Can Love Monday
The Real Issue
John Beckett, president of the world's largest manufacturer of heating oil burners, explains how Christians need to follow God's calling in any profession.

Articles on General Ethics:

Measuring Morality: A Comparison of Ethical Systems
Erwin Lutzer
What makes an action right or wrong? The answer to this question, when asked of various ethical systems, helps sort through the maze of beliefs that muddy the ethical waters. A condensation of Erwin Lutzer's book "Measuring Morality: A Comparison of Ethical Systems."

The Morality of the West From Bad to Worse
Ray Cotton

The ethics now taught in our schools have changed from biblically based values to the morality of political rationalism, which is destroying our society and corrupting the minds of our youth. Traces the route we took to get where we are ethically.

Ethics: Pick or Choose?
Ray Cotton

A look at the ethics flowing out of humanistic existentialism which states that morality is rooted in human choice. This perspective seeks to show how rejection of biblical truth in the realm of ethics and morals ultimately leads to despair--not to mention Enronesque improprieties.

Morality Apart From God: Is It Possible?
Ray Cotton

Is God necessary for ethical systems? Some modern philosophers argue He isn't, but Ray Cotton insists that there is no point to morality without God. As we have seen with Enron, Worldcom and a host of other [ital] creative accounters, "Basing ethical decisions on personal values is problematic."

Does Character Matter?
Frederica Mathewes-Green

Does character matter? Is character an important component of leadership? Can you be a leader without attention to personal integrity, or private morality? A lot of Americans seem to think it doesn't matter. Competence is everything. Personal integrity is expendable. This article does not dwell on particular examples, but rather looks at much larger, more serious historical examples of exercising leadership without exercising character.

Related Articles:

The Secret to Becoming Wealthy
Lawrence C. Wolken

A member of the finance faculty in the Mays College and Graduate School of Business at Texas A&M University, shares his perspective on "wealth."

Why a Moral Life Won't Get Us to Heaven
Jimmy Williams

"Won't a good, moral life get me to heaven?" The answer is no, and the author spells out why, including how we CAN get to heaven.

Legal Ethics - Worlds in Collision
Mary Ann Glendon

Glendon, professor of law at Harvard, writes, "Just as sexual self-expression has few limits in a culture where chaste behavior is mocked, lawyers' self-interest is apt to run amok when anyone who places client or court above profit is branded a hypocrite or a chump. A lawyer who takes his duties to the court and the legal system seriously may well be at a disadvantage against a less scrupulous adversary. In such circumstances, should we be astonished that short-term self-interest often prevails?"

Briefly Noted: A First Things Mini-Review
"In a witty and readable blend of anecdote and analysis-a portion of which appeared in First Things [see above] -- Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University, examines the adversarial practice of law in America today. And, thereby, she uncovers the ways in which lawyers have both fed and fed upon the convulsions in American culture since the 1950s."

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