Ethics-School Drop-Outs

[Business Ethics | Lovebook]

What is this bullshit, Kenneth R. Goodpaster?

What are we even supposed to do with this book?

Is there like another accompanying text with some philosophical arguments and clarifications of metaphysical (ie: actually-real and thus actually-actionable) starting points?

Because your Business Ethics textbook seems to be nothing more than a bunch of stories.

We read the first two.

“Peter Green’s First Day”. There’s supposed to be some kind of an ethical dilemma here? For years and years a large account has its shipping costs covered by a smidgen of chicanery: the salesman fills out some paperwork about how the shipment was defective, and that refund is enough to almost cover the shipping costs of the order. Who can care about this? Only Peter Green. Surely the front office, which he’s so opposed to lying to, already knows about this ongoing lie. What are the odds that every shipment is defective? The only improvement I can see here is calling up the front office, telling them that they need to give this client a free shipment to keep them happy, and then discussing if they want to openly reduce or refund the shipping charges, or keep up some kind of a charade of behind-the-scenes dealings (so as to avoid having other clients ask for the same deal). And that kind of an improvement can be done later, once Peter Green is established in this new role he was so excited about Monday morning and is now so devastated by Monday afternoon.

Come on! There’s morality and that matters. But part of morality is choosing your battles. Perhaps whoever started indulging this client’s need for freebies should have resisted, or found a more by-the-book way to satisfy the client. But right now, keep things moving, keep on rocking — this is not the time for a showdown.


Or do we have no sense of right and wrong?

Do we err hopelessly in the margins?

“Dilemma of an Accountant” is a real dilemma. It’s no longer a question of using an expedient fib to grease the internal wheels of one’s own organization. Here we have a company asking you to lie to the world on their behalf. They are asking you, an accounting firm, to use your credentials to confirm that a property that you think’s worth $100,000 is actually worth $2 million.

On the other hand, Daniel Potter didn’t necessarily have to have this fight. After all, the company rules state that differences of opinion between the CPA and the client only have to be disclosed in the CPA’s findings if they effected the evaluation by more than 3%. This difference in opinion effected the real-estate subsidiary’s (Sub’s) account by 7%, but the overall client account by only 1%. Dan decides that since the report on the Sub will be issued separately — albeit only for the client’s internal use — he has to include his property appraisal disagreement in his report.

So idunno. To me this is further proof of the need of rigorous government oversight. How can you expect a company to police itself? The Sub wants this lie so they can rent the property for more money. Or is it even a lie? How do we know that Dan’s evaluation of the property is correct? How does Dan know?

And is Dan’s boss right that the client wants the CPA company to lie for the Sub in a report that is only going to be used inside the company?

Maybe I don’t know enough to weigh in here. Except again to say: if the report is supposed to have meaning within the larger world (and it seems like it is, since there appears to be a real possibility of legal trouble in the unlikely case of an audit), the CPA shouldn’t lie in; but we the regulatory state need to make it worth everyone’s while to tell the truth about serious matters. Overvaluing a property by 20 times seems like a serious matter to me.

What I don’t understand is what happens when the Sub sells this property. Whoever rents it will assess it’s value, right? And won’t they know whether it is worth $2 million or more like $100,000?

Dan needs to be savvy. Maybe this is not a battle worth fighting. I don’t know. I don’t understand what’s at stake. Will some poor renter be ripped off? I can’t see how the government’s at risk of being taken advantage of — they’d be able to tax the property at much more than it is worth.

If this story is happening in a hopelessly corrupt state, it seems like Dan has no choice but to go along with it. Or leave the country. Or become a Buddhist monk and beg for alms while praying for universal enlightenment. If the story is happening in a well-regulated state in an area that will be scrutinized, it seems like Dan has no choice but to tell the truth in any official document. But according to the story, this particular detail is not at all likely to receive official scrutiny Is that because it doesn’t really matter to the government or anyone? Or just because the government can’t bother with every detail?

A lot of evil is caused by people saying that the system is already corrupt and they’re just going along with it. But sometimes it is best to let smaller moral dilemmas slide so you can focus on bigger fish — including having the standing to push back against more serious moral shortcomings.

I don’t know. Morality is not relative. There is a True Good. But the application of morality is relative to specific circumstances. The Light wants us to be good to everyone — ourselves, those we come into direct contact with, and all those that our actions influence indirectly. Wisdom is insight both into the Absolute Good and how the Absolute Good can most influence one’s own particular time and place.

Peter Green is kind of peevish.

Daniel Potter I feel for, but I don’t understand the parameters of his situation. Is it at all likely that they will get into trouble? Is there a victim here in this overevaluation? How much of a fudge is it to say that this disagreement represents less than 3% of the client’s value and as such doesn’t need to be mentioned in the report? Or was it a fudge for him to say it does represent more than 3% and thus has to be in the report? And this 3% rule is from AICPA — what’s that? That’s a professional organization for CPAs. What does the government think? Do they think that 3% rule is good since they also don’t want to have everyone splitting their head over every little imperfection and confusion? Should they? I just don’t really understand what is at stake here: who will be harmed if the lie succeeds? what is at risk if the lie’s caught? is it just a straight-up lie or is there a legitimate reason for the Sub to say the property is worth $2 million?

I don’t know, Daniel Potter. It’s not good to lie, but maybe there was no need to bring up this disagreement and maybe letting it slide will allow the future to unfold more easily for everyone (you, your boss, the client, and even the government and the renters for all I know).

Where are all your principles, Kenneth R. Goodpaster? Where’s your system? What is the metaphysical foundation and how does it flow into ethics in general and how does that flow into particular ethics.

It is perhaps a mistake to ask an ethics teacher to start with metaphysics. Except for the bare-bones metaphysics necessary for any ethics to function meaningfully within and between human beings: it is True that we should treat ourselves and others with kindness and respect, thinking and acting aware, clear, honest, accurate, and competent, working together to grow shared joy.

Oh, but you said, “honest”!

And “accurate”.

Yes, I did. But there’s also something to choosing battles.

so i dunno

Author: Paul Blue
Editor: Saul “the Rock” Yellow
Producers: Bartleby Willard & Amble Whistletown
Copyright: AM Watson

[Business Ethics | Lovebook]