Is the race to the bottom an ethical pursuit?

“Thinking about this relentless pursuit of Wall Street settlements, suddenly the last line of The Great Gatsby —the one about “boats against the current”—came to mind. Bankers are today’s Jay Gatsbys. They’re shady figures who have adopted a veneer of respectability, yet remain relentlessly, ruthlessly, and sometimes illegally self-interested.” – Richard Eskow, CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE

“One reason law enforcement is such a demanding, and admirable, profession is that it requires constant exercises of good judgment in the application of general rules to ambiguous situations. Such judgment is not evenly distributed among America’s 800,000 law enforcement officials and was lacking among the sheriff’s deputies who saw Nee photographing controversial new subway turnstiles.” – George Will, Washington Post columnist

Nicholas D. Kristoff evasively and simplistically asks, “Is banking career now immoral?”, describing the situation this way: “47 percent of Harvard’s graduating class … headed for consulting firms and the financial sector … caught up in the scramble at the trough”, as if morality, ethics and judgment don’t enter into their choices, at all.

The morality of one or another career isn’t at issue, here; that is just an attempt to misdirect the discussion away from behaviors, moving the blame onto entire careers, in order to construct a paper tiger to, rather easily, tear down. The functions of a career in banking and investment may not be inherently evil (that is a topic for another day), but “The Life of the Mind” encompasses thinking, willing and choosing; the choices we use our will to manifest our thinking have moral, ethical and the judgment aspects inherent to them. Making self-serving choices, manifesting greed, is NOT GOOD.

And even the Ivy League business schools will admit the ethics of business culture is a subject barely addressed. If it doesn’t figure into the “bottom line”, then why include it in the studies of business?

It is a scientifically demonstrated fact that moral choice takes neurological time; the immediate response is, by design, the immediate, self-interested one, not the considered, moral decision. This can be taught, trained and encouraged among the business student body, but it’s easier just to encourage them to “go for it.”

And this is where “go for it” has gotten us; this is the result:

“The facade has been pulled away from Wall Street’s crimes. The myth of deregulation has been exposed. Bankers have been revealed, not as “Masters of the Universe” but as ordinary people with ordinary talents but extraordinary drive and ambition—and in some cases, extraordinary greed and immorality.” — Richard Eskow, CAMPAIGN FOR AMERICA’S FUTURE

and then there’s this:

“Hollywood bought its politicians, and it expects them to stay bought”,-and-it-expects-them-to-stay-bought

It is a form of ethics, this “staying bought”, but is it the highest value we can attain to? Is this the best we can do, as a people, as a nation, as the human race? Is this striving for the best of humanity, or the race to the bottom?

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