Ethics Lessons From An Ethics Dunce, Ed Stack, Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO

Ed Stack, the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, is profiled in Sunday’s New York Times. He reveals himself as a thorough Ethics Dunce on many fronts, but in doing so performs a valuable service by showing vividly why the world doesn’t work, or at least the United States.

  • Stack had an epiphany, we learn, after the shooting murders of 17 at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “As Mr. Stack watched the news, he decided to drastically curtail Dick’s gun sales,” we learn.

This is management incompetence, and life incompetence as well. Stack employed pure emotion to make a business decision with unknown impact. Such business practices make an executive untrustworthy by definition.

  • Quote: “But I sat there hearing about the kids who were killed, and I hadn’t cried that much since my mother passed away. We need to do something. This has got to stop.”

More incompetence, and irresponsible as well. More than two years after deciding, based on a single unusual tragedy, that guns are bad, Stack’s level of criticism remains stuck at the “Do something!” stage. Of course, so is the anti-gun movement generally, making Stack an excellent symbol of its lack of policy seriousness and willingness to deal openly with reality.

  • More on “This has to stop!,” which is used in the Times headline to the profile. Stack unashamedly admits that he has taken his cues from the Parkland victims’ families. He says, ” …[W]hat I found surprising of those families, not one of them said we need to ban all guns, that guns have to go away. What they said was we need to find common-sense changes to our gun laws so what happened to our family doesn’t happen anyplace else. If those families feel that way, I have no idea how the guys in Washington can’t come together and find a solution to this problem.”

The statement is self-contradictory nonsense, yet similar statements are made constantly, often on TV, virtually never with any challenges from journalists who are either themselves operating on emotion or certifiably dim bulbs. Is Stack being dishonest, or is he really that dumb? If “this must stop,” what is “this”? Crimes with guns? Mass shootings? Mass shootings in schools? If citizens have the right to be armed, then crimes with guns and mass shootings cannot “stop.” They will remain rare, but nothing can “stop” the misuse of guns if people can own guns.

As for school shootings, Stack, like the emotion-driven Parkland kids and families, seems to think they are common occurrences. They are anything but common, or likely, or a risk worth obsessing about. Pretending that they are otherwise is fearmongering and public deception; believing otherwise is foolish…incompetent.

Stack’s use of the now-familiar “common sense changes” talking point strongly hints that he is dishonest. Exactly what “changes,” Ed?  If they are common sense changes, shouldn’t they address the shootings you are outraged over? His assertion that one does not have to ban guns to make all shooting rampages “stop” so that  “what happened to our family doesn’t happen anyplace else” suggests naivete approaching stupidity.

  • Quote: “[I]f we do all those things and we save one life, in my mind it’s all worth it.”

Ugh. Stack’s  sentiment is signature significance for, again, an idiot or a con artist; nobody who isn’t one of these would ever say something so absurd. (Barack Obama did, and we know he isn’t an idiot, leaving us with….) Certainly it is the mark of someone who cannot be trusted. Stack is evoking  Rationalization #58 A. The Utilitarian Cheat or “If it saves just one life.” It’s a really bad one: from the Ethics Alarms Rationalization List:

Invoking Rationalization #58A is as good a test as there is for identifying an untrustworthy demagogue. The claim that something is worth enacting, eliminating, establishing or doing is ethically and morally validates “if it saves juts one life” is aimed directly at the mushy minds of sentimentalists  and the dangerously compassionate. If the argument is made in good faith, the speaker is an incompetent dolt; usually it is the desperate last resort of a someone who has found that their real arguments are inadequate or unpersuasive.

The insidious trick inherent in the device is that we agree that human life is precious, and that we can not and will not place a dollar sign on a human being. The next step, however, in which a single life, or even many, is deemed justification for any expense or other draconian societal trade-offs, is impractical and irrational. It would save many lives if automobiles were built like tanks and could never exceed five miles an hour. Locking up ever angry husband that threatened the life of an estranged spouse with a menacing phone call would save many lives. So would forcing women to carry their babies to term, eliminating the right to have an abortion. Torture used without restrictions probably would save one life or more. Prohibition was sold using #57A.

All of these policy conundrums and many others are too complex by far to use simple-minded absolutism as their ethical guideline, and about 30 seconds of logical clarity will usually make that clear.  Those who employ The Utilitarian Cheat, however, don’t want clarity. It is an appeal to embrace acts that can do wide-ranging harm to society, civilization, human aspirations and liberty, because un-named, speculative  lives can be saved. Though it is opposite of the exploitation of human life for other goals that Kantian ethics forbids, it is equally invalid.

  • Stack: “I don’t know how, at least, we can’t get universal background checks done. For the life of me, I cannot understand how people can see that having universal background checks or red-flag laws really violates anybody’s Second Amendment rights.”

I know this is getting repetitious, but Stack is revealing that he lacks critical thinking skills, or, in the alternative, that he’s trying to persuade others who lack such skills. He has said that the Parkland shooting triggered his determination to promote gun control, yet Nicholas Cruz passed a background check. How, then, are background checks the way to “stop” such shootings?

Red flag laws are pre-crime measures, and remove the civil rights of citizens based on arbitrary criteria, like treatment for dpression. He can’t see  how they violate anybody’s Second Amendment rights? Then he’s too ignorant to have a role in any debate over guns.

  • Stack, we learn, is considering running for President.

Oh, fine. He’s opinionated, ignorant, driven by emotion, an irresponsible manager, embraces rationalizations, excels at virtue-signaling, doesn’t comprehend the Bill of Rights, and is a sloppy thinker.  Has no business running for President; it would be irresponsible for him to do so. People like Stack, however continue to win elections, either because they succeed in making the public dumb, or because the public is dumb.

That, however, is a separate problem.



5 thoughts on “Ethics Lessons From An Ethics Dunce, Ed Stack, Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO

  1. I’m reporting Stack today as being mentally unfit. Let the ATF get over to his place(s) and confiscate every single firearm and bit of ammunition. Even if he has none, execute an emergency search warrant just to be sure. ( Don’t forget to overturn everything in the search. ) In the effort to save just one life I’m sure he’ll be fine with it. And, don’t forget to bring a biased psychiatrist along just for good measure.

  2. Honestly, I’m glad when big retailers stop selling firearms. I think it opens up the market to mom & pop shops and gives the general populace a better chance to have a personal connection to firearms. Big retailers are more likely to have a rotating staff and the person who starts the transaction is potentially not the person to finish the transaction. In conducting background checks and looking for signs of odd behavior, it seems better to me that a dedicated experienced boutique retailer would be a better fit to sell firearms than a big retailer who has a consistent rotating inexperienced staff that may have just recently turned 18 or 21.

    I know this kind of advocacy might seem counter-intuitive, but I think it’s right.

    • Most sales are already at places other than big retailers.
      This article, a year and a half old is saying 25% is happening at big retailers:

      I know several people who are part time gun dealers. Their customers buy online, and the firearms are shipped to the dealer. They complete the background check, and when cleared they complete the sales. They are doing brisk business on nights and weekends. They que folks up and will run them through in a few hours a few times a week.

  3. Red flag laws are pre-crime measures, and remove the civil rights of citizens based on arbitrary criteria, like treatment for dpression. He can’t see how they violate anybody’s Second Amendment rights?

    It seems these laws do not go far enough.

    Why not

    – suspend any licenses to practice law or medicine?
    – prohibit any form of intimate contact or relationship?
    – require wearing a distinctive badge when out in public?

    Quote: “[I]f we do all those things and we save one life, in my mind it’s all worth it.”

    All of your Constitutional Rights come at the cost of safety.

    For example, you would be much safer if I could search houses, cars, and people whenever I wanted to, for any reason, or no reason at all. I’d catch more real bad guys. You know those stories about creeps who keep sex slaves locked in their basements for years? I’d find those victims and rescue them. That neighbor of yours who might have a meth lab that is going to send poisonous fumes into your child’s bedroom window, or explode and burn down your house? I’d find out for sure whether a lab was there.

    How about all those guys who are probably child molesters, and we’ve got some evidence, but it isn’t enough to convict in front of a jury, especially with that defense attorney throwing doubt all over our evidence? Those guys are on the street right now, and a child you love may be their next victim.

    Give up your rights under the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments, and I’ll make the world safer for you. No question about it.

    The only problem is that if you give up all those rights, which are really just restrictions on the things I’m allowed to do to you, what’s going to keep you safe from me?

    Every right you have increases your danger from other people who share that right. Free speech? It allows monsters to spread hateful messages, possibly about a group to which you belong, just the same as it allows you to petition your government with legitimate grievances.

    That free speech even allows you to argue in favor of discarding freedom and liberty as just too dangerous to trust in the hands of ordinary people. Now that, my friend, is what scares me – that people with opinions like that will spread them to weak-willed individuals who haven’t really thought through the consequences. I won’t argue for taking that right away, though, despite the dangers. That would be even more scary than you are.

    Yes, some people in a free society are always going to abuse those freedoms. Criminals are going to hide behind the 4th amendment to conceal the evidence of their crimes. People who commit horrific acts are going to hire excellent defense attorneys who can convince a jury that doubt exists. And, yes, some people are going to use guns to commit murders.

    Freedom is scary, but lack of freedom is scarier.

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