Liars For President

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a liar as President. I’m not talking about the kind of lies that are periodically unavoidable in leadership and governance, as much as we would like to pretend they are not. I’m talking about “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” type of lies, intentional falsehoods designed to deceive the public for  political advantage with no benefit to the nation or its occupants whatsoever. Unfortunately, we are about to elect a liar as President, because lying in political campaign ads, and particularly negative ads, is sunk deep into the system like an inoperable brain tumor. It is fair to say that every President since George Washington has done it, and thus the public accepts it, and the news media shrugs it off. Continue reading

Ethics Bob Opens An Ethics Can of Worms, All Named “Nike”

Ethics Bob opens an ethics can of worms with his latest post, “Is It Ethical For Nike To Make It’s Shoes $4 a Day?” Among the worms, some older than dirt:

  • If workers agree to work for a given price, is the company’s obligation to pay them more?
  • Should any company pay less than a living wage for full-time work, whether or not desperate workers assent?
  • Is it better for a company to pay fair wages and go out of business because it can’t compete with competitors who pay less, than to keep creating jobs, products and wealth for investors by keeping the business profitable?
  • Is a US company justified in using local standards of fairness when it is doing business in a foreign country, rather than America’s ethical standards?
  • Can a company wash its hands of the arrangements made by its foreign contractors, no matter how unjust or exploitive?
  • Is it not per se unethical for a company like Nike to pay millionaire athletes obscene amounts of money for mere endorsements while it pays only $4 a day to the workers who make their shoes?

You can, and should, read Bob’s post here, and then we can argue about the above questions for the rest of our lives.

Memorial Ethics,Part I: Recalling The Martin Luther King Memorial Controversy

  (For Memorial Ethics, Part Two, go here.)

[It is almost forgotten now, but when the design of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was chosen back in 2007, there was much unhappiness in the black community. A Chinese artist was chosen to design the memorial, and this raised issues both ethical and ironic. Now that the memorial is completed (the planned dedication this week has been postponed due to Hurricane Irene), it seems clear that critics aimed their objections in the wrong direction: the problem wasn’t the designer, but the design, an imposing piece of classic Socialist-Worker art that would look at home in Red Square. But, hey, there’s lots of bad art in Washington, covering an abundance of styles: the large bust of JFK in the Kennedy Center makes it look like President Kennedy was made out of chewing gum. At least some bad Communist statuary is a change of pace.

The debate over the choice of artist was interesting, and is even more so in retrospect. It is worth pondering as the new monument joins the National Mall. Here is my article on the matter, slightly edited from the original published on The Ethics Scoreboard in 2007, followed by a response from the artist selection’s most vocal critic.]

An intense controversy surrounds the choice of a statue’s sculptor, specifically the Chinese artist whose design was selected by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation to become a major monument to the martyred civil rights leader in Washington, D.C. Continue reading

“The Ethicist” Nails A Rationalization

I have often been critical of Randy Cohen, the New York Times Magazine’s longtime writer of “The Ethicist” column. This distorts, I fear, Randy’s performance, for he is right far more often than he is wrong, and he is usually right with wit, humor and clarity.

As an effort to balance the scales a bit, I want to salute “The Ethicist” for explaining, concisely and lightly, what is wrong with one of the commonly used rationalizations for unethical conduct: “If I don’t do it, someone else will”:

Responding to a man who felt that it was wrong to take a job facilitating his industry’s outsourcing of jobs overseas, Cohen assured him that there was nothing unethical about the assignment. He then added,

“That is fortunate, because your wife’s argument — if you don’t do it, someone else will — would not justify nefarious conduct. Someone else will do pretty much anything. I’ve met ‘someone else,” and he’s quite the little weasel.”

Well said.