Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ethics...what are those?

We had a very intriguing discussion on Tuesday about business ethics and the dilemma of what to do when something shady is about to go down. We were asked if Silas did the right thing and I don't think there is a right answer to such a question. But, the question carries more weight then just right or wrong, to me this story (and situation/question) shows us that the dilemma presented proves the legitimacy of the piece of literature. With that said, I want to extend what I said in class. Dr. Campbell asked us what we would do and I answered with something along the lines of "i would do whats best for me." But after I said this and thought about it for a while I realized what Silas was asked to do was much more complicated then we realize. When it comes to business there seem to be no rules or better yet the only rule is survival of the fittest. In todays world of Bernie Madoff and insider trading it truly is survival of the fittest. Today, Silas would have sold his place and not even have thought twice about hurting someone. The purity of human nature is much to tainted today to do anything different. This poses the question of what is and isn't ethical? If Silas is looking out for his family first how can we say that making an unethical choice is really unethical, it seems pretty ethical to me to put your family ahead of everything else. Does this excuse Madoff from stealing literally billions of dollars, no. But it does shed some light on how fuzzy and in most cases non-existant ethics really are. Especially in todays corrupt world of me first, you second. Silas Lapham is arguably a microcosm of what todays world is really like. Maybe even foreshadowing the world to come. Well, here it is and its pretty shady.


  1. I agree that it sheds some interesting light into a world that is extremely shady and dishonest. It makes you wonder how being in business at the turn of the century would vary from today. I think the media has had a huge hand in shaping the public view of business, in both good and bad ways.

  2. Interesting, Kent. I wonder if human nature is more shady than it used to be or if we just trust more in laws that will prevent these actions--although as the Madoff case shows, even when investigators (Harry Markopoulos) raised questions about his methods, nothing was done.

  3. I do not fully agree in that I feel human nature has not changed whatsoever over the course of, at least, USA's history. In regard to what Professor Campbell said, I simply think our reliance on litigation has changed, not our ethical mindset. A hundred years ago one railroad company could have made an ethical decision not to lay track through someone's family farm, and the next company could burn the entire farm down with the family still in the house. Ethics are inside us much like the instinct to breath, without them we would not be human at all.

    Seth P. Anderson