Alfred North Whitehead’s statement: “What is morality in any

Read the following article by Jay Feldman:Readers discuss business ethics and priorities over the years.The LetterTo the Editor:There was a time in the not so distant past when many, if not most, publicly held corporations,including the one for which I worked, embraced in their mission statements, codes of conductand similar pronouncements a responsibility to serve multiple stakeholders: their stockholders, ofcourse, but also their employees as well as customers, suppliers and the community in whichthey operated. Today, all too many companies, in deed and often in word, articulate a singleminded obligation to serve only their investors by focusing exclusively on profitability.As a result, we have witnessed corporate downsizings and outsourcing of jobs; restructuring ofpension plans or their complete termination; reductions in health care benefits; and wagestagnation in spite of increased productivity. Domestic suppliers have been squeezed or, moreoften, replaced by cheap foreign sources. Customers seeking service are confronted withautomated answering machines and foreign call centers. Environmental concerns are viewed asobstacles to profitability.At the same time, the senior managers of these enterprises have seen their compensation growexponentially as a reward for their perceived contributions to the bottom line.Sadly, what these corporations fail to appreciate is how their obsession with the bottom line isshrinking their markets, both domestic and foreign. The large number of people unemployed,underemployed, afraid of losing their jobs or without the means to pay all their bills perpetuatesthe present worldwide economic crisis.Add to this the unwillingness of businesses to pay their fair share of taxes to support education,health care and the infrastructure that is critical to their success. In the end, these self-servingpractices endanger the very profitability their practitioners seek to enhance.We need to return to the earlier model of the corporation as a good citizen. Doing so can helpensure the long-term viability of our free enterprise system.JAY N. FELDMANPort Washington, N.Y., Aug. 27, 2012The writer is a retired corporate lawyer.Readers ReactMr. Feldman seems to yearn for the good old “Mad Men” days when companies ranging fromGeneral Motors to I.B.M. dedicated some of their profits to supporting civic engagement in theircorporate headquarters’ town and paid higher wages and benefits to deserving employees.While economists celebrate the efficiency gains from “perfect competition” in our globalizedeconomy, Mr. Feldman points out this system’s costs. But he plays down the benefits ofinternational competition. Consumer prices are lower (think of Walmart), and products are ofhigher quality. The international scale of the market encourages innovators to invest in costly andrisky new projects because of the potential huge market for those who succeed.Would Mr. Feldman really be willing to pay for a time machine to take him back to 1962?MATTHEW E. KAHNLos Angeles, Aug. 29, 2012The writer is a professor at U.C.L.A. and a research associate at the National Bureau ofEconomic Research.Mr. Feldman describes the predations of global corporations on their workers, customers, theenvironment and communities. But he doesn’t ask why historical restraints on corporaterecklessness and crimes are so weak. Institutional safeguards failed to stop the recent Wall Streetcollapse of our economy because of perverse incentives and regulatory decay.Boards of directors, outside corporate law and accounting firms, giant ratings agencies, state andfederal banking regulators, and legislative and oversight committees all failed to detect orprevent abuses that led to trillion-dollar losses in pensions, millions of unemployed workers andtaxpayer-funded bailouts.Why? Because they were “paid” to look the other way, through lucrative fees, campaigncontributions or future employment opportunities.Individual and institutional shareholders didn’t restrain the corporate bosses because over thedecades corporate managers have rendered shareholders powerless. State and federal laws havebeen gamed to shield the bosses from their companies’ owners.These brilliant strategies of privileges and immunities were developed by corporate law firmsthat failed in the first place to properly instruct their corporate clients about their responsibilitiesto their stakeholders. These law firms didn’t push for proper prudence, compliance or theadequate exercise of fiduciary duties.RALPH NADERWashington, Aug. 30, 2012I hear the rousing chords of the “William Tell Overture” and the announcer intoning, “Returnwith us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear.” To 1984, when a gas leak at the Union Carbideplant in Bhopal, India, killed almost 4,000. To 1972, when the Pittston Coal Company’s slurrydam burst, killing 125 and injuring more than 1,100. To 1892, when Carnegie Steel Corporationcut wages and hired 300 strikebreakers.To the belching smokestacks, to the fallen snow turning black with coal dust, to the sulfurous airaround the refineries and mills. Ah, yes, the good old days of responsible corporate citizenship.Mr. Feldman inveighs against corporations, thereby failing to recognize that a corporation iscomposed of people, some of whom are selfish, some altruistic, some avaricious, but mostgenerous. Contrary to Mr. Feldman’s experience, mine has been that people today are at least ascaring in their business and other pursuits as ever and probably more so.SHERWIN D. ABRAMSChicago, Aug. 29, 2012The writer is a corporate lawyer.Mr. Feldman’s call for a “return to the earlier model of the corporation as a good citizen” iscertainly timely, given the antisocial practices of corporations that he details. But unfortunately,for now, I don’t think it’s an idea whose time has come — not yet, in any case.The corporations of the “not so distant past” that Mr. Feldman upholds were themselves a far cryfrom the corporations of his grandparents’ days — which looked a lot more like the ones we dealwith today. Standard Oil, the transcontinental railroads, U.S. Steel, the American TobaccoCompany — their corporate practices often underserved their customers and communities, andtheir workers made out worst of all.The “bad” corporate citizens were turned into the “good” citizens that Mr. Feldman recalls by thepressure of a growing labor movement, successful campaigns for reform and regulation byprogressive activists inside and outside of government, and the ideological pressures created bythe existence of countries that called themselves “socialist,” an alternate system that claimed,however hollowly, to put people before profits.To return to an improved version of corporate citizenship, such checks on corporate power needto be forged and imagined anew.PENNY LEWISNew York, Aug. 29, 2012The writer is an assistant professor at the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and LaborStudies, CUNY.While Mr. Feldman recognizes the need for a “return to the earlier model of the corporation as agood citizen,” he does not address how we shall effect such a return. It is unrealistic to believethat we can exhort current corporate leadership away from their single-minded pursuit of profit.A number of states have now provided for the formation of “benefit corporations,” which areorganized beyond profit-seeking to have a material positive impact on society.If our goal is widely shared prosperity, we should require all for-profit corporations to reorganizeas benefit corporations.MARGARET H. BABCOCKRockaway, N.J., Aug. 29, 2012The Citizens United case held corporations are persons. A corollary of corporate personhood isthat corporations have the responsibilities, and not merely the rights and privileges, of citizens.When I last taught business ethics 25 years ago, the running joke among undergraduates was that“business ethics” is an oxymoron. Their unshakable assumption was that the sole responsibilityof publicly owned corporations was to maximize shareholder profits.The field of business ethics, however, has been influenced by the growing awareness of the roleplayed by communities in enabling businesses to succeed, not to mention the importance tocorporate health of addressing environmental degradation and social inequalities. As PresidentObama pointed out, the infrastructure that enables businesses to succeed is built by communitiesand not solely by corporations themselves. That was the context of his remark that entrepreneurs“didn’t build that.”We are all stakeholders. We are all in it together.JOHN DOUARDMontclair, N.J., Aug. 29, 2012The writer is a lawyer and an adjunct professor of philosophy at Rutgers.The Writer RespondsSome readers suggest that the “good old days” were not nearly that great. Others recognize theneed for reform, but note the difficulty in achieving that objective. Somewhat in the middle, Mr.Kahn proposes a cost-benefit analysis.Certainly, as Mr. Abrams notes, the economic and social gains of the past were achieved atsignificant human costs. Moreover, the reform movements cited by Ms. Lewis can be attributedto a unique period of American exceptionalism unlikely to be replicated in our globalizedeconomy. More recently, as Mr. Nader writes, structural restraints on corporate recklessness andcrimes have been weakened in the name of global competitiveness.Nevertheless, a century ago we were able to turn an agrarian/handcraft/sole proprietor-basedsociety into the leading industrial nation in the world. Today, the challenge is to find a way tousefully employ the displaced work force of the 20th century and those coming into the workforce ill equipped for the jobs of the 21st century. Failure to do so can only lead to widespreadeconomic and social unrest.To do that will require significant investments in education, technology and infrastructure.Corporations need to play a major role through research and development, which places longterm enhancement of the enterprise above short-term profitability. If our corporate titans won’tmake those investments, then the job will fall to government, and that would require highertaxes.A recent column by Joe Nocera quotes a Harvard Business School professor, Jay W. Lorsch:“The function of business in a society is not just a return to investors, but to provide goods andservices, provide employment, pay taxes, and so on.” In the end, corporate reform is not only amoral imperative, but also an economic and social necessity.JAY N. FELDMANPort Washington, N.Y., Aug. 30, 2012Considering the article, write an APA-formatted paper of 4–5 pages that addresses thefollowing:Part 1: Developing the Philosophical Thesis StatementAlfred North Whitehead’s statement: “What is morality in any given time and place? It is whatthe majority then and there happen to like and immorality is what they dislike” is a verycontroversial statement. Think about this statement as you consider the following questions as aguide to help your formulate a thesis statement.Select 1 of the following questions to answer and develop your thesis statement:Businesses can have ethical standards, but businesses are not moral agents. Do you agree ordisagree?Is it true that the “bottom line” of business is profit and profit alone?In business, are there other less tangible goals that are intrinsic to and just as important asmaking money?In a business environment, why should people be moral as individuals?Why should a corporation or organization be moral?Could you apply the first formulation of Kant’s categorical imperative to a businessenvironment?Part 2: Developing the EssayIdentify your thesis statement (argument claim) within the introduction of your paper.Conduct research using library resources.Outline your essay, considering deontological ethics, teleological ethics, moral objectivism, andethical relativism in your argument.Provide at least 3 valid reasons to support your argument.Also, be sure to include the following in your APA formatted essay: Use of explanations ofphilosophical concepts such as utilitarianism, categorical imperatives, process philosophy, moralrelativism, moral absolutism, ethical relativism, moral objectivism, deontological ethics, orteleological ethics to structure your essay and provide evidence to support your claims.Your argument and reasons (claims) should be defended by philosophical concepts supported byevidence, which is based on your research. Please use the APA library to begin your research.Part 3: ConclusionConsider morality and ethics from the perspective of Alfred North Whitehead’s processphilosophy and Immanuel Kant’s universal categorical imperative. After conducting yourresearch and writing your essay, could you conclude that businesses can have ethical standards,despite the fact that businesses are not moral agents? Why or why not? Please explain summingup your argument.Part 4: Review Checklist before submitting essay1. Your essay should be checked for proper use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.2. You may find that you change your mind on the issue as you are writing your paper. That isfine, but be sure to present your ultimate decision at the beginning of the paper, and stick to itconsistently throughout. This may require that you go back and change paragraphs to supportyour changed thesis statement.3. Your argument should be clear, concise, and supported with logically valid claims andevidence followed by APA in-text citations.4. A reference page documenting your sources should be included.Please submit your assignment.For assistance with your assignment, please use your text, Web resources, and all coursematerials.ReferenceFeldman, J. (2012, August 27). Sunday dialogue: How corporations behave. The New YorkTimes. Retrieved from

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