The financial crisis of 2007 has been called by then President-Elect Obama as “the biggest financial crisis since the great depression,” and so far has called for a bailout plan that is expected to ultimately reach almost $2 trillion (Lewis et al., 2010:83). In the…
what Alan Greenspan called the “increasingly complex financial instruments” that were supposed to have built “a far more efficient, flexible and resilient financial system” were actually tools designed to circumvent the banking regulatory system meant to ensure safety and prudence in the first place (Lewis et al., 2010:79). The bankers behind them were not motivated by any desire other than greed for profits, and their greed cost hundreds of thousands of people worldwide their homes, jobs, and the security of their families.
In earlier times and even today in many cultures, the image of a businessman connotes shrewd selfishness that will not hesitate to pry the last dollar from an unwitting customer’s fingers. In many instances, the impression is well-justified, prompted by the oft-used phrase: “It’s only business” in explaining why the hapless customer should find himself short-changed. The multi-million dollar golden parachutes CEOs of the failed banks awarded themselves with before abandoning the ship of drowning investors are perfectly legal, they argue: it’s just business, as if that were sufficient excuse to avoid the norms of ethical behaviour.
It is often thought that unethical behaviour in business is caused by the lack of time to ponder the repercussions of a decision that must be made in haste. That is not so, according to a recent study. Zhong, et al. (2010) found just the opposite, that the greater the time for deliberation, the less ethical the decision tends to be. This appears to contradict all known earlier philosophies that the time to reason ensures ethical choices. The experiment performed in the study, however, seems to suggest that when given the freedom to consult their consciences before acting, instead of simply following the rules, one is persuaded to rationalize his actions, to provide some “good” to explain why an unethical decision (usually more beneficial to himself) could be made. In simple words, the ...
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