Author Archive

Professor Laura Grube to speak at Rockford University

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Dr. Laura Grube is a guest speaker in Stephen Hicks’s Business and Economic Ethics class today.

She is Assistant Professor of Economics at Beloit College in Wisconsin, after receiving her Ph.D. from George Mason University in Virginia. She was a Fulbright Student in South Africa and worked as a business analyst at Deloitte Consulting and senior business analyst at Perficient, Inc. Professor Grube’s research interests include Austrian economics and economic development.

Dr. Grube’s talk is sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship.

Al Gini on leadership — our interview (transcript)

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

[Here is a transcript of our eleven-minute video interview.]

Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship Interview with Professor Al Gini on Leadership

Hicks: I’m Stephen Hicks of CEE. Today we have with us Professor Al Gini from Loyola University Chicago, where he is chair of the management department and where he teaches business ethics. He is also associate editor and founding editor of Business Ethics Quarterly. He was here today at Rockford to speak on leadership.

Professor Gini, your theme was organized around ten topics in leadership—ten critical tasks of leadership. I wanted to ask you to speak to three of them that I thought were particularly important. The first one, the number one, top on your list, was leadership and character.

What do you take the character of leaders to be?

Gini: Well, I think that, point of fact, it´s just at the top of the list, it´s that without the list doesn´t go forward, as far as I am concerned. For me, a leader, as every individual, is known by what they value and what they believe in. And so I think that what´s critical in a leader is that we want a person whose character has been attuned to other issues besides self. And when we talk about leaders of character, I think what we are talking about is: what do they value? What do they hold dear? What is important to them? Why do they want the job and what are they willing to do and not willing to do for a job, which is also an important consideration. So, for me, character is about the virtues that an individual possesses and how he or she applies those virtues in the task of leadership.

Hicks: If you were to identify three or four of the top virtues, what would you say those are?

Gini: Well, I think the first one would be to be ‘more selfless than selfish’. The recognition that this job is not about me, recognition that this job is about stewardship. Now, I am very uncomfortable about the word steward, stewardship or servant leadership, because it merely triggers of kind of theological base—shepherd, guardian—that kind of thing, and I don´t mean that. I think steward in the Greek means to be in charge of a household. To be an important agent who is in charge of a household. And so, when I say stewardship, I mean, you´ve been hired to manage this household. And so to me that leader has been hired. This is a job, as Harry Truman said, this is the best job I´ve ever had. But this is job, and my job is to be for others, not simply for myself.

Hicks: So a proper attitude toward self in relation to others, recognizing that there is more to that job, than just focusing. What else, what there will be key character traits of it?

Gini: Well, I think we are talking about certain essences of truth, commitment, work ethic, and how one sees the democratic process. And by democratic process I don´t mean just the American democratic processes. How one deals with followers, how one deals with collaborators, fellow stakeholders. I think that it´s critical.

In that list that I put up, I also talk about knowing oneself. I take that to be part of character. That one of the factors of a good character is they examine oneself. They know what is important to them. They are not easily blindsided by Oh, a new temptation, or a new issue they haven’t thought their way through.

You know, Hemingway once said, defining courage, that courage is a good men in a tough situation, a good person in a tough situation. And he meant by that, that person has already thought through Should I run into that building and save that child or, I guess, I should have a fireperson, but they have already thought that through, and then when the situation comes up, they do it.

So, I think that part of the requirement for leadership is to live the examined life, to be philosophical. Now, one no longer quote Socrates from The Republic, when he says in Book V that no state will be just until all philosophers are kings and all kings are philosophers. I am not sure I want to buy totally into that, but I do like that avenue of approach.

Hicks: So, actually at least to be philosophical, if not philosophers.

Gini: That´s okay, good.

Hicks: A second one that jumped out at me in your list was the importance of vision. That´s a big concept and we hear a lot about it. What is vision and what does it matter ?

Gini: You know, in the 1980s, in George Bush I, how I refer to it, it was the V-word , and he popped it off and became kind of this joke, all the vision of this, the vision of that, it was like the buzzword of the month. What I really think vision is strategic planning goal, and a guide to a company. What do we want to do here? How do we do it? What is our quality control factor? Why do we do it and why do we want to continue doing it, etc., etc.? So I think a vision to me includes strategic plans and tactical plans of getting something done. And I think an effective leader at the political level has to offer a strategic plan and a tactical plan that entices people to vote for them. And I think successful leaders in business need to also implement strategic and tactical plans that make that company successful and make them into successful leaders.

Hicks: What goes into making people able to do that? We talk about intelligence, abstract ability, knowledge?

Gini: Although this isn´t a popular thought, to me a leader has a certain skillset—like an athlete—that simply isn´t given to everyone and can´t totally be trained. You can be exposed to training, but you won´t necessarily get better. Michael Jordan had athletic skill, and then he added to that practice, development, and stretching himself to improve. I don´t have enough athletic skill. If I took the same kinds of lessons and coaching he did, I wouldn´t achieve that. It would be impossible for me to do so. But I´ve taken enough math courses to be acceptable in math, even though I don´t understand numbers as clearly as people who gravitate toward mathematics. So, I think that what we are talking about here is this inner talent that is also being trained.

Now, the whispered question is: are leaders born or made? I think there is a certain talent then is then developed and made better. Clearly, a Nelson Mandela is a perfect example of somebody that was well-trained, he was a lawyer after all, with great experience, and then time to reflect, time to develop, even in prison, it´s a strange thing to say, but really true. He tells us in his writings that it was in prison that I really went to the university of life, that I was able to reflect and talk about these things. So, I think no one is just born a great athlete. You have the skillset, but then has to be directed properly. But I do think there are people who are not leaders, and we´ve met them. That you wouldn´t them to take a group of seven-year olds to the ice-cream store.

Hicks: As you say, you´d never seen them again.

The third one on your list that jumped out at me was teaching. And, in many cases, we think of leaders as just telling people what to do and then they are hands-off. But your account was much more hands-on. So, say a little bit more if you can about the teaching role you think great leaders play.

Gini: Well, you are going to find the draconian leader, you know, you must do this and my will be done or it´s my way or the highway.

But I think the reality is: successful leaders empower their followers. And that word is more used than vision. To empower—that is, convince them that this is worth doing. Convince them that this is important. If you´ve never thought of this idea, let me bring it to your attention, and let me explain why this is important. I want to convert you.

So, I think teaching is a really important skill. To simply give orders, and even if you have an effective staff who obeys orders, is not really getting into the heart of the matter. Again, if leadership is about empowering people to be leaders of their own job, they´ve got to know why they are doing it. They can´t just know these are the four things that I have to do every day and repeat them again, again and again. So, I think they have to see that connection. So, I think good leaders have an obligation to teach people what to do.

When, as parents, when our 5-year olds wouldn´t put under galoshes and raincoats and go off to school, or when they were in the first or second grade, we force them to do it and made them walk out the door. And I am hoping that they recognize it that you can´t afford to get sick, you can´t miss school, you can´t miss a day´s work. But they´ve got make it at their own somewhere down the line, and so when it comes to their own, that is really lived out. And I think it´s the same thing at the workplace. You can only give orders so long. You can´t supervise everybody all the time. They either have to know what they are doing and why they are doing it, or it doesn´t get done.

Hicks: In closing, I want to ask you a historical question. You can do this is as a philosopher, someone who well-versed in literature. In your talk you mentioned this last generation there have been a number of failures of leadership, and then you mentioned a number of individuals in business who were in positions of leadership, people in politics in positions of leadership. And for good reasons, there are lots of widely discussed failures of leadership from both areas. So there is a temptation—it might be a real temptation for us to say—Well, we live in a particularly corrupt, or leadership vacuum, cultural time. But you also quoted Cicero, going back 2,000 years now, reflecting on his age and making the same criticisms about the failures of leadership in his time. Is our age particularly bad? Do you think we´ve made progress? Can we learn from history?

Gini: Well, I think our age is no different than any other age. I mean, the notion that everything happens comes around again. I think that Teapot Dome scandals of the 1920s were recapitulations of Grant’s whiskey scandals and a recapitulation of certain things that happened under Washington, just to use the American experience.

I think scandals come back again and again. We teach Socrates because every generation has to be tooled in literacy and ethics; it´s not inborn. But I don´t think it is any worse. And, in fact, I think the actions of the last number of years—that we got to this new electronic revolution, for all its downside, that we are tethered to our talking machines and our computers, and that we are changing the face of the universe.

What is happening in Egypt right now and in Northern Africa right now, is a demonstration that people want effective, democratic, transparent leadership. Leaders who are committed to the people that are in charge of and lead, and that just seem that they are there by virtue of office and by virtue of custom tradition.

And so, in a very real sense, I think we are moving into a much more democratic, critical awareness of leadership and that leaders will be held to a much higher account.

Hicks: So you are an optimist.

Gini: Yes, I am an optimist right now.

Hicks: Thanks for being with us.

Gini: A pleasure to be with you.


Review of Zelmanovitz on money’s truth and money’s health

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016


At the Library of Law and Liberty’s site — Stephen Hicks discusses Leonidas Zelmanovitz’s ambitious work in the philosophy of money:

Review of The Ontology and Function of Money: The Philosophical Fundamentals of Monetary Institutions 

Stephen Hicks talk at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Chile

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Here’s a report (in Spanish) on Professor Hicks’s lecture at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in Santiago, Chile, to a group of engineering students and faculty at the invitation of Professor Ruth Murrugarra.

He did a short follow-up interview (in English) with Andrea Millar Bruna, posted here:

AMB: Which are the essential skills for success nowadays?

SH: Most important is an entrepreneurial mindset — that is, being committed to actively seeking interesting challenges and working creatively to meet them. That mindset enables one both to enjoy one’s work and to become good at it.

AMB: What is your vision about Chile related to entrepreneur and ethics.

SH: Chile’s remoteness from major economic sectors and its sometimes dependence upon a few commodities — can be positives but also present challenges for integrating into the world economy. Entrepreneurship is all about meeting challenges. So Chile might think about adapting, say, the Finnish model of education investing in human capital and the high-tech sector, as both Chile and Finland are geographically distant countries with smallish populations and a narrower range of natural resources.

AMB: In your opinion, why are ethics and entrepreneurship so important?

SH: The only way to personal success in one’s business is by having integrity – being committed to doing quality work and following through. People who cheat or engage in hypocrisy may gain in the short-term but they rob themselves of the satisfaction of living with pride. Their “successes” are hollow. Ethics is also especially important for entrepreneurs, not only in their personal quests, but also since as founders they are most influential in establishing the culture of their firms.


Martín Krause’s Index of Institutional Quality

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Martin_KrauseMartín Krause is Professor of Economics and the University of Buenos Aires and a specialist in law and economics and institutional economics.

With Professor Krause’s permission, here is the 2015 edition of
“INSTITUTIONAL QUALITY 2015” [pdf], which ranks 193 countries in three categories: Institutional Quality, Political Institutions, Market Institutions.

For those interested in the nations of North and South Krause-image America, those continents’ nations are also separated for focused analysis and comparison. (See also Stephen Hicks’s related article, “Comparing North and Latin American Economic Performance” in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.)

Related indices are Index of Economic Freedom, Economic Freedom of the World, and

FEE’s Grégoire Canlorbe interviews Stephen Hicks

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

On Monday, May 2, the Foundation for Economic Education will publish an abridged version of Grégoire Canlorbe’s interview.

Title: Capitalism versus the Philosophers: An Interview with Stephen Hicks.

Abstract: A market-friendly philosopher takes on postmodernists, Ayn Rand, Michel Foucault, and Fifty Shades of Grey.

Stephen Hicks article forthcoming on “Entrepreneurship’s Relationship to CSR”

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

CSR, Sustainability, Ethics & Governance: Building New Bridges between Business and Society

Editors: Hualiang Lu (Nanjing, China), René Schmidpeter (Cologne, Germany), Nicholas Capaldi (New Orleans, USA), Liangrong Zu, (Turin, Italy)
Publisher: Springer Books
Date: 2016


Entrepreneurship’s Relationship to CSR (Prof. Dr. Stephen R.C. Hicks)

This chapter rethinks the start of business ethics. The author agrees that the Corporate Social Responsibility model of business ethics has been a leading paradigm. But the author notices that practitioners usually take large firms as representative of business and address their ethical issues; this, he believes, leads to over-generalizing. But most people do not work in mid-to-large corporations; rather, they are sole proprietors, in a partnership, in a family firm, or in an entrepreneurial venture. Also, every large corporation began as an entrepreneurial venture. Therefore, the author argues that business ethics should begin where business begins. In other words, business ethics begins with entrepreneurship. The author first situates ethics in an entrepreneurial context to identify the core values, virtues, and vices of business. Then he addresses how those ethical issues scale as the business succeeds or fails at growing into large corporation.

Entrepreneurial Education conference — Call for Papers

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Entrepreneurial Education conference

apple-176x100Sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship
Rockford University, Illinois

Call for Papers

The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship will be hosting a conference at Rockford University, March 13-14, 2016, on Entrepreneurial Education.

On the Entrepreneurial side of the phrase: We live in entrepreneurial times. From the work demand side, there is increasing proportion of employment within entrepreneurial firms and a slow upward trend in the number of startups. From the work-supply side, younger people of this generation express higher levels of aspiration to start their own businesses or to work within entrepreneurial firms. Increasing globalization and liberalization also mean that the entrepreneurial trends are not only regional or national.

On the Education side: How can we best help younger people become entrepreneurial—either to prepare them for creating their own businesses, or to be entrepreneurial within existing firms, or as freelancing artists, writers, and musicians? If the traditional model of education—students sitting in straight rows of desks and all doing the same work at the same time following the directions of an authority figure—does not prepare students for entrepreneurism, then what should we replace it with?

We also live in a time of dissatisfaction with the dominant forms of education, with many complaints about stagnant or declining outcomes, bureaucratization, demoralization and worse, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

And we live in times of disruptive education technologies—from simple email and online chat to pre-packaged podcasts and video series to robust online MOOCs and more.

Putting all of the above together, how do we answer this question: What should entrepreneurial education look like?


Please send 200-word proposals to, attention Stephen Hicks and Jennifer Harrolle, by January 20, 2016.

Acceptances will be made by January 25, 2016.


This conference will be made possible in part by support from the John Templeton Foundation.

Stephen Hicks quoted in Wall Street Journal article on entrepreneurial satisfaction

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

WSJ-name-lg-26May2015In this WSJ article by Charlie Wells on entrepreneurial satisfaction, Stephen Hicks is quoted on the differences between entrepreneurs of opportunity and entrepreneurs of necessity.

“Opportunity entrepreneurs are like artists or musicians …” Here’s a link to the online version. The article also ran in the US print edition.

Source: “Why Some Entrepreneurs Feel Fulfilled — but Others Don’t. Money is only part of the equation.” The Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2015.


CEE Review: Income immobility | Brazil’s bribery scandal | No free dentistry for the poor | and more

Friday, April 24th, 2015

News and Opinion

It’s not the income inequality: It’s the income immobility. Tyler Cowen in The New York Times.

Africa-workoutAfrican progress data. Max Roser at Africa in Data.

Starbucks invests in its employees: $250 Million for Free 4-Year College For Every Employee. Forbes.

How Brazil’s ‘Nine Horsemen’ Cracked a Bribery Scandal. The Wall Street Journal.

Richard Lorenc profiles Steve Jobs. Foundation for Economic Education.

Here are must-attend conferences in 2015 for tech entrepreneurs. At innov8ive.

“Are We Too Wicked for Freedom?” Stephen Hicks at The Good Life.

Hiroko Tabuchi on the second B corporation to go public: “Etsy I.P.O. Tests Pledge to Balance Social Mission and Profit.” The New York

Government Tells Philanthropist Dentist He Can’t Charge Lower Prices for Poor People. Institute for Justice.

JP Morgan has spent $36 billion on legal matters since the financial crisis. So it has developed surveillance algorithms to identify rogue employees before they go astray. Bloomberg.

Idea: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.” Herbert Swope

See you next time with our digest of new and interesting items in entrepreneurship, ethics, and political economy. Here are the previous editions of CEE Review.