The CEE Web Log

Dr. Carrie-Ann Biondi to speak at Rockford University

biondi-carrie-annDr. Carrie-Ann Biondi of Marymount Manhattan College will be speaking on “Mike Rowe and Ayn Rand: Somebody’s Gotta Do It.”

According to Professor Shawn Klein, who is organizing the talk, Dr. Biondi’s focus is actor Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” and what those television programs show about productiveness as a virtue.

“There is no such thing as clean or dirty work, but rather work done either well or poorly.”

Rowe,Mike-Dirty-JobsDr. Biondi won Marymount Manhattan’s teaching excellence award in 2012. A video of her acceptance speech is here.

Time: April 2.
Location: Rockford University campus (map here).

Professor Biondi’s talk is sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship and is open to all interested parties.

CEE Review: Art entrepreneurship | Incentives and racism | New books on Steve Jobs | and more

News and Opinion

A focus on the Art world:

impressionist-galleryEntrepreneurship and art: The dealer who made the Impresssionists. The Guardian.

Politics and art: Camille Paglia on How Capitalism Can Save Art: “I am speaking as a libertarian Democrat who voted for Barack Obama.” The Wall Street Journal.

Economics and art: Franklin Einspruch requests: “Art People: Learn Economics, I Beseech You.” Artblog.net.

Philosophy and art: “Taking Modern Artists at Their Word.” Stephen Hicks at The Good Life.

Being the artist of your own life and reinventing oneself, no matter what one’s age. The New York Times.

And in other areas:

Pitching to investors: The only 10 slides you need. Entrepreneur magazine.

Sandy Ikeda on economic incentives and racism: Trading with “The Other” — can mutual benefit overcome racism?. Foundation for Economic Education.

A report on Puerto Rico’s economy in 2015 with recommendations for reform. National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce.

Hair-braiders in eight states, Arkansas now included, can now operate legally. Institute for Justice.

How we moved decisively from entrepreneurial laissez-faire to central planning, the case of Britain: economic historian Daniel Ritschel’s “We are All Planners Now.” Abstract at Oxford Scholarship Online.

At Inc. magazine: seven new books on Steve Jobs, including one from CEE’s Shawn Klein. Steve Jobs and Philosophy (2015):
Klein-Jobs-coverWhy It’s Intriguing: This soon-to-be-published book contains reflections of 16 contemporary philosophers on the life of Steve Jobs and the effect that he’s had on modern society.
Best Quote: “Jobs was an outstanding achiever and a complex man with serious faults. This book is neither demonization nor hagiography. It is not intended as indictment or apology. The chapters are thoughtful, mostly philosophical, examinations, from different points of view, of Steve Jobs’s life and work, and their impact on our culture and the way we live.”

Idea: “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” Steve Jobs

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.

CEE Review: Against paternalism | Factory Asia | Cultural trust | Cronyist incentives, and more

News and Opinion

Youth entrepreneurship: Harlem Teen Raises $30,000 Without Investors to Start a Business the World Has Never Seen. NextShark.

china-manufacturingFactory Asia. The Economist feature on China’s rise to manufacturing dominance and its likelihood of staying there.

American exceptionalism: individualism, optimism, and religion. Pew Research.

Professor Richard Ebeling on survey results: Americans See Big Corruption in Big Business. EpicTimes.

Cronyist incentives in the mixed economy: Give politicians control over business, and businesses will then “invest” in politicians. $1 gives $760 ROI.

Grégoire Canlorbe interviews Paul H. Rubin on dominance and productive hierarchies. Institut Coppet.

Against paternalism: “On Intelligence, Freedom, and Who Knows What’s Best for You”. Stephen Hicks at The Good Life.trust

How institutions generate norms of trust. Abstract of Cassar, d’Adda, and Grosjean’s paper in the Journal of Law and Economics.

Idea: “The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.” George Orwell

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.

CEE Review: Work-life balance | Gender quotas | Millennials underperform | and more

News and Opinion

work-life-balance-multiWork-life balance: Google’s CFO is retiring early to spend more time with family. Really. The New York Times.

Chris Matthews on “The myth of the 1% and the 99%” and “why aren’t Americans taking to the streets?” Fortune.

Rebecca Strauss: “There is no question that the US is far more regulated than it used to be — regulations have been growing steadily in number for decades under both Democratic and Republican presidents. … But while regulatory burden is up, it’s still lower than in nearly every other country on earth.” So does the US need fewer regulations or smarter regulations? (Or both?) Quartz.

Sharp practices in Chinese e-commerce: “Merchants use fake orders, shell storefronts to gain prominence.” The Wall Street Journal.

“Why we should all be thrilled about the FDA starting to embrace innovation.” Vivek Wadhwa in The Washington Post.

Germany Sets Gender Quota in the Boardroom. The New York Times.norway-quota

Related: “The Impact on Firm Valuation of Mandated Female Board Representation.” In the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Kenneth Ahrens and Amy Dittmer assess the results of Norway’s 2003 law mandating 40% female representation on boards.

Work to do: American millennials are among the world’s least skilled. Fortune.

Related: Millennials in America are atrocious at math — and not great at reading, either. Washington Post.

“The United States of Corporate Welfare”: Which company got the most targeted tax breaks, subsidies, and grants in the state where you live? Reason.

“Two Cheers for Corruption.” Deirdre McCloskey reviews two books for The Wall Street Journal.

Anna Vital’s graphical history of opportunity. Click to enlarge. Vital-AnnaHistory-of-opportunity

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.

CEE Review: Dolls teach entrepreneurship | Corrupting Hong Kong | Food carts | and more

News and Opinion

american_girl_parisAmerican Girl Dolls and teaching girls entrepreneurship. Iowa City Press Citizen.

Entrepreneurial urban farming in Boston. PBS.

Temporal misallocation: “Chinese construction boom wastes resources on a massive scale.” Daniil Gorbatenko at the Atlas Network.

Uber and the jitneys. Sarah Skwire on old and new transportation technology. Foundation for Economic Education.

“Claudia Perez is 62 years old. She was born in Mexico, but came to the United States in 1995.” How Chicago makes her food-cart business illegal. Hilary Gowins in Huffington Post.

hong-kong1An article in Constitutional Political Economy on Hong Kong’s transition: Eric Ip argues that HK is becoming a “partisan social engineer and economic gamesman, thereby unleashing skyrocketing rent-seeking opportunities.” Springer.

“Are You Smart Enough to Live in a Free Society?” Stephen Hicks at The Good Life.

Idea: “The best strategists aren’t intimidated or paralyzed by uncertainty and ambiguity; they are creative enough to imagine possibilities that may or may not actually exist and are willing to try a course of action knowing full well that it will have to be tweaked or even overhauled entirely as events unfold.
“The essential qualities for this type of person are flexibility, imagination, and resilience. But there is no evidence that these qualities are correlated with pure intelligence.social-media-strategy-192 In fact, the late organizational learning scholar Chris Argyris argued the opposite in his classic HBR article ‘Teaching Smart People How to Learn.’ In his study of strategy consultants, Argyris found that smart people tend to be more brittle. They need both to feel right and to have that correctness be validated by others. When either or both fail to occur, smart people become defensive and rigidly so.” Roger Martin at Harvard Business Review.

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.

CEE Review: Gen X entrepreneurism | Is corruption unavoidable | Arts education, entrepreneurially

News and Opinion

David Post on how the net-neutrality debates became a separation of powers story. Washington Post.gen-x-online-shopping-563

Can a businessman stay clean in a corrupt world? Kurt Keefner reviews the movie A Most Violent Year.

Isaac Morehouse on obedience, entitlement, and categorizing the entrepreneurism of Generation X.

Polish chemistry-education entrepreneurship: The wildly-popular Professor Why.

How tax policy affects startups. Kaufmann.

Economies of scale make regulatory compliance easier for big firms. So small firms are disproportionately damaged. How community banks in the US have been negatively impacted. Harvard Kennedy School Working Papers.

Why Government Fails So Often–and How It Can Do Better. Michael Munger reviews Peter Schuck’s book.sculpting-bad

Can entrepreneurship save arts education? Michael Luchies reflects at LinkedIn.

Timothy Sandefur on another barrier to entrepreneurship: Certificate of Need licenses.

“Is Racial Tolerance the Best We Can Do?” Stephen Hicks at The Good Life.

Announcements

Mercatus Center announces a series of conversations with economist Tyler Cowen. His first guests will be Peter Thiel and Jeffrey Sachs.

22nd Annual International Vincentian Business Ethics Conference (IVBEC) will take place at the New York Marriott Downtown, New York City, 22-24 October 2015. Call for papers.steven_spielberg_et

Idea: “I don’t dream at night, I dream all day, I dream for a living.” (Steven Spielberg)

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.

CEE Review: Thiel’s dropouts | Marketing psychology | How to teach business ethics, and more

News and Opinion

Luan,DavidWhatever happened to the teenage entrepreneurs whom Peter Thiel paid to forgo college? “The Rich Man’s Dropout Club.” The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Startup forced out of business — because it followed the law. Pacific-Standard.

Psychology and re-thinking marketing: Rory Sutherland’s charming talk at TedX Athens. YouTube.

A round-up of papers on the question: “Economists on the Welfare State and the Regulatory State: Why Don’t Any Argue in Favor of One and Against the Other?” Econ Journal Watch.

Kline,W-UISWilliam Kline on market-based business ethics.

John Hasnas and Gregory Wolcott debate the Principles Approach to business ethics education. Business Ethics Journal Review.

“Who Is Really Serious About Monopolies?” And Good Monopoly, Bad Monopoly: When are Monopolies Actually a Problem? Stephen Hicks at The Good Life.

Announcements

Call for Papers on “Civil Society and Free Market Economy in Mainly Muslim Countries.” Conference to be held 18-20 May 2015, Marrakech, Morocco.

kapoor-webBlast from the past: Our Kaizen interview with Silicon Valley’s Reena Kapoor: Entrepreneurial Marketing.

Idea: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor the raw material he will fashion into a figure. But it’s the same with that type of artistic activity as with all others: We are merely born with the capability to do it. The skill to mold the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated.”

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.

CEE Review: Andreessen Horowitz | Money in politics | Original architecture | Entrepreneurial medicine, and more

News and Opinion

How venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz is disrupting Silicon Valley. Medium.

“First Comes the Hobby. Then Comes The Startup. And, Eventually, Profits.” The Wall Street Journal.money-politics

Federal Elections Commission deluged: “FEC deluge: Thousands comment on the issue of money in politics.”. Washington Post.

Related: “Does Money Buy Elections? When Billionaires Court Voters.” Stephen Hicks at The Good Life.

Unlicensed snow-shoveling: police stop teenagers.

Entrepreneurial primary-care medicine. Time.

Schumpeterian creative destruction in action: in-flight magazine Skymall files for bankruptcy. LA Times. Gillis-Olathe

John Gillis’s new architectural project in Olathe, Kansas. Here is our Kaizen interview with Gillis.

Educating kids about finance: Have we been doing it all wrong? The Wall Street Journal.

South Korean researchers invent a new steel as strong as titanium. Popular Mechanics.

In response to declining rates of startups among the young, new strategies for teaching and inspiring entrepreneurship. The Wall Street Journal.

Announcements

The Society for Business Ethics Annual Meeting will be in Vancouver this August. Submission deadline is March 15, 2015.Athlete-intense

Idea: “Leaders live by choice, not by accident.” Mark Gorman

Idea: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle

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.

Transcript: William Kline on market-based business ethics

New transcription: Dr. William Kline spoke at Rockford University on business ethics. After the talk, Stephen Hicks interviewed him on the main points of his talk. The interview is below in video and transcribed-text form:

Interview with William Kline, Ph.D., on Business Ethics

Interview conducted at Rockford College by Stephen Hicks, Ph.D.
The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship

Hicks: I am Stephen Hicks, executive director of CEE. With us today is Dr. William Kline, who is Assistant Professor of Liberal Studies at the University of Illinois in Springfield. Professor Kline is a philosopher, primarily specializing in business ethics, which is why we invited him here to Rockford College to speak to our Business Ethics class.
Now, Professor Kline, in your approach to business ethics you take issue with the usual statement that “Business ethics is a contradiction in terms” or that business ethics is an oxymoron. Or what we might refer to as the “negative” approach to business ethics—which is about focusing primarily on the Enron and the Bernie Madoff cases—all of the scandal cases—and presenting an litany of problems as representative of what business is about. What is wrong with that approach to business ethics?

Kline: One of the things that struck me is—I was teaching business ethics at the time that Enron happened and Tyco—and everybody wanted to talk about that. Everybody asked, “Wow, what about WorldCom?” But we had, just in terms of corporations and not in terms of business overall, on the New York Stock Exchange, something like 3,000 listed companies and, on the NASDAQ, I believe something on the order of 5,000. And I might be short on that. The number might be easily be higher than that. So we are talking about 8,000 business and five did bad things. That’s actually a pretty good record.
So why not talk about the 7,995 good cases that have gone right and what we can learn from them? Rather than, you know, the same old boring story that, well, somebody pilfered the company funds and ran off to some exotic location, which we all know is wrong. I don’t need business ethics to tell me that’s wrong.

Hicks: Is it your point, though, not that we can’t learn from the negative cases just as a doctor can learn from disease cases, but that we have more to learn from the good cases or successful cases?

Kline: I hear what you say, and it’s not that we can’t learn from the negative cases. Of course, you need rules to protect property and contracts. I think there are real issues with what stock ownership entitles you to, and those rules need to be worked out, but they just get overemphasized. Nobody is looking at all of the good that happens through business, and specifically, the individual good when you decide to enter into business or a business person decides to enter into business, how that might be conceived of as morally good.

Hicks: Here your major theme was putting your business life, including the choice to go into business, in the context of your life overall, that is, putting an emphasis on the good life in a very Aristotelian sense. Can you say more about that?

Kline: I think, quite frankly, it’s tragic. I’ve had students graduate now. I’ve been teaching long enough. And I’ve had students who have gone into things that they loved and students who have gone into things that they’ve hated. And this notion that, well, here is my business and professional life, and that’s totally separate from my personal life, and totally separated from the good things I do in the world, and it’s its own entity. I don’t find that works that often. The happiest people I met are the people who have incorporated their business life into their broader goals, their broader aspirations, and see it serving a purpose within their lives.
So, yes, that’s how I want to talk about business ethics. In the Aristotelian version of it, what we want to talk about is a flourishing life, and that requires taking a holistic approach to one’s life, including business.

Hicks: So you ask what are the constituent elements of a flourishing life, and you place one’s business activities in that context. So, if we ask in an Aristotelian sense what a flourishing life is, what are the major constituent elements here? You had a list of six features, I believe. Not that we have time to talk about all of them.

Kline: Yes, so let me just take a few.

What we’re talking about is this: in order for us to flourish as beings, we have to recognize both constraints on what we are and what we can’t do but also certain abilities that we possess and that need exercising. As Mill said, famously, to be Socrates dissatisfied is better than being a pig satisfied. And quite frankly, I think part of the reason for that is that to live a life of a pig is either exceedingly boring or, if you look at people who’ve lived purely hedonistic lives, quite self-destructive.
So the question on the Aristotelian line is: given the kind of being I am, how can I do well in the world? Some of the characteristics of a flourishing life that we looked at today were that the flourishing might have to be some sort of standard for flourishing conducts, something that goes beyond my preferences, something that goes beyond my whim, or some sort of guide post to let me know when I am doing better or worse. One of those objective elements is that there is something fundamental about us in trading. Aristotle said that we are social creatures; Adam Smith said we have a natural propensity to truck and barter. I don’t see why it’s something we should deny. It’s something we should embrace, and it’s a good thing. When explorers go exploring and they want to make contact with new people, they take stuff to trade.

Hicks: Yes.

Kline: It’s far better than just annihilating who you meet. And trading is social. It’s not antisocial at all. Once again, Smith points out that economic transactions are a way of communicating, a way of persuading, which I find highly interesting. If one took a Hayekian model, one can say it’s a way to trade information. That’s exactly what I am doing when I am trading price information. I will take this for that much, and you’ll take that for that much. This is fundamental type of communication.

Hicks: So, in a broader context, this constituent element of a human flourishing life is social?

Kline: Yes.

Hicks: The rich values that we get as social beings interacting with each other, which then carries over to the business world, which is essentially social through trade. So we’re productive individuals trading with each other to mutual benefit. Your point, then, is that business is tapping something deeply social in us.

Kline: Well, absolutely.

Hicks: And, positively, the social is a constituent of a good life.

Kline: Yes, exactly. I mean, people recognize that when they meet at the local club they are being social. People will recognize when they meet on Facebook, they are being social. People aren’t as apt to recognize the fact that when you meet to trade, whether it’s in a bazaar or a Wal-Mart, you actually are being social.

Hicks: Though you might not know much about particular people you’re trading with.

Kline: Right, but that’s a good thing too. I don’t need to know everything about somebody to trade. I can productively engage in a fun, social interaction that mutual benefits both of us and I need not worry about what religion you are or what political beliefs you had. How horrible that would be if I had to litmus test everybody on their political views or religious views before I interacted with them.

Hicks: Another element of the social boldness that you mentioned is that business leads people to be willing to overlook many things they ordinarily wouldn’t overlook historically, like ethnicity, race, religion, or gender. Are people in business more likely to be tolerant and peaceful?

Kline: Tolerant, peaceful, and there are real incentives in the market and in business to not discriminate. There are real incentives to include anybody within your trading or productive enterprise as long as they can in turn trade or be productive with you. I am not saying that business answers all questions or solves all problems in humanity, but there is a critique of market systems out there that they are inherently racist or inherently sexist, and that’s simply not true.

Hicks: To go from flourishing in general to business in particular. In the former you mentioned Aristotle a lot, and in the latter you rely on Hume a lot. What is it that makes business business? What makes business a distinctive kind of human enterprise?

Kline: I think that the purpose of business is to produce a good or a service for trade. That that’s what makes distinctive. Someone would argue that perhaps the purpose of businesses is to serve a social good. For various reasons, I don’t think that that’s the purpose of a business. That’s the purpose of charities. That might be the purpose of certain political mechanisms. But if you look at what business is, it fundamentally involves trading. It involves using money as a method of calculation for making your decisions. To overlook that is to overlook the nature of business.

Hicks: If the purpose of business is not primarily to produce a social good, then what is the contrast purpose to that? Is business primarily individuals mutually satisfying their individual purposes?

Kline: Business allows you to do that, but I can solve my individual purpose. I can be an artist, I don’t have to trade. I can make my art works. I could be a philosopher. Socrates didn’t trade his thoughts and he had, you know, a life of his own that satisfied his preferences.
I really think that saying that you are going into business means that you are accepting a body of rules and goals and obligations that center on this notion that you are going to productively engage with other people on the basis of trade. If I am not trading, if I am just giving you something as a gift, then that’s not business. If I am just taking from somebody, that’s theft: that’s not business. Once we engage in this mutual give and take of what’s called trade with goods that we have produced without violating property rights or contract rights, then that’s business.

Hicks: You are critical of two major models that currently dominate business ethics discussions: the stakeholder model and the stockholder model. You use Milton Friedman as the major representative of the stockholder model. You’re critical of the idea that business should be defined in terms of a social responsibility to produce profit. What is wrong with that definition or account, in your judgment?

Kline: The majority of my business colleagues know the purpose is to make a profit. Well, stop. If one is on the financial services industry where the good or service one provides is actually an optimization of money accounts, whether it through hedge funds, mutual funds, monetary instruments, or derivatives, then that’s true. But that doesn’t mean that it applies to everything. I mean, people get involved in family businesses because they like the business. People start second careers in different businesses just because they’ve always wanted to operate a tiny theater in a small town. I am thinking of Berkeley, West Virginia. There is a small theater that people opened up because they just always wanted to do that. Profit is important; without a profit you go out of business. As I said before, money is a method of making your decision procedures. And profit also allows you to get what you want out of life, so it’s very important. I am not saying it’s not, but I don’t think it’s the purpose of business to gauge how well you’re doing business.

Hicks: Would you put that in the context of a corporation, say, where there’s a division of labor between management and the stockholders? Is there any role for saying that the managers have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profit for the stockholders? Or is that merely a limited case of business closer to the hedge fund people, for example, you mentioned earlier?

Kline: There is a tendency in business ethics to over-corporatize everything so that if you want to talk business ethics we have to talk about either Enron or GM. And, if you look at the business sensitive data, at least half of all businesses are smaller than, I think, 500 people, with sizable chunks even in the lower registers.
So the reason I don’t like talking about fiduciary responsibilities of managers to stockholders isn’t because it isn’t important. It’s because everybody is talking about it, and what I want to talk about is this practice called business. And whether you’re a corporation, a privately-held company, a professional, or whether you’re operating out of your garage or some multi-billion-dollar complex, this is something that has importance to you.

Hicks: So the profit-as-the-primary-purpose model, which is sometimes called the stockholder model, you criticize. But you also equally criticize the stakeholder model. What is your criticism of the idea that the purpose of business is to satisfy the interests of all relevant stakeholders?

Kline: That is my objection. The purpose of business is to produce a good or service for trade. Once you figure the good or service you want to offer, that you want to be an accountant, that you want to make widgets, etc., and you’re now doing that and making trades, there are multiple decisions one has to make in the means of production, where one wants to locate, who one is going to hire. And money is the method to make these decisions. What am I going to get if I invest in this? And it’s a multi-attribute decision problem made on the basis of money. That’s the key, as I said, methodology of business. The stakeholder thesis says No, if that’s all you are taking into consideration, you actually being immoral. I have to equally consider the interest of all my stakeholders. So, if I make a decision, I have to consider the interests of the community, interests of the workers, the interest of consumers, the interest of the suppliers, the interest of … I am probably missing one now. Stockholders actually count as well. Or the interest of the owners—mighty nice that they count sometimes, huh? I have to balance all their interests. Well, if it’s not going to be with money, then how do I balance it? And it turns out that it’s a political decision process to balance it. So that notion of business ethics I actually think it’s antithetical to business. It’s political ethics.

Hicks: But rather relying on the narrow stockholder approach or the narrow stakeholder approach as you’re arguing here, we need to think more generically about the nature of business, which can come in many forms and serve many different purposes with different individuals. Thus your definition of business as purpose-driven production of goods and services for the purpose of trade, that’s where we should start.
So on the positive side of business ethics, you then say that this generates a kind of principled commitment that can come out as an ethos: if you want to decide what it is to be a good business professional or what it is to commit to the best kind of business life, you think of what are the needs of the production part of the business and what are the needs of satisfying the trade. You then come to be committed to productivity and committed to trade.
Then, towards the end of your discussion, you mentioned that this serves as a principle for deciding what is unethical in business. Even if we rule out the clear cases of crime as not being part of business, how does your account of what business is help us deal with cases like discrimination, say, in the workforce or the owner who uses the business as his personal piggy-bank, and so on? How does it provide us a guide in the negative cases?

Kline: Let me go back to the positives briefly.

Hicks: Fair enough.

Kline: Remember we are looking at us as human beings, and the trading actually touches something within us, something that’s very peaceful, something that’s exciting, something that’s social. That’s important. Business can serve that because trading is a fundamental aspect of business. I’m producing goods and services for trade. So, in general, business is a good thing. Now, I have to decide specifically what I want to do within business. There is something specific I have to do—I want to be an accountant or whatever. So that funnels down. Now I’ve decided to be an accountant, or I’ve decided that I want to make hamburgers, or I have decided I want to sell whatever.
Now I have specific obligations that go along with each of those. If I am going to sell chicken, I have a specific obligation not to kill people with salmonella or kill people with e. coli. I have these specific obligations as I provide this on the market, certain things that I have to do. So it’s very action-guiding in a good sense to tell me what ought I focus on, which just making a profit doesn’t tell me, as I am focusing on these productive activities.
Now, to help me on the other side with when I’ve gone wrong. What am I going to do right? Well, I want to focus on the productive side and the trading side, but when I’ve gone wrong I have stepped outside of this. And people will do self-justification all the time. It’s my business, so I can discriminate. Or, it’s my business, so I can hire the secretary to sleep with. Well, that’s precisely just self-justification. And why is it just self-justification? Because you’ve agreed and you’ve broadcast that you’re in business. We have said that this is what business is and now you’re doing entirely opposite. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too. You are really doing business or you’re not. And if you are using your business as your personal piggy-bank, if you are using it as your personal sex-playpen, or if you are using it just to lord it over other people, you are not engaging in business and I think you are violating the telos of it. I think you’re doing something fundamentally wrong.
And, by the way, in the process of that, people say, well, you’re violating the goals. But remember what you’re violating. You’re violating this trading, so we’ve gone from a trading model to an authoritarian model which doesn’t serve flourishing the way the trading does. You’re not being productive in this sense. You’re actually probably being some sort of—I wish I could find a better term—but some sort of leech. You are sucking the productive abilities out of people or the company. You are not engaging in this mutually productive trade anymore. So when I say you violate the goals or the ends of business, there are some very real effects, both on your individual flourishing and on the flourishing of those around you as well.

Hicks: So one should think of business as a principled calling in the context of a flourishing life, given the kinds of beings that we are. When you then enter into business you’re committing to productivity and trade. Take those seriously, internalize them, and then also externalize them in business and remain true to that. That’s business as a noble cause?

Kline: Yes, and if you don’t want to do that, then do something else.

Hicks: Fair enough. Thank you Professor Kline.

Kline: Thank you.

* * *

This interview was transcribed by Matheus Pacini and edited by Jennifer Harrolle.
See the video of this interview at YouTube.
Kline’s talk was sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship, and the above video is cross-posted at CEE’s site.

Related: Stephen Hicks interviews Professor Kline on David Hume.

CEE Review: Freelancers rising | Cities as entrepreneurial labs | Cardiac Care Henry-Ford-Style, and more

News and Opinion

freelanceHow freelance workers will shape this generation’s economy. The Economist.

Entrepreneurship in medicine: “India’s Philanthropist-Surgeon Delivers Cardiac Care Henry Ford-Style.” NPR.

Is Entrepreneurship a Channel of Social Mobility in Latin America? Francesca Castellani and Eduardo Lora in the Latin American Journal of Economics.

Profiles of nine young entrepreneurs who are Princeton university alumni. YouTube.

raphael-plato-aristotleGeoffrey Klempner’s answer to the question: “What use is philosophy to businesspeople?”

Young entrepreneurship in decline? “The share of people under age 30 who own private businesses has reached a 24-year-low.” The Wall Street Journal.

Entrepreneurial banking: Stephen Hicks interviews BB&T’s John Allison, with emphasis on corporate values philosophy. The Savvy Street.

Cities as labs for entrepreneurial policy. Jonathan Ortmans at Policy Dialogue.

What most contributes to employee satisfaction? At Forbes, Jacob Morgan summarizes some large survey results.

Ira-GlassIra Glass in a one-minute video on how, if you’re creative, to close the gap between your taste and your talents. YouTube.

About failure:

Michael Jordan: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept not trying.”

Thomas A. Edison: “I haven’t failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”

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.