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11/02/2008

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neilehat

Chris, Oh, BTW. You do know the mark of a "Southern Gentleman" don't you? When I was in school, the idea was, that a Southern woman likes her men to be, "religious and slightly mad". ;)

Naveen

The important issue is not whether businessmen are more morally corrupt but whether the corporate form of enterprise encourages such corruption. To my mind the answer is yes for several reasons.

First, corporate fraud is less likely to result in conviction because of their size and clout.

Second, if a professor's reputation is lost, it is lost forever while a corporation can reinvent itself under a different name and fool customers again. Arthur Anderson is now Accenture. GE was convicted of criminal fraud and was still deemed by the FCC to possess a sufficiently high "moral character" (a requirement under law) to grant their subsidiary NBC a broadcasting license. This was made possible by the fact that corporations are allowed to form subsidiaries and through other legal mumbo jumbo. If the government would agree to give me twenty different social security numbers, I might also be tempted to engage in fraud.

Finally, as compared to other professionals, there is a greater pressure on businessmen to produce financial results (on individual executives from higher ups and for higher ups from the Wall Street).

Given this environment, business would also tend to attract those who have fewer qualms about cheating. The reputation of business as corrupt is therefore all but deserved.

Chris Graves

neilehat, I do agree with the quote you cited about Southern men being religious and a bit "mad." I am that way myself. I find Southern as well as non-Southern women appreciate that combination of qualities. As for your claim based on personal experience that Southerners are no more cooperative or respectful than others, we certainly have the reputation among many that we are more polite and cooperative. Of course, not every single person in the South (especially now with lots of all sorts of people living here) reflects those qualities. In fact, we have a saying here that may touch on your experience that deals with the fact that we are more violent than the rest of the country: Some people need killin' . Perhaps, with the ACLU slowing down the adjustment process we have had in place, we have more ornery folks than in past.
As far as religion goes, I have found in personal experience that many so-called Christian businesses are less ethical than others. I suspect that this may have to do with a current teaching in some churches that we are to forgive others without the wrong-doer showing contrition. That doctrine is not found in the Bible or Christian tradition. Repentance is necessary for forgiveness. So, some have taken the presumption of unilateral forgiveness as a license to do poor work and mistreat their customers and employees as they expect, even demand, forgiveness for their calculated or careless wrong-doing.
But overall, the study that I cited above does show that religious people tend to be more honest, respectful, and kinder when they are aware of their belief that God is present in their circumstance. I suspect that the reason people at large sense that religious people are worse than normal is that their expectations are raised when another announces their religious belief. We tend to overlook those many cases where religious people behave as expected. It could also be that the unscrupulous consciously or unconsciously play on their publicly announced religious affiliations to dupe customers. The sincere do not make a production of their religious belief.

Chris Graves

Other thoughts in response to neilehat's reply: I am also afraid that the New South has lost much of traditional Southern charm and courtesy. I moved out of Atlanta for that reason alone--loss of civility. I found people in Atlanta moving around more frenetically and acting more callously than anywhere I have ever visited. Of course, Atlanta is a boom town.

There is something about rapid economic growth that leads to a frantic sense of constant excitement as if people were on a drug. If you think about it, most of the moral decay has happened in boom times fueled by dramatic credit expansion. When people live a less settled life, it has destructive effects on their psyche and their relationships with others. They are less satisfied with their family and friends. The lure of excitement also tends to breed sadism and coarseness. I am afraid that the rapid economic development that we have seen in much of the South is acting as destructively on us as it has on others. This is exactly what Jefferson was fearful of in Alexander Hamilton's vision.

I live in Dallas, Texas, now, and while there is some of the negative qualites that I mentioned above here, it is still more traditionally Southern as well as Western. The economy here is good, but there are a lot more natives here than in Atlanta. Perhaps, that balances the growth off a bit. I am not sure exactly what accounts for the difference. In any case, people are all fallen. How people are constrained by their social environment matters in how they channel their impulses.

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