A Fox Guarding a Hen House Being Guarded by a Fox Already in the Hen House

CURIOUS CONUNDRUM - How do we prevent the unethical from being unethical?

CURIOUS CONUNDRUM - How do we prevent the unethical from being unethical?

The corporate world isn’t where most people go to find model of ethical behavior – not unless they’re marketing a new product made of lead and margarine called, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Ethical”. For many corporations, pretty much anything is “ethical” provided it turns a profit. Still, a company has to really suck to stand out amongst their fellow gougers, cheats, and soulless greedheads.

The Swiss firm Covalence has ranked the 12 least ethical companies in the world. The diabolical dozen contains the usual crapulent corporations. Phillip Morris, Chevron, and Halliburton all made the list as you might expect. In fact, the only thing odd is how Covalence managed to pair it to only a dozen and resist squeezing in candidates that didn’t even rank – AIG comes to mind, for example.

Despite popular belief, corporations – like governments – aren’t inherently unethical. They are run by people though, many of whom are as unethical as they come. Unethical business and government leaders – sometimes embodied in the same person – seem drawn to graft and greed like junkie moths to a flame. They represent the dark side of humanity and are roundly and justifiably called out when they can’t regulate their behavior.

But that’s no reason for the humanitarian and philanthropic to get on their high horses. Humans are a lazy bunch preferring shortcuts to the hard work of the direct route. Sometimes unethical behavior starts small and gets big – in a hurry. And as bad as charlatans are, even the worst have small bits of humanity still buried in their defective characters. It’s not as if Bernie Madoff rolled out of bed one morning, rubbed his hands like Simon LeGree, and chortled at the thought of stealing the life savings of some poor widow from Rancho Cucamonga. For example, he donated money to several charitable causes. True, it was stolen, but it’s the thought that counts.

gotethicsAnyone who believes unethical behavior can be legislated out of existence is smoking a pipe of conflagrated dreamweed. However, those who believe that lifting legal restrictions from proven unethical companies is taking a strong hit of heroin to boot.

The problem is, we’ve reached a point where the regulators are every bit as unethical as the regulatees. It’s like the fox guarding the hen house metaphor carried one step too far – the fox is guarding a hen house being guarded by a fox who is already in the hen house.

Our options to combat unethical behavior are few and the douchebags are many. As a country, we need to start regulating companies and the government so they become more ethical and serve the people rather than each other. We can only do this by withholding votes and sales from those who are the most unethical and who wouldn’t bat an eye at picking your pocket while you and everyone else is watching in slow motion on the Jumbotron.

But then, maybe I’m the one smoking the dreamweed and shooting the heroin – all while firing up the crackpipe for a long deep pull.