Category Archives: Current Events.

Throwing Money at Ethical Issues

“Money is the root of all evil.”  Almost everyone has heard this bromide at least umpteen times growing up.  This maxim differs from most of the trite utterances that people grow up with, since this claim actual has some legit proof.  Wealthy people tend to be less charitable and open-hearted than those who do not have the advantages of having a plethora of America’s green, dead presidents.  In spite of this, economist Kaushik Basu argues that using money to achieve the goals of international business should be allowed.  Basu argues that bribery should be justified as long as it is going toward receiving services that people are entitled to.  Now this argument opens up a new world of ethics in business.  What defines a service which people are entitled to?  Is it fair that this puts already industrialized countries at a huge advantage over countries with struggling fledgling economies?  If people are entitled to services, why should they have to pay for said services?  This thought is riddled with holes.  Bribery should not be made an acceptable means by which to conduct business.  Saying something is acceptable does not make that thing a morally right solution.  Stratifying the entire world’s economy by the wealth of each nation cannot be justified.  Paying money to receive something that one is entitled to is not a fair means by which to conduct business or anything else.

First off, if someone told you that you would not be punished if you killed a person, is murder still immoral?  Of course it is!  Just because one will not be punished by law does not mean that the action in itself is morally right.  Some actions are inherently corrupt, such as bribery.  Bribery consists of exchanging money to receive a pass on the rules and get a result that typically would take some amount of effort.  Is this ever right?  Why would it be?

Pursuing this further, one should think of the economic implications of Basu’s theory.  Suppose no business in the world would be punished for using bribery to receive services.  If all countries were allowed to use bribery as a legitimate method of conducting business, what would happen?  Well, industrialized countries would be at a significant advantage, since they already have plenty of money to spend on receiving services.  However, fledgling economies would struggle to get the same services, since businesses would be busy lending services to the highest bidder.  Is it right for already well-established economies to take all of the services and wealth while other countries stumble through a desert of poverty?  Why should these wealthy nations receive all of the benefits while other countries struggle just to survive?  The world we live in would become a greed-fixated one where countries are run by businesses which are only concerned about what they will receive while everything else can rot.

Finally, Basu’s argument presupposes the idea that people are born with rights and services should be provided to them based on these rights.  If people are entitled to goods and services, why should bribery be means by which to achieve these ends?  In fact, if people are born entitled to goods and services, why do they need businesses to procure these services?  Why could these services not just be provided to everyone regardless of wealth?  Basu’s argument not only decays the ethics of the world but also removes the need for business in the world.  Everyone would become slaves to the businesses that run the world if Basu’s theory were carried out far enough.

In short, the situation goes back to what parents tell their children.  Perhaps money is the root of all evil.  With this in mind, one should ask his or herself why businesses need so much of it to provide people with goods and services that they are entitled to.  The answer to overseas business relations does not lie in bribery or any other unethical activity.  The answer lies in honest relations, open minds, and ethical decisions.

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Food: For Fuel or For Famished?

Who do farmers grow crops for?  Barely a century ago, this question would seem preposterous, but now with environmental advocates like Al Gore showing humanity the effects of their actions on the environment, society is moving away from the unnatural and harmful.  This has led the world to a crossroads.  With this call to preserve the earth and its wonders comes the need for countries to develop alternative sources of energy and fuel.  Many countries have begun utilizing the cassava root, corn, and other crops to meet these ends, but with adverse economic effects.  The cassava root is a mainstay in the diets of many Africans, while corn is found in almost literally every conceivable product in America, from diapers to batteries to cereal to plastics.  Since the number of crops devoted to simply feeding these people is being fractured with countries buying and selling these crops for the development of biofuels, prices of these crops are steadily rising, putting these essential foods out of the price ranges of the world’s impoverished.  Is this the route that society should be taking?  No, because what justifies starving millions just to have energy to run overly expensive vehicles?  What justifies dismantling economies just to claim to be more “green”?  Finally, what justifies the long-reaching ripple effect of these actions such as annexing land from subsistence farmers, destroying forests to make room for fields in which to grow crops for biofuels, and placing countries in the precarious position of having their economies run by one or very few crops?  Is saving the earth really worth destroying its denizens?

Before automatically dismissing this issue to a “save the earth” mentality, one should consider the economic effects growing crops exclusively for their use in biofuels has on participating countries.  Countries that divide their crops between feeding its citizens and exporting for the development for alternative fuels have to produce much more of the crop to compensate for the splinter caused by exporting the crop.  Since not every bit is being sold within the country, the prices for these crops are steadily rising.  This means that the countries’ impoverished cannot afford the cassava that their families desperately need or the corn to survive.  The country’s people should definitely come before the development of fuels.

Next, one needs to think about the ripple effect entailed with this trade-off.  Honestly, it is a snake consuming its own tail.  If the workers who harvest the crops cannot afford the food for their families, they will begin dying off, and if they begin dying off, eventually none will be able to harvest the crop needed for export and sustaining the country’s people.  By doing this the participating countries are placing themselves in a very precarious predicament.  Inevitably the choice will come down to either exporting their crops to bring in more money or not exporting as much to feed the citizens.  What for?  Why is this trade-off necessary?  Just to say that a country is more or less eco-friendly?  Is human life really this expendable?

The final thing to consider is whether or not the means by which countries are able to grow these extra crops for export are justified.  Many countries are annexing land from subsistence farmers and destroying forests – three cheers for irony! – just to be able grow the extra crops necessary to export for the development of biofuels.  Aside from these obvious injustices, much like the Confederacy during the Civil War, countries are being placed on a teetering economic playing field by having one crop supply all of the means of economic development.  However, these countries are in a much worse position, since humans had not and still have not gained the ability to eat cotton.  This precarious position always loses balance and results in economic collapse.  Then where would these countries be?

In short, as Rob Corddry said, “Ethanol is, in its purest form, just as much of a sham as oil.”  Behind the guise of progress and environmentally friendly energy, the development of this energy claims many more lives than heat strokes due to global warming.  Many countries need to be focusing more on feeding the hungry within them instead of splitting these crops with others trying to develop biofuels.  Hunger, and thus human life, is paramount.