MANY, THOUGH NOT ALL, OF THE IBTE CONVERSATIONS in Ethix over the past four years have been with corporate insiders and leaders. We have found these subjects to be remarkably candid and self-critical, for the most part. We have never hesitated to ask hard questions or felt any pressure from these people not to do so.
In this issue of Ethix, however, our conversation is with someone who has deliberately stepped outside the corporate (and academic) establishment and is making a career of criticizing the corporation as a retrograde institution and the global economy as an enemy of human health and progress — and searching for positive, constructive alternatives. His background at Stanford and Harvard, his years of work in economic development projects, his books and articles, and his standing as an intellectual leader in the anti-corporate, anti-globalization movements, all convinced us that we should hear his arguments and bring his voice to the IBTE discussion table.
It will not surprise you that one of us (David Gill) emerged critically appreciative and generally positive about Korten’s arguments while the other (Al Erisman) found them substantially wanting despite raising some important issues. You can decide for yourself, of course.
Gary Nielsen’s letter in this issue, questioning Don Valentine’s opinions in the Ethix 23 conversation, provides a good occasion to remind you that Ethix is not a propaganda piece, carefully edited to convey a single, orthodox line of thought. Our interviewees always are given the chance to speak their minds as they wish. We have our own convictions, of course, and we present them in our columns and other materials. But we believe that it is important to have a broad-based conversation, as inclusive as possible within our missional rubric of promoting “good business through appropriate technology and sound ethics.”
“TRUST” IS DESERVEDLY A FRONT-BURNER TOPIC TODAY. Al’s “Technology Watch” discusses the importance of trust if knowledge is to be shared within organizations. David’s “Benchmark Ethics” argued “No Integrity, No Trust; No Trust, No Business” a few issues back. John Reed, Roz Picard, Anne Taylor and other IBTE friends voice their views in this issue’s Forum on how business can recover trust after Enron (and the other scandals). David Gautschi, formerly business school professor at the University of Washington, now working with Deloitte and Touche, provides an essay on “Trust in Exchange” — showing how the father of free market economics, Adam Smith, envisioned trust as the essential “institution” undergirding free enterprise.
We have been hard at work these past few months developing our IBTE “Business Ethics for Business Excellence” consulting program. David’s “Benchmark Ethics” this issue highlights five of our foci; we will provide a more detailed introduction in our next issue of Ethix. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact us if you are ready to think about a program to fire up your company about high performance with high ethics.
Do something this month to help us build the movement for good business, appropriate technology, and sound ethics: give a gift subscription to Ethix, send a Forum response or a letter to Ethix, put ethics on the agenda at your company. Let’s not let the nay-sayers and pessimists win by default. Who was it who said so truly, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing”?