Our cheatin' ways

Coincidentally, Sunday’s Post-Dispatch had an article on cheating by business-school students that also quotes David Callahan, the author of The Cheating Culture, which I talked about in my platform.  This article discusses a new survey that reveals that business students cheat even more than other students, which does not bode well for the future of business ethics.

I’m currently reading Arthur Dobrin’s new book, Good for Business: Ethics in the Marketplace.  Felix Adler talked a lot about vocational ethics when he first founded Ethical Culture.  Adler saw our vocations as the primary way we realize (or don’t) our ethical ideals in the world.  I had hoped that younger people had learned from the ethical failings of business in the past couple decades, but it seems that primarily what they’ve learned is that everyone cheats, and most don’t get caught, so why not do it?  More regulation is needed, and many hope that enlightened self-interest will eventually convince folks that being unethical is just bad business, but I think the only thing that will truly turn around the trends in business ethics is a cultural shift away from using wealth as the primarily measure of a successful life.  Happiness studies show that it’s true we can’t buy happiness, but most of us still believe that we can–or we don’t know any better way to get it.