Three Enforcement Strategies
Fostering ethical business practices is not a new concern. 1 Witness the injunctions in the Old Testament against stealing, lying, and bribery. And the Talmud warns that when a person gives an accounting for his life in front of "the heavenly court," the first question will be whether he conducted his business dealings in good faith. The need to set and obey rules for ethical business conduct is a root principle in the Judeo-Christian heritage that guides our Western culture.
In casting one's eye back over the centuries, it would be nice to be able to say that someone has invented some sort of measuring scale, graduated in units of honesty, that would permit us to measure the conduct of tradespeople of several millennia ago and the conduct of our contemporaries in the business world today. Then we could see whether we have made any progress or not.
I cannot pretend to have done that, but I can say that the struggle to ensure high standards of ethical business conduct is being waged today in a vastly more complex business and social environment than that faced by our counterparts in ancient times. In today's world, judgments about right and wrong are not simple.
One of the more insightful commentators on the ethical dilemmas of our times is Michael Josephson, director of the Josephson Institute for the Advancement of Ethics. Josephson finds a high degree of desire to behave ethically among businesspeople and other professionals in