Capitalism’s Moral Bastards

Recent revelations that many corporate executives have backdated their stock options, ensuring excessive compensation even when their companies perform poorly, are merely the latest in a stream of examples of bad business behavior. In an era of evaporated pensions and benefits for the rank and file, piggish pay packets for CEO’s have led a cynical public to wonder where big business has gone wrong.

The answer may be quite simple: too many bosses have abandoned basic human values and embraced the credo famously uttered by Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street : “Greed is good.”

But a growing body of research concludes that greed is not always good, and that moral values are a necessary element in the conduct of business. The Gordon Gekkos are predators who take the quick payoff. Although they do serve a useful purpose by keeping other players on their toes and raising efficiency through competition, market participants for the most part avoid them, preferring to do business with the Warren Buffetts – hard-driving businessmen, but known for fair play and creating long-term value.

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