Indeed, businesspeople and ethics specialists say, it's apparent that despite the 2002 scandals and legislation, little has changed in American business culture. Change appears slow in coming because lying and dishonesty simply have become a much more accepted part of business–and of American life. To fight this trend and to inculcate the idea that dishonesty is unacceptable, companies, business schools and corporate leaders will need to undertake massive, systemic reforms.
It should not be this way, and it doesn't have to. Business is not about ripping people off. It is not about lying or stealing or cheating, it is about providing value. Money is simply the measure of how well you do that. But when you chase the money, instead of the value proposition, bad things start to happen.
More broadly, many social scientists believe American culture has actually come to celebrate dishonesty, which encourages lying and cheating in business. During the 1990s and early 2000s, as business leaders were exalted, greed and satisfaction were touted as positive forces in society because they supposedly led to greater returns for businesses and, in public companies, for shareholders. In 1996, a poll by Harris Research Group reported that more than 60 percent of Americans believed Wall Street was "dominated by greed," yet in the same poll, over 70 percent said Wall Street generally benefits America. Also during this time, a culture of charismatic superstar CEOs developed, in which chief executives were lionized for supposedly growing bottom lines, even if they used questionable means to do so.
Outside corporate America, the trend is apparent as well. "Popular culture has, over the past 20 years, had this emerging trend where success is craved at all costs, and even people who do dishonest things to achieve that success are celebrated," says Batstone. Indeed, several ethics specialists say, as American society has become more wealth-oriented and more socially and economically competitive, antiheroes who deliver results but may play fast and loose with the truth have been celebrated.
This is so so so disgusting. It's like a sports game. If you need to take cheap shots when the ref isn't looking in order to win, then you didn't really win. If the only way you can stay in business is by lying, cheating, and manipulating your books, then you are a lousy capitalist and you will eventually get what is coming to you. Business schools need to step up and teach students more business philosophy. They need to know that they should play fair even when government regulators aren't looking, because otherwise earnings, stock price increases, or contract wins are meaningless. How can anyone be proud of their business accomplishments if they cheated?
***Last time I brought up this subject, Gabriel brought up a good point. I say cheating isn't real business or real capitalism, but the same thing can be said about any political or economic position. I could say the 9-11 hijackers weren't real Muslims, because real Muslims are peaceful. I could say the Crusades weren't undertaken by real Christians because real Christians are non-violent. I could say that communism only failed in the Soviet Union because the people there didn't practice real communism. I've thought a lot about this and I really don't have a good answer, so if any of you want to take a stab at it feel free. How do we know what is real capitalism? Maybe cheating is part of it. I disagree with that, but I have difficulty in grounding it in anything but my opinions.