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Posted December 14, 2006

Book: The Power of Principles
Author: William J. Byron
Orbis Books, Maryknoll. NY. 2006. Pp. 235

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

What are the principles that can help corporations avoid the ethical quicksand that has pulled down Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, and others? Through concrete examples drawn from many levels of corporate life, Byron commends ten “old principles to the minds and consciences of those who are now or hope soon to be the decision-makers in the American business system.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Veracity is a foundation for integrity

A book worth reading is Sissela Bok’s Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, “Never to Lie?” is the title — note the question mark – of Chapter 3. The range of complexity associated with lying is signaled, however, by this sampling of other chapter titles: “Is the ‘Whole Truth’ Attainable?” White Lies,” “Lies in a Crisis,” “Lying to Liars,” “Lying to Enemies,” “Lies for the Public Good,” “Lies to the Sick and Dying.”

Without getting into dilemma ethics and questions best left to case studies for classroom debate and discussion, I will note three points that Bok touched upon that merit consideration by those hoping to keep their integrity and credibility on a high level in business: 1. There is a distinction that some find useful between intent to say what is false and intent to deceive, the former to be avoided, the latter permissible in certain circumstances. 2. In a situation where an innocent human life can be saved by a lie, not normally the case, of course, in business, “non-maleficence, or the avoidance of harm, would be th principle invoked, and most would hold that it overrides the principle of veracity in these cases [crisis situations where individual choice can avert an evil outcome]. Just as force would be justifiable as a means to prevent murder, so it would be right to achieve the same objective through deceit.” And 3. Bok ends her book with these two sentences: “Trust and integrity are precious resources, easily squandered, hard to regain. They can thrive only on a foundation of respect for veracity.”

Table of Contents:

1. Old ethical principles

2. The new corporate culture

3. Integrity

4. Veracity

5. Fairness (Justice)

6. Human dignity

7. Workplace participation

8. Commitment

9. Social responsibility

10. The common good

11. Delegation (subsidiarity)

12. Love

13. From one generation to another