Monday, June 2, 2008

Walter Lippmann on Business Ethics

"The preparation of characters for all the situations in which men may find themselves is one function of a moral education. Clearly, then, it depends for its success upon the sincerity and knowledge with which the environment has been explored. For in a world falsely conceived, our own characters are falsely conceived, and we misbehave. So the moralist must choose: either he must offer a pattern of conduct for every phase of life, however distasteful some of its phases may be, or he must guarantee that his pupils will never be confronted by the situations he disapproves. Either he must abolish war, or teach people how to wage it with the greatest psychic economy; either he must abolish the economic life of man and feed him with stardust and dew, or he must investigage all the perplexities of economic life and offer patterns of conduct which are applicable in a world where no man is self-supporting. But that is just what the prevailing moral culture so generally refuses to do. In its best aspects it is diffident at the awful complications of the modern world. In its worst, it is just cowardly. Now whether the moralists study the economics and politics and psychology, or whether the social scientists educate the moralists is no great matter. Each generation will go unprepared into the modern world unless it has been taught to conceive the kind of personality it will have to be among the issues it will most likely meet."

---Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, 1921, pp. 169-70.

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