Saturday, August 27, 2005

King Crimson, ethical companies, and Lyndon Johnson

Surfing the web, following an arc of hyperlinks about King Crimson and Robert Fripp, I find this on (under "Business Aims").

"May we trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse.

DGM is a business structure & vehicle for the projects of Robert Fripp, David Singleton & The Vicar, trading under precepts of the ethical company. These projects include King Crimson, the ProjeKcts, Soundscapes, Ton Prob & The Vicar Chronicles.

The Ethical Company

Recognisable features of the ethical company, in the literature and discussion of business ethics, involve these attributes:
transparency, straightforwardness, accountability, owning-up, honesty, fairness, common decency, distributive justice.
Recognisable features of a company whose base is ethically challenged are these:
dissembling, use of threats, unkindness to employees, a widespread use of gagging orders, an inequitable distribution of company income.

An ethical company! Imagine!

Is there some size after which a company cannot help but strain to remain ethical? When the decision makers are far removed from those affected by the decisions, do ethics lapse? Is there some size after which it's impossible to consider input from all who contribute to the revenue of the company? Is it more likely that companies in the 21st century will be directed by someone like Robert Fripp or someone like Ken Lay, or even worse, someone like Dennis Kozlowski?

Will the answer to that question depend on the level of government oversight of business?

I recently finished a fascinating book entitled Judgment Days : Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Laws That Changed America by Nick Kotz. Johnson spent his political capital pushing landmark civil rights legislation, collaborating with King to marshal support for it. A bipartisan coalition of liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans formed to get the 1964 Civil Rights bill, 1965 Voting Rights bill, and 1968 Open Housing bill through both houses of Congress. Imagine! A president spending political capital to help his least powerful, poorest constituents! Forcing businesses to behave ethically - opening their doors to blacks!

Sigh. Will we ever see such a president, such a congress, again in our lifetimes? Of course, I wax admiringly with the benefit of hindsight and the buzz you get from a good book. At the time Johnson was president, I could only see that he was getting us ensnared into an unjustified quagmire in Vietnam. That he refused to level with the country about the futility of that war.

Not too many folks read history these days.

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