“People always think they’re behaving ethically, even when they’re being hauled off in handcuffs,’ said Democrat editorial page editor-turned-Leon County Commission candidate Mary Ann Lindley at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s community conversation on ethics last week, co-sponsored by The Village Square and the Collins Center.
Paid professional ethicists, students, political people and garden variety taxpayers gathered at the Challenger Learning Center to consider the effects of ethics — or lack of ethics – on the economy.
If Sydney Greenstreet in Casablanca had Power Point and an IMAX theater screen, he’d have given Florida Chamber Foundation President Dale Brill’s lecture. “There’s a role for corruption in the marketplace,” said Brill as he scrolled through a series of slides that proved it.
Far from endorsing bribery, Brill was merely restating recurring themes of human behavior familiar to readers of the Bible and viewers of cable news. If Greenstreet was central casting’s version of the tribal elder in every community who knows which people are for sale, and at what price, Brill is the avatar of 21st century professionals who make the business case for ethical behavior.
There are more of them than you think.
The Ten Commandments were good enough for God and for a long time, the Twitter version—do unto others—sufficed for the rest of us. But these days, America alone has 130 academic “ethics centers” with more on the way. In addition, there’s a small army of private consultants like Jonathan Low, who joined Brill in making the case that “it makes for a bad economy when “your customers, suppliers, lenders and investors don’t trust you.”
Low’s company, Predictiv Consulting, serves clients all over the world but his home is in Palm Beach County, which earned the name “Corruption County” as a parade of city and county officials were perp-walked out of their offices and into prisons in recent years.
Whether you’re talking about communities or corporations, believe Low when he says that much of its reputation resides with the folks at the top. If you’re looking for a sustainable business, or political career, there had better be no air between what you’re doing, and what you say you’re doing.
Florence Snyder is a corporate and First Amendment lawyer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: George Bannister