Business Ethics: “Voluntary Guidelines are Insufficient”

The United States needs enforceable standards of ethical behavior when American companies work with authoritarian governments.

Enabling China, New York Times, July 24/25, 2011


» China: Authoritarian or Totalitarian, March 9, 2010


4 Comments to “Business Ethics: “Voluntary Guidelines are Insufficient””

  1. The US already has the foreign corrupt practices act, it is hard to see how more legislation would help in this area.


  2. Do you believe that it would be unfeasible, or rather undesirable?


  3. Unfeasible in a large extent, and there are countries in the world where US companies behave much worse than they do in China. To be fair, US companies actually behave fairly well.


  4. The NYT editorial is mostly about US companies in China, but sees a need for enforceable standards of ethical behavior when working with authoritarian governments in general.
    That seems to make sense to me, but depending on how many competitors US companies have in other areas, I believe that America should try to find agreement with other democratic countries before putting their own companies at a disadvantage. Feasibility would depend on political will, and to develop that will may be a long process. But I see more awareness now, than earlier this decade, and I’m hopeful that it will continue to grow.

    My concern goes beyond enabling police surveillance. Maybe this Gomory-Friedman spat of last year helps to illustrate that. Every country’s economy needs a certain mix of different sectors for sustainable development at home, comparative strengths within one of the sectors notwithstanding. When business decisions are strategic state decisions in China, it’s no great idea to leave politics out on the American or European side.

    I like the editorialist’s idea as it could still lead to a concept as feasible as the foreign corrupt practices act, and it could help to create awareness about the importance of certain policies when doing business with China. America itself needs policies of rebuilding their country, just as China does. So do European countries. We are all “developing” countries.


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