Beyond Business Ethics: An Agenda for the Trustworthy Teachers and Practitioners of Business

Journal of Business Ethics 119 (2):151-172 (2014)
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Societies need markets, so just as trustworthy professionals are needed in fields such as healthcare, law and education, modern societies need trustworthy market managers, including corporate officers and directors. But in its screening of candidates, U.S. corporate business has lagged behind fields such as medicine and law, which in the nineteenth century addressed their need for screening by upgrading professional education and establishing licensing of individual practitioners. Corporate business, by contrast, has been too tolerant of problematic executives, particularly executives of a type shown by recent research in psychology to exhibit a set of personality traits including below average concern about bad effects of their actions on other people. Over-representation of this problematic type has cost corporate business the trust and respect it could earn by resting fully on a time-honored alternative foundation already espoused by many trustworthy teachers and practitioners of business. Society needs these trustworthy people of business to work together to establish screening of candidates for high level corporate positions by upgrading MBA education and establishing licensing for these positions. For reasons again based on current findings in psychology, screening candidates for the MBA could be significantly strengthened by requiring historical studies, particularly history of the corporate legal structure in the U.S. and history of the MBA itself. Upgrading the MBA and establishing correlated licensing could open the way toward corrections in the legal form of the corporation to bring it into line with hospitals, law courts and universities as places where responsible professionals pursue their callings on behalf of society

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Author's Profile

Ann Congleton
Wellesley College