Should businesses make decisions on moral grounds?
The story might seem a bit ho-hum at first: a bank decides not to lend to businesses it deems unethical.
But hold on. How do you interpret the actions of a big bank not lending to certain businesses? -Is it smart business? -Discriminatory? -Their right?
This story slides down the razor’s edge of opposing ideologies. What I mean is that one can easily look at it a few different ways. As such, it’s a great exercise in better understanding—even empathizing—with where people you disagree with come from.
Plus, this story comes from Minnesota’s own Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, and is about Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank.
Let’s dice things up.
The article explains that CEO, Richard Davis has led a policy of foregoing business to entities they deem as unethical.
Such businesses include: illegal gun makers and gun sellers, gambling websites, massage parlors and spas where sexual activity is permitted, drug paraphernalia-related companies, adult bookstores, and adult entertainment operations. Citing a “what kind of world do you want your kids to be brought up in?” kind of thinking, Davis defends his position as beneficial for the long-term, though it costs them money right away. How do you interpret this? Additionally, how do we think others might? This is where the story gets interesting:
- Social conservatives might see this man as doing the morally right thing: foregoing immediate profits for the sake of denying companies who partake in vice.
- Liberally-minded folk might see a stodgy conservative holding his views at the expense of others, interfering with a small business’s right to exist just because they are doing, what in his mind is, “wrong”. It’s an example of big business pushing their weight around, and we should watch this (or perhaps even enforce otherwise) as he shouldn’t be able to discriminate in such manner.
- Right-leaners would combat such an intrusion from #2. Claiming their own ideological stance of private property rights, they’d defend a business’s right to do with their money as they choose.
- Libertarians would agree with #3, but might add to it that where there’s a market, there’s a need. Thus, though you might find the activity unbecoming of you, it doesn’t mean you should deny this market its lifeblood.
- Coming full circle, and in an age when big banks are getting a bad rap for being fat cats without conscience, a Left-leaner might also see this stance as admirable. It’s a rare instance where big business is putting people before profits. (Just don’t get too zealous or we’ll slip into #2.)
With the “people before profits” ideology and the social conservatives, this story could produce some interesting bedfellows. It’s interesting to notice this and to recognize how folks with differing viewpoints might react because from this we can see where ideologies overlap, where people’s hearts are, and where they come from.
In all, it helps us understand each other a little better.
This was previously published on New Plateaus.
Read more in Ethics & Values.
Image credit: kevin dooley/Flickr