Western Washington University Western Washington University

Professional Skills
Introduction to Professional Management
Summer 2008

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Discussion Questions:

1) If it is to be said of someone that they are responsible for an action they have taken, what needs to be true? How does this relate to the question of whether or not corporations can appropriately be said to have responsibilities?

2) Carroll's article suggests that the 'base of the pyramid' for corporate social responsibility is economic, followed by legal, ethical, and philanthropic. What defense might be offered for this point of view? Is this the correct way to conceptualize corporate social responsibility?

3) Soros argues in part that "facts do not necessarily constitute reliable criteria for judging the truth of statements." If facts cannot accomplish this, what can?

4) Soros further argues...

The main scientific underpinning of the laissez-faire ideology is the theory that free and competitive markets bring supply and demand into equilibrium and thereby ensure the best allocation of resources. This is widely accepted as an eternal verity, and in a sense it is one. Economic theory is an axiomatic system: as long as the basic assumptions hold, the conclusions follow. But when we examine the assumptions closely, we find that they do not apply to the real world.

What are the assumptions to which Soros is referring? If these are inaccurate, how can the market be 'corrected'?

5) Distinguish the concepts of legal, social, and ethical responsibility. Which are appropriately applied to corporations, and which are not?


6) We know that—all that. It’s not us, it’s the bank. A bank isn’t like a man. Or an owner with fifty thousand acres, he isn’t like a man either. That’s the monster…

We’re sorry. It’s not us. It’s the monster. The bank isn’t like a man….

Yes, but the bank is only made of men….

No, you’re wrong there—quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it. The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It’s the monster. Men made it, but they can’t control it.

Is the bank something more than men? If so, what does this imply about the personal responsibility of those who manage the bank?

7) The man sitting in the iron seat did not look like a man; gloved, goggled, rubber dust mask over nose and mouth, he was a part of the monster, a robot in the seat…He sat in an iron seat and stepped on iron pedals.

What are the managerial and ethical implications of portraying the tractor driver as a robot?

8) "Three dollars a day. I got damn sick of creeping for my dinner—and not getting it. I got a wife and kids. We got to eat. Three dollars a day, and it comes every day."

"That's right," the tenant said. "But for your three dollars a day fifteen or twenty families can't eat at all. Nearly a hundred people have to go out and wander on the roads for your three dollars a day. Is that right?"

And the driver said, "Can’t think of that. Got to think of my own kids…

Does the quest for greater efficiency justifiably override consideration of the welfare of those who are displaced in the drive for efficiency? Is the tractor driver correct in his assessment that he has no cause to worry about anyone else’s kids?

9) "I built it with my hands. Straightened old nails to put the sheathing on. Rafters are wired to the stringers with baling wire. It's mine. I built it. You bump it down—I'll be in the window with a rifle. You even come too close and I'll pot you like a rabbit."

"It's not me. There's nothing I can do. I'II lose my job if I don't do it. And look—suppose you kill me? They'll just hang you, but long before you're hung there'll be another guy on the tractor, and he'll bump the house down. You're not killing the right guy."

"That's so," the tenant said. “Who gave you orders? I'll go after him. He's the one to kill."

“You're wrong. He got his orders from the bank. The bank told him, 'Clear those people out or it's your job.' "

"Well, there's a president of the bank. There's a board of directors. I'll fill up the magazine of the rifle and go into the bank."

The driver said, "Fellow was telling me the bank gets orders from the East. The orders were, 'Make the land show profit or we'll close you up.' "

“But where does it stop? Who can we shoot? I don't aim to starve to death before I kill the man that's starving me."

Who can we shoot?

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