Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Business People are Crooks!

Have you ever had a similar thought? Maybe the fundamental dishonesty of big business is part of your worldview. I'm not going to get into the debate about how well this view is, or is not, supported by the facts. All I'll do is indicate some of the causes and consequences of the idea that business people are dishonest.

Three principle sources of this idea suggest themselves. First, the news media tend to draw attention to real and alleged misbehavior by business people. Second, there is the individualistic, competitive culture we live in. Maybe, just maybe, this culture primes us to believe we are going to be taken advantage of by other people. Thirdly, we tend to have our reasoning colored by prominent, recent events. We tend to think of these situations when the topic of business conduct comes up in any form. (That's what psychologists call the availability heuristic.)

And why wouldn't business people take advantage of us, if they can? We have money and they have no particular reason to care about us, do they?

Next time I'll make a few remarks about the social consequences of this idea that business people are crooks. My conclusions may be a tad bit disturbing to most people.


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