Ulf D. Posé
Saturday January 3rd, 2015

Post by Ulf Posé on MINIMUM WAGES!

Hello and a good day to you all!

I also wish you a happy new year. On top of this, I would like to send you my ideas on the minimum wages. After all, the regulations regarding same have become active yesterday. This article is also available on Politik-Poker. Why don’t you take a look at the website anyway? You might find some things worth reading.

ULF D. POSÉ | 02.01.2015

At long last, we now have it: the minimum wages legislation!

I am sure that the occasional Sylvester rocket was launched to celebrate the minimum wages legislation. At long last, millions of persons can now afford to buy the necessities of life without federal subsidies.

At long last, the exploitation has come to an end. But is that really true? Are minimum wages really fair and do they actually make sense?

It is certainly a good idea to think about income minimums. But then, thinking about them should eventually result in a responsible judgement. There are two questions you need to ask:

1. What is the purpose of a minimum wage, and will the legislation actually help?
2. Can we all afford to pay minimum wages?

Well, the purpose of a minimum wage is that people can live without needing federal subsidies. This is not possible with the minimum wage set to 8.50 € by federal law. Not for singles, and definitely not for families with only one breadwinner.

As early as 2004, the border value for a minimum wage you would need was 1,704 Euros before taxes per month. That equals an hourly rate of 9.78 Euros. Even at the time, there were 44,000 regularly employed persons who earned more than that and still had to rely in extra support by the state. The independent “Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB)” formulated in 2005 in rather clear words: “Depending on the household context, we (might) still have to talk indigence, even if someone earns more than 7.50 Euros per hour”.

Consequently, the goal to make it possible for everyone to earn a living without state support has not been reached. That remains true for a minimum wage set to 8.50 €. And it also concerns far fewer persons than is always said.

In the past, it has been postulated – primarily by the unions – that around two million persons need Hartz IV money, regardless of having work. That would be almost one out of twenty.

According to a study by the independent Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (IAB) in the year 2005, that is indeed the number of adults who get additional money from the state. But among those were masses of persons who only held 400-Euro-Jobs. Of those who really worked full-time, only 495,000 persons received Hartz-IV money.

In April 2006, the number was around 473,000 and in 2007 it was 526,000. That is still an enormous amount. But then, among those 495,000 full-time employees who needed to add Hartz IV money to their income, there were only 14,000 singles who could not live on their full-time jobs. That is 0.035 per cent, rather than 5 percent – which would have equalled 2.1 million persons if one had believed the unions. This is how you manipulate people when they make up their minds.

Consequently, what counts if you are talking federal support is the marital status. If someone has a partner who earns no money, and if, on top of this, he has two children, then he cannot feed the family with a wage of 8.50 Euros per hour. Not mentioning this in the public debate is probably making the people look stupid. It is definitely dishonest.

Now, politics introduced the minimum wages for all areas starting with January, 1st, 2015. Yet if I look at how public projects are assigned to companies, then I see that the cheapest one gets the deal. This alone is sufficient to make you wonder. How the authorities lie!! Moreover, a legally fixed minimum wage unfortunately supports the Marxist idea that achievement should be honoured regardless of its usefulness/uselessness. This might be understandable as a humane concept, but at the same time it distorts the concept of what is truly the underlying idea of earnings.

The next step is to answer the question if people can afford to pay a minimum wage. If you determine minimum wages that an enterprise cannot pay because their sales situation does not yield the necessary return, you will only promote illicit employment and fake self-employment.
If work is not desired because it is too expensive for the entrepreneur, then it will disappear from the market – and the entrepreneur along with it. This might be a bitter truth, but it follows a very simply economic logic. Income is created through supply and demand on the workforce market, along with the added value achieved by the work.

If the wages are higher than the added value, then it can no longer be financed: the demand dies. As soon as an entrepreneur is forced to pay wages he cannot earn by fulfilling his orders, the enterprise will have to close down – or else the state will have to support it. We experienced this over and over again when, after the East-West unification contracts, equal (or almost equal) payment was made obligatory in East and West Germany. Eventually, we had some areas with almost 40 per cent unemployment.

Just take the example of temporary employment. A temporarily employed person who has been leased to a car manufacturer in the metal/electronics-industry will get the high metal/electronics industry wage for putting products onto shelves. If, a week later, he does virtually the same thing, but instead of putting buffers for the metal/electronics industry onto shelves, he now puts water bottles onto shelves for a retailer, he will get less money – for the same job.

Wages are all sorts of things, but they are certainly never fair.

The immediate outcry is that this is not fair. Unfortunately, according to Ulpian, justice is the wish to let all people be treated fairly. But the truth is that wages can never be fair. Nor will they ever be fair. They are based on what is appropriate, not on what is fair.
Whether a wage is appropriate depends on the demand and the added value. Consequently, the added value of putting water bottles onto a shelf can be considerably lower than that of putting buffers onto a shelf.

Just like fairness is never a basis for wages, the same is true for achievement. If it were otherwise, then putting buffers onto a shelf would have to be considered the same achievement as putting water bottles onto a shelf.

The achievement principle is Marxism in its purest form.

Performance-linked payment is not an invention of capitalism. In fact, it has been invented by Karl Marx, who used it as a polemic argument against the market-value-utilization-value principle as propagated by capitalism. Unfortunately, we seem to have forgotten about this.

Performance-linked payment ignores that the usefulness of work is its determining factor when it comes to wages. If performance were the determining factor, then a managing director who does 100 per cent of what he is supposed to do would get less than a skilled labourer who does 130 per cent of what he is supposed to do.

I believe that in this ideological dispute, many persons follow Bernhard Shaw, who once said: “Some people are only prepared to die for things they really cannot understand”.
Minimum wages – so what about the self-employed?

If you wanted to be strict, a minimum wages law would also have to include a law that enforces that certain products must be bought, where the price is also regulated. Introducing a minimum wage would have to make it obligatory for all customers to pay a suitable price. No economist would ever consent to such a drastic Marxist measure. At the same time, the example makes quite clear what a grotesque discussion we are into.

When talking minimum wages, we totally ignore a huge part of the work force: the entrepreneurs and self-employed. We in Germany have 100,000 self-employed persons whose income is below the legal seizure exception limit. All of them are extremely hard workers.

They work an average of 59 weekly hours and they have extremely little vacation time: around 15 days each year. There are around 600,000 self-employed persons who earn less than 7.00 Euros per hour. On top of those, we have 213,000 freelancers who learn less than five Euros per hour. And those ‘rich‘ entrepreneurs are supposed to be paid the 8.50-Euro minimum wage in the future? Well, it seems that politics have no problem with self-exploitation!

In the debate about minimum wages, the political care for freelancers is totally forgotten. Why do we want to deny employers and self-employed persons something that is considered fair for wage earners?

I presume that our politicians do not wish to admit that they consider self-employed persons as second class citizens who need no support. Perhaps it is also a little unfair to constantly put pressure on our politicians. They have to meet the demands of the current lobbyists at all times.
And still it might be worth consideration from an ethical point of view if full-time work that does not enable the worker to meet his needs at the level of social welfare payments might not be humane after all – as even the social court of Berlin decided.

Is the minimum wage a job killer?

And there is something else you want to remember. Even if the purpose of the minimum wages, namely that you can feed your family, cannot be achieved; telling people that the minimum wages will always and exclusively kill jobs is not absolutely true, either. All over Europe, the experiences they made with minimum wages are as diverse as the amount of said minimum wages. Eighteen out of 25 EU members introduced minimum wages a long time ago, among them are England, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Ireland.

Even in the United States, we have a minimum wage per hour. So you can see that, by now, we stood rather isolated. So far, the increase of unemployment everybody feared caused by introducing the minimum wages has not yet happened in countries where they have it. This can be proved empirically. At least that is the argument of the politicians and unionists. Unfortunately, however, pointing out how the minimum wages function in other countries as a good example is also accompanied by several information deficits.

For instance, in the US, the minimum wages are not a tool for fighting poverty. The income is increased through a negative income tax. Until the end of 2014, the minimum wages in the USA were 7.25 USD. From January, 1st, 2015, it is 10.10 USD (which equals 7.48 €). But will that be enough without federal support? In 2012, families with two or more children received a maximum extra amount of money to the tune of 4,716 USD (3,218 €) in the United States. The Brits gave their poor earners up to 1,730 British Pounds per person (2,342 Euros).

These additional support sums are actually in the same spirit as the one that underlies the Hartz-IV regulations. In other countries, too, the minimum wage system does not automatically make it possible for a family in the United States or Great Britain to be able to live on one income.

At the same time, the amount of the minimum wage is a determining factor. Years ago, the OECD found out that minimum wages can only marginally influence the poverty line. Among young persons, unemployment rather increased through the introduction of minimum wages. The OECD took a closer look at the consequences of minimum wages in nine countries and concluded that the minimum wage had a negative effect on the job situation in 24 cases. In 15 cases, there was either no effect or sometimes a positive effect.

Then the “Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung (SVR)” investigated minimum wages. The result is truly interesting. If less than two per cent of the employees were affected with the minimum wage (like in the USA and Great Britain), there were “usually no or only small negative effects on the job situation. Sometimes there were even positive effects”. But here is the clinch: in France, the situation is totally different. There, the minimum wage is so high (9.53 €) that 15.6 per cent of the employees are affected. The consequence: increase unemployment among women and young persons.

In the eyes of the SVR, France is a good model of comparison for Germany. So maybe we should start being afraid, because the SVR also said that the increase in unemployment was rather drastic after they increased the minimum wages. A survey by Laroque and Salanié points in the same direction. If the minimum wages are increased drastically, you get more unemployment, if you increase them moderately, that is not likely to happen.

Mind you, the minimum wages can also be a defence instrument against competition. Just think of the Post AG. They got rid of their most important competition for letter delivery through introducing the minimum wage. For good reasons, the Post AG was in favour of the minimum wage. In the Netherlands, the Post AG is a rather small service provider. And their opposition to the minimum wages was rather vehement.

In Germany, however, there is another sad factor: our love of regulations. So far, nobody can really say to what extent the extra bureaucracy of documentation will be a burden for the enterprises.
And yet: even if you take all these factors into consideration, you should not make it too easy for the enterprises. An enterprise that cannot pay wages above the amount paid according to the Social Welfare Legislation either suffers from poor market circumstances, or else it will have to ask itself if mistakes were made in management.

The market and the competition decide about the final profit an enterprise can distribute. If an enterprise cannot pay its employees sufficiently, then it is either operating in the wrong market segment or offering the wrong products or producing at the wrong place, or else it has made wrong decisions. A good example from the past is Schlecker. The crises cannot be the reasons why the employees are financially ruined by the management.


Ulf D. Posé
Friday November 8th, 2013

Babbling and Language

How our way of talking about things developed.

We live in times of irresponsible babbling. As a consequence, we prostitute ourselves totally shamelessly, wasting our cerebral cortex. It is particularly obvious if you look at famous persons. And we like listening to them, because the linguistic sub-standard these famous persons display gives us a feeling of superiority without having to prove that we actually are superior.

We live in a remarkable era. We no longer distinguish between linguistic symbols and mental symbols. Consequently, we no longer fill our linguistic units with mental symbols, but with emotions.  In return, we no longer have to take any pains: instead of quality, we get sentimentalism. We no longer painfully try to find the right term as Adorno told us to. We pretend to have enjoyed a good education, but in reality, we are no longer wise or intelligent. A person is intelligent if he or she is capable of concentrating, of identifying rules and of setting priorities. Consequently, there are actually people who have enjoyed a very good education, but still they are rather stupid in terms of intelligence.

This means that intellectual honesty is currently taking a rather prolonged bath, a pronounced time-out. It is something we must not allow to continue. After all, we do have responsibility, don’t we? So let us look for answers. And let us find them.

Here is what we need to take into consideration:

  • Language can heal.
  • However, language can also disturb and destroy relationships.
  • Language can kill.

You have to be aware of this. And you should never feel saturated when having eaten from the tree of insight! Unfortunately, however, I sometimes get the impression that the tree if insight seems to have withered.

Language can be a very powerful thing. Five words suffice for moving the world:

  • En arche en ho logos (In the beginning, there was the word).
  • Ceterum censeo carthaginem esse delendam.
  • Nevertheless, it does move.
  • Unite, proletarians of all nations.
  • Do you want total war?
  • Nobody wants to build a wall.
  • I give you my word of honour

Language can kill. It can ruin your dignity, especially if what you judge is the people, instead of what they did. And if you functionalize humans.  If they are no longer the final destination of what we do, but a means to an end. However, it seems that, for some, dignity is only a verb in the subjunctive form.

An ethical misunderstanding

Many persons, in particular professional speakers, also known as key-note-speakers, live according to the motto: what good will wisdom do if you cannot present it wisely? You just have to say it in the right way!

Well, this might be an ethical misunderstanding.

Why not look at the core of language together? Because if you want to understand the core of something, you need to stop just poaching the periphery.

Isn’t it surprising how inaccurate our language has become? We use the same vocabulary, but hardly ever mean the concept on which these words are based. We have become linguistically incompetent to a high degree. Basically, this is easy to explain. We live in a world of languages. But not right from our birth. First, we grow up in a world of concepts, in a world where, as toddlers, we often do not know the exactly fitting words for many notions. When we are small children, we hear many words, but we do not yet know their meaning.

When a human is born, he or she cannot yet speak. But from the very moment of entering the world, they are surrounded by notions. They know exactly what a pacifier is. The only thing they do not know is how it is called. Small children learn notions very quickly, they know exactly what the essence of an object is. They know without words. Slowly, they will then later develop language, which enables them to give a name to a concept. Now they can express what they have known for a long time. Why are parents surprised if the linguistic ability of their children explodes, usually with their second year of life. Mind you: this is not witchcraft. Some of the concepts have been learned by the children a long time ago. All that was missing were the corresponding words..

Initially, children grow up with mental concepts. They only learn the linguistic symbols around the middle of their second year. Why do I point this out? There is a simple reason: during our lives, we learn so many words from the world of linguistic symbols that many persons no longer care to actually distinguish between the corresponding concepts and the mental world. Consequently, we are happy to use words the content and meaning of which is no longer clear to us. We no longer compare them with the content of these mental symbols.

Since we lost the mental concepts regardless of still knowing the words, many people seek a substitute for said mental concept. Since humans are very creative, they will soon find what they have been looking for. Instead of mental concepts, humans use their emotions as a full surrogate.

More and more often, words are filled up with emotions. Consequently, humans swim on an ocean of emotions as soon as they say anything. The more this happens, the less they will actually be interested in the actual meaning of the word.

The consequence is almost tragic, or at best comical. We no longer know what words mean, but still we use them in order to justify what we do. Why do we do this? Because it is convenient. It is a lot less strenuous talking about emotions than taking all the pain of analysing what lies behind a concept, what actually is the meaning of a word or what is its underlying concept. Such intellectual honesty is not very comfortable.

So what we actually need to do is become small children and learn to fill words with their semantically correct content, giving them meaning.

Unfortunately, however, fewer and fewer people are interested in concepts, let alone intellectual competence. They rely on their emotions, following the motto: “Why would I accumulate knowledge, since I already made up my mind, anyway”. Consequently, they talk opinions without the substance those opinions should be based on and try persuading people. This is how they infect other persons with opinions that can hardly stand up to a critical test: words free of content will become convictions, and as soon as many persons share these convictions, we conclude that they must be correct. We no longer examine them – which means that the significance of an argument, too, will be lost.

If you have ever studied philosophy, you will soon have heard that this science basically is about two questions:

  • Question Number One: Why is that so?
  • Question Number Two: How do you know this?


If you are an honest person, you know that all those who strive after competence in knowledge will be able to answer to these two questions.
Consequently, what we are talking here is linguistic competence. It is the basis for decision competence – and it means:

  • Before you make up your mind, inform yourself about the facts.
  • Ask yourself if you can actually give the definition of a word.
  • Ask yourself if all you have is a feeling or if you actually know something about the situation itself.
  • Only comment on things where you know and understand the meaning of the word.
  • Ask back if there is something you do not know or understand.
  • Be delighted if someone wants to know how you mean something or what exactly is your idea of something.


Babbling and stupid talk

Why don’t we just shut up when all has been said? Some people suffer from Logorrhoe (talking diarrhoea). One millilitre of insight is embedded in one ton of words.

Isn’t it both amazing and embarrassing that, today, important and central words of our society are used exclusively for transporting emotions? This means thinking dies, assisted by the flowery phrase.

By now, thinking has come to drown in the language.

In other words: instead of thinking, you just talk. It is important for all kinds of communication in partnerships, in enterprises, and in politics to be aware of the fact that we, today, live in a world filled with flowery phrases with which emotions are transported between places, without any semantics (meaning) or responsible symbols of thought underlying this process. .

The culture of thinking is a pre-requisite for all forms of culture

Even Aristotle recommended to divide humans into two categories: honest ones and dishonest ones. For him, the honest person was the one who actually still knew what he was talking about.  This meant that the honest person talked about the things themselves, not just about emotions he felt when thinking of something. An honest person will first tell you the nature of something, before bathing in emotions. An honest person will distinguish between knowledge and opinions.

An honest person can tell you the characteristics of a matter and its semantic content. For the ancient Greeks, it was important to first clarify what they were talking about, before they came up with a decision. The means to this end was the definition. It helps to describe the use of something in such a way that the person who understands the description will be able to tell you what it is.

As late as Adorno, we were told about the hardship of words. I am sure he had realized that we have to accept said hardship if we want to treat the socially important words with responsibility. In a pleasure society, it seems that more than a few people just consider such extra hardship a nuisance. But, mind you, it is a necessary condition if we want to come up with decisions in our society in the fields of business, politics and culture which might actually enable us to solve a problem in an appropriate and professional way.

Why are we living with this state of affairs? When George Edward Moore developed his emotivism in ethics in 1903, we had definitely arrived in the era where ethics was dominated by appetite. Since Moore, it is ethically correct and good if people feel nice when doing what they do. Quite a number of people find it sufficient, instead of asking if what they do is actually good. This emotional mush is hugely responsible for the dishonesty in our language and behaviour.

The second aspect is the affinity towards an ethics of attitude. As soon as an attitude is honest, many people no longer ask if said attitude is coupled with the corresponding behavioural competence. This is how we get an unspeakable pairing of good conscience and incompetence: I am causing misery and even feel well doing so. And to top it, we also created a shock culture that soothes our conscience. It seems to make more sense to us to take part in candle processions than to actually do something. Some people are more moved by the misery in Africa than the misery next door. This is how we suffer from love of the farthest; the love of the neighbour has dwindled. To me, it seems like these are the basic, general characteristics of a new dishonesty.

What fell victim to all these developments is the meaning of the socially important words. Be it democracy, social justice, achievement principle, freedom: all these terms trigger emotions which actually are not covered by the understanding of the meaning of these words. Thus, the most important words in our society are no longer analysed with respect to their semantic meaning, but their emotional meaning. The consequences are semantic crimes and incompetent behaviour – and hardly anybody notices. Let me illustrate this with some examples of our society.

Politicians talk freedom, yet they take away our freedom by seeing to it that the country takes more and more responsibility for our welfare. The fact that this makes our country bankrupt apparently is nobody’s concern. Mind you, I used to believe freedom means you can live your life self-determinedly, rather than being made to do things by those who take the responsibility for your life.

Thus, politicians delight in minimizing our freedom, and they restrict us with ideas such as a vegetarian Thursday, the abolishment of firsts-class compartments in trains, a strict non-smoking policy, etc.

Politicians and unions demand social justice yet they ignore that justice is the strong wish to let everybody practice their own rights. You no longer notice that the adjective “social” counteracts precisely this strong wish. Consequently, what we get is “social whispering”, instead of social justice.

The Nobel Prize Winner for Business, Professor A.F. Hayek, called adjectives such as »social« weasel-words. Their characteristic is that they undermine a term and give it a new meaning which actually no longer has anything in common with the corresponding noun.

And here is a last comment on the semantic meaning of social justice. To this day, nobody succeeded in giving a definition for social justice that is both accepted by everyone and correct. Everybody uses it very emotionally for his or her own purpose, forgetting that social justice was originally something the ancient Greeks invented. Its purpose was to fight envy. At the time, the attempt was a failure, the application of the method was terminated.

I see similarities between the usage of the words social justice and democracy. We consider democracy the best of all possible governmental concepts, yet we deny that the very word “Democracy”, as invented by the Ancient Greeks, contains a strong reign of the ’Demos’, which were the upper classes. In fact, it was exclusively invented as a form of government that was meant to bridge the gap between one governmental system and the next. The Ancient Greeks believed the people should never be permitted to reign longer than absolutely necessary. Simultaneously, we today mentally unite the ideas of democracy and liberalism.

In doing so, we totally forget that democracy and liberalism are actually two opposite sides of a coin that exclude each other. Liberalism will always want as much freedom as possible and only as much force as is absolutely necessary. Basically, democracy and liberalism are two totally different affairs. Yet the combination of the two has become such a matter of course and so dear to us that we no longer think about the meaning of the words. We can no longer imagine them separated from each other. If you take a critical look, you will discover that quite a few of the things we consider undemocratic are only illiberal.

On top of this, we forgot that, in our liberal democracy, freedom and equality actually exclude each other. They are opposites. Any form of equalization will automatically limit any form of freedom. We are not equal. The lack of clarity about the semantic meaning of the word democracy will eventually end in us no longer seeming to be able to critically judge if in our democracy our constitution is adhered to. After all, our constitution does not state that parties should govern us. It says: ’the parties are part of the people’s process of finding their political opinions’. It does not say anything about reign. Basically, this means that the whip principle is against our constitution. Well, nobody is worried by this, but still it violates our constitution.

And then the big parties are surprised about the people starting to deny them their votes. Before talking democracy, it might be a good idea for our politicians to inform themselves about the meaning of the word.

Unfortunately, our business heads are no better, either. Here is an example: the economy fights for a system where the achievement principle should dominate and yet they ignore that the achievement principle is an ideal-typical socialist wage system originally demanded and introduced by Karl Marx. In this system, the market and usefulness play no role. The achievement principle is a wage system where the employees are paid for their actual performance. Achievement is either the degree to which pre-defined goals have been reached or the number of tasks fulfilled in a certain time. So far so clear! But is achievement really what our wage system is based on?

In former times, it was rather simple: if you wanted to work, you offered your services on an employment market. You work had a market value in relation to others who offered the same service. Now this work was purchased by enterprises on the employment market. They did that because they assumed the work they bought might be useful. Work had a utility value. If the degree of usefulness increased, the employee received better payment, because you could actually let him share the benefits of increased usefulness. If the usefulness decreased, the entrepreneur no longer wanted the employee; he gave notice to some of his employees. The wage system was the market-value-usefulness principle. To this day, the entrepreneur uses the expected achievement as a determining factor when it comes to calculating your wages! Which means that the usefulness, rather than the achievement, determines the value. Consequently, it is certainly extremely emotional, yet semantically total nonsense.

As the examples show, it is high time to demand semantic honesty. Let us, at long last, speak about the matters themselves, rather than about the emotions such matters trigger. It will pay. Otherwise we will have to admit Bernhard Shaw was right when he said: some people are only prepared to die for something that is sufficiently unclear for them.

Ulf D. Posé
(Translated by EG)

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

What happened during the last few months, causing panic, hysteria and fear in the financial sector, makes more and more peple say: “Managers are greedy, corrupt and totally out of touch with the real world. They have no manners, no morals and no ethics. Do we, therefore, need a new moral in economy and politics? The answer is: no, we do not need a new moral in economy and politics. All we need is more readiness to adhere to the existing morals and ethics. Additionally, however, we need more competence when it comes to ethics and morals.

Because it does not look good. As early as 2004, according to a poll by the Emnid Institute for the World Economic Forum, 70 per cent of the German managing directors were considered dishonest and their behaviour unethical. 80 per cent of all Germans think that managing directors are too powerful.

To give you data for comparison: only 22 per cent of the French think their economic leaders are dishonest. Among the British, the number is 42 per cent, among the Americans 37 per cent, and among the Japaneze 47 per cent. As you see, we hold the record.

According to a survey by Ulich/Lunau/Weber of 1998, there actually is a stronger understanding why ethical behaviour makes sense and is necessary among enterprises. However, a rigorous application through individual measures that guarantee ethical behaviour is still sadly missing almost everywhere. We are talking possible measures such as moral balance sheets, ethics commissions or sheriffs for moral behaviour, along with a repertory of possible punishment or extensive ethical coaching.

The thoughtless way in which we treat ethics will probably only be modified when enterprises realize that 70 % of all European potential customers decide to buy in relation to how socially enthusiastic they perceive an enterprise.

Technical qualification alone is not enough.

The first helpful step can be taken when personel is selected. What kinds of people make a career in an enterprise? Managers are mostly selected according to their technical qualitification. Here, I demand that we modify our ideas. Besides the technical qualification, the social and ethical qualification should always be taken into consideration. Social qualification means that you can create a climate of trust. Ethical qualification means that you are perfectly capable of implementing a value system that does not only look good on paper, but is lived by yourself. For me, ethical qualification also means that you are capable of making decisions. However, it gives me pause to see how many meetings are sometimes necessary and how much time is sometimes wasted in order to come up with a decision that in retrospect turns out to be the wrong decision. Mind you, in principle it is not difficult to make decisions that make sense. Greek and Roman dialectics have developed all the methods. All we have to do is learn and apply them rigorously.

Basically, this is where my article could end. But things are nowhere near as easy as they look. We are all children of this society. Economic leaders and politicians, too, are children of this society. Unfortunately, that is where conditions are often lamentable.

mehr »

Ulf D. Posé
Friday November 28th, 2008

Against Semantic Crime, for a New Honesty

Aristotle himself advised us to distinguish between two categories of humans: honest ones and dishonest ones. For him, honesty was defined by knowing what you were talking about. That meant that an honest person talked about issues, rather than just emotions he had when thinking of something. Before indulging himself in emotions, an honest person defines what he is talking about. He distinguishes between knowledge and opinion.

Today, a closer look at people in politics, economy and culture often reveals that they prostitute themselves unscrupulously with the waste of their cerebral cortex. They expand on emotions while at the same time professing to talk about the issue itself. However, they are not saying anything on the issue. More than a few politicians, economic leaders and cultural figures seem to act according to the motto: “Why burden myself with knowledge, since I already have an opinion?”

Why is that possible without us sufficiently noticing it? Ever since George Edward Moore developed his emotivism in ethics in 1903, we have paid lip-service to an ethics of inclinations. Since Moore it is ethically correct for people to do what feels good to them. Instead of asking of what they do is also nice, more than a few find this perfectly acceptable. This emotional porridge is largely responsible for our dishonesty when we speak and act. The second aspect is the inclination towards an ethics of pleasure. If their attitude is honest, many people no longer ask if they combine their attitude with the competent behaviour that should go with it. What we get is a fatal pairing of pure conscience and incompetence. I am causing trouble and even feeling well doing so. Thirdly, we have developed a culture of feeling sympathetic in order to calm our conscience. To some people, it makes more sense to join chains of marching lights than actually do something. Some people feel more pity for the misery in Africa than for the misery of their neighbours. Thus, we suffer from love for who is far away; while there is no place for love for the neighbour next door. To me, these seem to be the basic, general characteristics of our new dishonesty.

What remained unattended are the meanings of our socially important terms. Be it democracy, social justice or freedom, all those terms cause emotions that are not backed by knowledge about the meaning of the words. The most important words of our society are thus no longer defined by their semantic, but only by their emotional meaning. Consequently, semantic crimes and incompetent actions prevail, both of which we hardly notice any more. Let me give a few examples taken from how words are used in our society.

Politicians talk about freedom while depriving us of it by seeing to it that the state carries more and more responsibility for our well-being. The fact that our state goes bankrupt in the process is apparently irrelevant. I used to believe that freedom means you can take responsibility for your own life, rather than someone else telling you how to do so.

Politicians and unionists demand social justice and forget that justice is the firm belief that everybody should have what is his due. Nobody seems to notice any more that the adjective “social” runs contrary to exactly this firm belief. Thus, we have more “social palaver” than social justice. Economic Nobel price winner professor A. F. Hayek called adjectives like »social« weasel words. They are characterized by making the meaning of a word vague and giving it a new direction that no longer has anything to do with the original noun. According to John Rawls, social justice is a principle that is supposed to regulate the relationship between basic freedoms, social and economic discrepancies, unequal chances, restriction of basic rights and consumption limitations for those who are least privileged. The problem is: how to determine who belongs to the group of least privileged and where is the upper limit? And here comes a last remark on the semantic meaning of social justice: to this day, nobody has come up with a valid and universally accepted definition of social justice. Everybody uses the term very emotionally for their own goals, forgetting that social justice was invented by the ancient Greeks in order to fight jealousy. In those days, the fight was lost, the method was subsequently abandoned.

Something similar to social justice can be perceived in the use of the word democracy. We believe democracy to be the best of all governmental concepts and deny that this invention of the ancient Greeks, “democracy”, by the very roots of its morphology “demos” implied that it was a strong rule of the upper classes. Besides, it was only developed as an interim between two government systems. The ancient Greeks believed that an entire people should never be permitted to rule loner than absolutely necessary.

At the same time, we today mentally associate the term democracy with liberalism. Apparently, we no longer even notice that democracy and liberalism contradict each other. Liberalism always wants as much freedom as possible and will only tolerate as little force as is absolutely necessary. That means that democracy and liberalism are basically two different issues. Our mental association of the two has become so self-evident that we no longer think about the meaning of the words. We cannot imagine them separately. Seen with a critical mind, much of what we consider undemocratic is merely illiberal. Moreover, we have forgotten that freedom and equality contradict each other in a liberal democracy. It is all a polar opposite. All forms of equalization at the same time trims all forms of freedom. We are not similar. The vagueness about the semantic meaning of the word democracy eventually also causes our inability to critically ask if our constitution is upheld in our democracy. Actually, our constitution does not say anything about political parties being part of the government. All it says in the constitution is: “The parties are concerned with forming public political opinions”. It says nothing about ruling. That means the forcing members of the party to vote unanimously is basically unconstitutional. To be sure, nobody cares, but it is still unconstitutional.

And then the populist parties are surprised at the people starting to refuse them their vote. Before talking about democracy, our politicians would be well advised to learn what the term democracy means.

Unfortunately, our heads of economy are no better. The economy fights for a system where the principle of achievement should dominate, but it forgets that the achievement principle is an ideal type of socially oriented payment demanded and introduced by Karl Marx. In it, market and usefulness pay no role. The achievement principle is a concept where the employee is shown appreciation according to his achievement. An employee’s achievement is either measured by the extent to which he delivers what has been set as goals for him or the amount of work done in a certain time. That sounds pretty clear! But is achievement really the basis for our salary?

In former times, it used to be quite simple: if you wanted to work, you advertised yourself on the employment market. Your work got a market value relative to the work of others. This work was then bought by directors on the employment market. They did that because they believed your work would be beneficial to them. Work had a value by its usefulness. If the usefulness increased, the employee got a higher salary, because it was possible to hand some of the increased usefulness down to him. If the usefulness decreased, the director no longer wanted the work, so the employee was made redundant. The principle was that you got paid according to your market value and usefulness. To this day, the determining factor for how much your salary should be is the usefulness the director expects from your work! So it is the usefulness, rather than the value of the work, that determines what your work is worth. That means that, even though it is highly emotional, it is semantically incorrect to demand the achievement principle as a capitalist method of payment.

As the examples show, it is high time to demand semantic honesty. We should start talking about the issues themselves, rather than just the emotions triggered by certain words. It is worth the effort. Otherwise we would have to say Bernhard Shaw was correct when he said: Some people are only prepared to die for issues if they are sufficiently unclear to them.

UDP (translated by Evelyn Gemkow)

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Do we need new morals in economy and politics?

What happened during recent months leading to panic, hysteria and fear in the financial economy in the last few weeks makes more and more people say: „managers are greedy, corrupt and totally abstract, without manners, morals and ethics. So do we need new morals in economy and politics? The answer is easy: no, we do not. All we need is for people to adhere to the existing morals and ethics. However, we also need more competence in ethics and morals.

Because it does not look good. As early as 2004, an Emnid poll for the world Economic Forum showed that 70 per cent of the Germans considered directors of companies dishonest and their behaviour unethical. Eighty per cent of the Germans think that directors of companies are too powerful.

Let me compare our statistics internationally: 22 per cent of the French think their economical leaders are dishonest. The number among the British population is 42 per cent, in the USA 37 per cent, and in Japan 47 per cent. As you see, we are far ahead.

According to a research project by Ulich/Lunau/Weber of 1998, enterprises are growing more sensitive towards the sense and necessity of ethical behaviour, but an actual realization of individual activities to make sure that ethics is guaranteed is still not happening on a broad scale. I am talking moral balancing, ethics commissions or moral representatives, a list of potential punishments in case of offence or a complete ethics training program.

The careless treatment of ethics will probably continue until enterprises realize that 70 per cent of all potential customers all over Europe take the social activities of an enterprise as one of the decisive criteria for buying or not.

Mere technical qualification is not good enough.

A helpful step is made as early as you select your employees. Who is going to be a success in an enterprise? Managers are mostly selected according to their technical qualifications. This needs to be modified. Besides technical qualification, the social and ethical qualification should be considered. Social qualification means that someone can generate a climate of trust. Ethical qualification means that you can implement a value system that does not only look good on paper but is actually realized on a daily basis. For me, ethical qualification also includes the competence to make decisions. However, sometimes when I see how many meetings are needed and how much time is invested in order to come up with decisions that later turn out to have been the wrong decisions, then I become worried. Mind you, it is basically not really difficult to reach good decisions. Greek and Roman dialectics have developed all the right methods, all you have to do is learn them and apply them.

In theory this could have been the end of my article, but it is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. We are all offspring of this society, even economic leaders and politicians. Unfortunately, they are not always the best we could have wished for.

A few weeks ago, CDU and SPD fought hard.

CDU general secretary Ronald Pofalla said that the SPD had “already stopped being a party of the people”. SPD party representative Peter Struck replied by criticising that Huber behaved “totally coalition unfriendly” when trying to “get a few more points in the election campaign for his disrupted CSU” by demanding special tax legislation for commuters.

George Hamilton, an English member of parliament two hundred years ago who wrote the book ‘Logics During Discussions’ would have said: “if your agenda are weak, put the blame on your party. If your party’s agenda are weak, take the blame yourself. If both are weak, put the blame on your political adversary.”

So what about competence, ethics and morals? Cicero said morals are a list of norms in a society making sure that the system is socially acceptable. Since the French have other morals than the Germans, Indians, Swiss, or Chinese, morals is not good enough on an international and global level. Being a science separate from society, ethics can help.

Well, there is no ethics as such. During the millennia, there have been many ethics. Basically, there are three types of ethics: an ethics of attitude, an ethics of results and an ethics of behaviour.

• The ethics of attitude is content to stick by meaning well. It does not ask for competence.

• The ethics of results is content if the results are ethical. The ends justify the means.

• The only ethics that demands the responsibility of the individual is the ethics of active behaviour. It requires that I accept responsibility for what I do. I have to face the foreseeable consequences of my activities.

To me, the ethics of responsibility seem to be the only ethics that make sense in economy and politics where ethical competence is necessary. Because if I want to act, I need competence. Otherwise, mere behaviour is enough.

Acting is based on five principles:

1. The principle of contingency – I could as well do something else

2. The principle of finality – my activity is goal-oriented

3. The principle of efficiency – something should change

4. The principle of rationality – I must be able to give a reason why I did it

5. The principle of responsibility – I accept responsibility for the foreseeable consequences.

Active behaviour and responsibility

Commonly, responsibility is meant as responsibility towards one’s conscience.


Conscience is the ethical evaluation of an action immediately before it happens. To me, it seems that there was a deficit in this among several leading persons in the financial sector. Admittedly, this is not only true for leaders in economy, but also in politics.

First and foremost, we should distinguish between activity and mere behaviour. If you just behave, you are not willing to take responsibility. But it is the question of taking responsibility that makes all the difference on the ethical level.

Here is an example: I remember well the time when the SPD under Gerhard Schröder lost the elections in Hessen and Lower Saxony. Our then-chancellor stood before the microphones and said publicly: “I take full responsibility”. Unfortunately, at the time nobody thought to ask: “How exactly can we see your taking responsibility now?”

Thinking in ethical categories, it seems to me that politics and some economic leaders adhere to ethics of attitude. Relatively often, I can see ethical intentions in politics, but they are not accompanied by the necessary competence. And nothing is worse than a coupling of best intentions and incompetence. Only nonsense can come of this. It is still true that the way to hell is paved with good intentions.

Is managerial income immoral?

The current discussion about managerial income, closing the lid and restriction of tax reduction options is the best example for ethical incompetence.

Manager, so it seems, are greedy and egoistical bastards, with a habit to take whatever they want when it comes to income. The financial crisis made for an even more guilty verdict. Even federal president Horst Köhler warned against threatening the national social piece by undue income demands. And the American investment giant Warren Buffet came up with the term “epidemics of greed” two years ago.

All this suggests that the managerial income demands are undue and ethically corrupt. Does that mean that our managers have lost their grip on reality with their ideas of proper income? Ethics means that we have to look for what is just. According to Ulpian, justice is still the wish to let every person get what is his due. So let us look at managerial income under the aspect of justice.

The public discussion shows one thing above all: we do not have ample standards for deciding whether someone’s income is just or not. The problem will definitely not be solved by asking if certain parts of the population concur with what managers earn or not.

Is the income unjust or immoral?

Top managers get considerably more than administrative or manual workers. The chasm between workers and managers gets broader and broader. But is this really true?

If you consider the average of all enterprises, a leading personality earned about three times as much as an administrative or manual worker in 1975; in the year 2005, the quota was 2.85. That means that, compared with manual and administrative workers, the level has gone down, not up.

A comparison between directors and leading administrators, too, shows that the difference is not as much as is often assumed. The average director earned about 2.5 times the money a leading administrator got in 1986. Today it is about 3.7 times as much. This was found out in a survey of Kienbaum. Karl-Friedrich Raible, who is responsible for this department at Kienbaum, found out that the relative increase in incomes of manual and administrative workers between 1991 and 2005 was higher than that of directors of joint-stock companies.

Is criticism fair?

So where is the legitimacy of criticism? Maybe it is because the incomes of directors working in enterprises with more than five billion turnover have seen a rather different development. Their incomes increased by almost 800 per cent between 1976 and today. So if we can talk about an ever broadening chasm, this is only true for an extremely small group of top managers. We are talking the hundred biggest enterprises in Germany. Assuming that each of these enterprises has an average of five to ten directors, then the public discussion is about approximately 650 top managers, not even all of which are concerned. The managing director of Metro, for example, has a yearly income of a little more than 570,000 Euros per year.

However, we pretend that all top managers have experienced such exorbitant income developments. It is possible that the question of incomes is an issue of public criticism where the dog bites its own tail.

The state goes along with it

It is also a little strange that especially those enterprises where our state is involved pay particularly high director’s incomes. According to a survey by the Berlin Humboldt University, the Deutsche Post is on top of the list. During the last 11 years, the income of Deutsche Post directors have risen from being 11 times that of an average postal worker to being 87 times that of an average postal worker.

The Deutsch Telecom, also an enterprise with state involvement, lies way over the average of the other DAX enterprises. This meant that politicians criticize a development that, as parliamentarians, they have influenced themselves. If you wanted to be cynical, you might say that the only reason politicians did this is in order to have an easy time criticising top managers.

Justice and income – are they in harmony?

Even in ancient times, the question of justice was intensely debated. For instance, Aristotle postulated a virtuous ethics in his “nicomachical ethics”, saying that the “right thing” has been done if a common good has been achieved for society. For him, justice was the most noble of virtues. He named it Eudaimonia.

In his eyes, a citizen could only reach Eudainonia if he enhanced the well-being of other citizens. It is interesting that Aristotle thought the citizen himself, rather than the state, was responsible for the general well-being. Therefore, Aristitle would probably not have asked how much managers earn, but instead what they do in order to optimize the well-being of other citizens. Today, enterprises call this corporate social responsibility. What we are saying is that Aristotle would not have dealt with managerial incomes under ethical aspects, but rather with their cause.

Social justice

Again and again, public discussions about ethical and moral questions address the issue of social justice. I wonder if social justice is the right term. It might be quite helpful to look at the history of social justice.

The problem with social justice is that there is no official definition, let alone a consensus. Maybe the dilemma originated in article number 20 of the German constitution. It says: “The Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic and social federal state”. Unfortunately, it does not go on to say what exactly the definition of a social state is. The only clue we can find in the constitution is the remark that we cannot demand anything from the state when it comes to fair distribution. To be sure, everybody wants social justice, but it cannot be brought about by public announcement. Neither is the idea of re-distribution any real help.

As soon as anybody talks social justice, we hear about duty, fair balance, political correctness or a sense of mission or social solidarity. Or else, someone says a great injustice has been committed and it badly needs to be corrected.

We should finally stop the charlatans who claim to promote universal justice by accusing the successful person that he can only have become a success by unethical means. As I see it, this foul-mouthing is what is really unethical and amoral.

Psychologists say the source of this is envy. However, they say at the same time that envy is not one of the original “talents” of man. People who envy others must have been badly wounded emotionally by people they loved early in their lives. Karl Marx said: “Common and powerfully manifested envy is the hidden form of greed”. An envious person needs relationships because of money which he does not want others to have. Intrigue, mobbing and ill rumours are all caused by envy. Unless we get rid of envy, there is hardly a chance that mobbing and intrigues will be removed from our enterprises. All we can do is fight them.

I think in the current situation it would be quite useful to tell some politicians, union activists and economical leaders a thing or two about social justice as soon as they start babbling about it.

Social justice is not a term that fits

What am I actually saying? I am saying that whoever talks social justice when managerial income is mentioned has chosen a totally unsuitable term. As early as 1875, even Karl Marx said: “Let everybody work according to their ability and their needs”. The SPIEGEL, too, published an article saying that “the social state as manifested in Germany has become a monster threatening to be suffocated by its own dimension”. SPIEGEL even went so far as to assure its readers that the social state is “deeply unfair, because the distribution of money is often at random and frequently the recipients are not those who need it most”.

Thus, the public discussion shows that we really do not know all about what is social, neither about what is just. In our country, we are probably a lot more social and just than some politicians suggest. Far be it from me to turn a blind eye on the fact that many people in our country are not very well off. Some get between three and four Euros per hour for their work. Nobody can live on that. But nobody has to, either; there is solidarity of the community supporting him.

Today, a recipient of social welfare enjoys a significantly higher standard of living than a well-to-do trained worker did in the fifties. This is only possible because the rich people contribute significantly: the top five per cent of earners in Germany (that is those with more than 85,000 Euros income) pay more than 40 per cent of income tax. The total lower half of earners pays 8.3 per cent of the entire tax received by the state.

The “rich man’s tax”, for instance, suggests that top earners do not pay enough tax. In reality, the “broad shoulders” pay a lot more tax than all other tax-payers. All citizens earning more than 67,000 Euros per year – that is only ten per cent of the taxpayers – contribute with 53! Per cent of the entire income tax volume.

Currently, there are around 35,000 people earning more than 500,000 Euros in the Federal Republic of Germany. That is only 0.13 per cent of all taxpayers. However, they already pay 13 per cent of the total income tax.

In June 2008, the magazine CAPITAL asked some top managers and politicians about their income tax. With the exception of Peter Müller, Saarland’s prime minister, all politicians, including the chancellor, either refused to reply or sent the questionnaire back unanswered. Peter Müller paid 35,700 Euro tax.

Among the top managers, this was not so. Götz Werner paid 7 millions, Herberg Hainer of Adidas paid 2.5 millions, Martin Winterkorn of VW paid 2 millions, the boss of Conti paid 1.2 millions. Herr Wiedeking paid tax in the two-digit million regions, so does Jürgen Großmann of RWE who is also a member in the BWA and pays considerably more than 10 million Euros.

According to the federal statistical bureau, people with an income of 548,000 Euros and more pay 8.2 per cent of all the income tax going to the state while only constituting 0.1 per cent of the tax payers. And if you take all people earning more than 170,100 Euros, then you have exactly one per cent of all tax payers who pay 20.4 per cent of all taxes. That means: accusing these people of contributing inadequately is not correct, it is more like a lie.

So what do we need? We need more honesty when dealing with each other.

On honesty

But let me proceed according to the criteria of honesty. According the Aristotle, the honest person is characterized by the fact that he can say what he is talking about. That means that the honest person talks about the issue itself, not just the emotions accompanying it.

The tax refund of managerial incomes

Now, the discussion about volume and fairness of managerial incomes in German has also reached the EU. “It can no longer be tolerated that certain bosses of enterprises profit from too high income and, above all, golden handshakes”, said Jean-Claude Juncker, the director of Eurogruppe and prime minister of Luxembourg after a session of Euro-zone finance ministers.

The SPD installed a task force on this. I took a closer look at the SPD working paper under the ethical aspect. It says: “During the last few years, the development of managerial incomes, in particular of directors in huge enterprises, has separated itself dramatically from the general income development: the income of the bosses of DAX enterprises increased from being 14 times that of the average worker (here I ask myself when that was supposed to have been?) to being 44 times that of average workers. This development continues.“

With the exception of directors and managers, incomes in DAX enterprises range between 26,000 euros and 80,000 Euros. If the SPD paper is correct and we take an average income for the worker of 40,000 Euros, then the average DAX director would have to earn around 2 million Euros. Some DAX directors earn 13.6 million and sometimes more, but as an average this is simply wrong. Do not misunderstand me: what I am saying is that the average income of directors is more than 44 times that of the worker. Let me remind you of Franz Müntefering who stated that many German managers earn “a thousand times that” of their employees. 44 times as much is just as wrong as a thousand times.

Top DAX director Josef Ackermann earned 13.2 million Euros in 2007, but even his simplest workers get a lot more than the thousandth part of this, namely 13,200 Euros. Directors who are not quite as well paid as Ackermann are far away from earning a thousand times that of their employees. According to the latest survey, the average DAX boss earns about 3.42 million Euros, which is about a hundred times that of a normal employee, not a thousand times. Müntefering had a problem with the position of the comma, which means that part of the hysteria is due to a mathematical mistake.

Even where the income is a hundred times that of the employee, this is more the exception than the rule. In middle-class and smaller joint venture companies, the factor is usually between 10 and 20.

The working paper is overflowing with statements that are not proved. You should know one thing: statements are ethically justified only by being proved. Where there is no proof, we are often dealing with pure polemics, which violates the principle of honesty. We read about a “breathtaking increase of managerial income”, of “the interest of the company’s stakeholders being systematically disregarded”. Allegedly, the managerial income is “inflated and motivationally distorted”.

Among other things, the task force advises “the restriction of tax refund potential for managerial income and compensation as company expenses to around 1 million Euros plus 50 per cent of what goes beyond that sum”.

What is missing is an understandable economical, judicial or ethical justification. Why one million and not more or less, why 50 per cent and not more or less? This is the prevailing style all through the paper.

It would be helpful to have a little more understanding and competence and a little less emotions when the fairness of managerial income is evaluated. The financial crisis made the discussion even more dramatic. At the moment, nobody dares to question the lid on managerial income. Herr Juncker and his political friends have the general opinion on their side, but not a single ethical competence documenting which ethical values have to prevail when the lid is put on the incomes. Unfortunately, more than a few people these days act according to the motto: “Why bother with knowledge, if I already have made up my mind”.

UDP (translated by EG)

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Ulf D. Posé
Tuesday October 14th, 2008

A New Kind of Honesty

When the saying: “Let everybody look after himself, so everybody is taken care of” successfully circulated, the time had definitely come for our culture to say good-bye to honesty. Instead of by their parents, children are more and more brought up by TV sets. Trying to delegate this task to pre-schools or schools has failed, because those are places where educational efforts are not taken. Thus, the task of producing elites falls to the enterprises. And what do we learn there? If you want a career, be opportunistic and take a look at the famous shareholder value. Capital increase seems to be the only thing that matters. Globalization demands that we look for the best production conditions, the best political situation and the cheapest supply of environment. This years’ birth rate has, for the first time in the history of our republic, been lower than in 1946. Children have become a high-cost factor.
What is the matter? We keep talking about social and economic responsibility and nobody is prepared to take it. We are surprised that it is possible to earn less if you hold a full-time job than if you are unemployed.
A new kind of dishonesty erupts. In former times, if someone was behaving dishonestly, he at least knew it and suffered from a bad conscience. Today, we find a dishonesty where people misbehave and still feel they are perfectly honest.
Thus, the new dishonesty is characterized by being dishonest without noticing. We should and must do something about this. We need to re-establish a consciousness of what is dishonest and what will be considered honest in the future.
What happened? When, in 1903, George Edward Moore developed his emotivism in ethics, what we finally had was an ethics of inclinations. Since then, something is ethically acceptable if we feel well doing it. This emotional porridge is largely responsible for the new dishonesty. The second aspect is the tendency towards an ethics of attitude. Whenever their attitude is sincere, many people no longer ask whether this attitude is also paired with the right kind of behavioural competence. Thus, we have an unfortunate convergence of good conscience and incompetence. I can commit the gravest possible atrocities and feel good doing them. Thirdly, we have also developed a culture of being moved that calms down our conscience. Being part of a chain of burning torches looks more sensible to us than actually doing something. Some people are more moved by the misery in Africa than that next door. We are suffering from window love, while the love of our neighbour has been left behind.
To me, those seem to be the basic, general characteristics of the new dishonesty. Besides, we have developed European forms of the Cargo-cult. Cargo originally came from Melanesia. When US military airplanes containing all the wonderful products of this world landed there, they seemed like a gift from heaven, or the ancestors, to the Melanesians. On the planes it said »Cargo«. Now the Melanesians believed that if they prayed to such an airplane or imitated the American’s rituals, their ancestors, too, would send airplanes with these products. So they made small wooden airplanes, wrote Cargo on their sides, put them into their temples and prayed to them.
This is how we behave today. If being dishonest increases my Cargo and nobody will punish me for it, being dishonest is fine by me. Why have scruples? Everybody does it this way! Cargo cults determine our world today. Electricity comes out of the wall, the new market has magically increased my wealth, money is something I do not need anyway, because I have a credit card. Typical for cargo is imitation of stupid behaviour. My hairstyle is a copy of David Beckham’s, so I feel like him. I have the same watch as my boss, so I will soon be as successful as he. Our living room design is extremely important, because it helps our reputation, and dinner only tastes well if we eat it at “our” Italian. If you do not show these status symbols, you are ostracised. That is Cargo.
So what are the characteristics of the new dishonesty? Here comes a list:
I do not differentiate between truth and certainty, taking my own opinion to be the truth. I am always correct. My motto is: why should I bother with knowledge, since I already have an opinion.
We reduce people to their functionality. The answer to the question: “How can I benefit from knowing this person?” is more important than personal characteristics that should determine our relationships with another person.
The only values that are accepted are wealth, success, achievement and power. More and more, we turn a blind eye on the fact that the economic motivation should only be one among many others among humans. We disregard values like trust, gratitude, well-meaning and forgiveness.
Our only dogma is to behave politically correct. We no longer ask if an activity actually makes sense. All we ask is its political correctness. Thus, we almost commit semantic crimes when using words without asking whether changing a word should be accompanied by a change of attitude.
Values crumble. Almost exclusively, we are guided by values that prevent social punishment. “If only I will not get caught” is the motto.
We no longer do what we say. Trust develops through what we do, not through what we say. We no longer have a model function.
If we want the most important of our sources, the life culture, to remain intact, we need a new honesty. Every one of us could be a source of renovation if we all decided to make the new sincerity the centre of our behaviour.
There are silver linings at the horizon for a new honesty. For example, wars are generally not accepted and we get more and more conscious of our environment. We are also trying to find and define a new social justice.
For me, honesty is if a person behaves socially acceptable regardless of the social system he finds himself in. That has to be the standard. In order to get to this standard, several requirements defining a new honesty must be met.
Here is a list of some of them:
I differentiate between truth and certainty and I know that my own insights are certain, rather than true. That makes me socially a lot more acceptable than dogmatism.
I aspire to competence. Whenever I use a word, I know what it means, rather than just feeling that I probably know its meaning.
I act. That means that I have thought about the consequences of what I do and am aware of alternatives. Also, I have a goal and I am prepared to give reasons for what I do. Finally, I get a result and take responsibility for the foreseeable consequences of what I have done. I am willing to suffer the consequences.
I am upright, I say what I think.
I am reliable, others can trust me.
I show civil courage. I am prepared to stand up and defend my values against a predominating opposition.
I act according to “Epikie”, that is, I always try to act according to what is intended, not according to what the word-by-word text of a law says.
I nourish critical justice, which means that I still can question what seems evident.
My judgement is realistic. I focus on what is important
To me, those items seem a good basis for the development of a new honesty. Thus, if we do not want dishonesty, the question is if we want a new honesty. If we are interested in individual responsibility, independence, trustworthiness and a socially conscious society, we can no longer afford to ask others to do the job. We have to take up the role of model ourselves. We might fail, but at least we should have fought for a good cause. That is exactly where the bugle sounds for us, because if we keep waiting for others, we might be waiting for Godot, who, as we all know, never turned up.

UDP (translated be EG)

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Ulf D. Posé
Monday September 29th, 2008

Jealousy in a Jealous Society

Social Justice – a Joke!!

One of my friends drives an Aston Martin. It cost around 89,000.00 Euros. “And”, I asked “are you enjoying it?” “Yes, certainly, except that I cannot drive it when I see any of my clients, because they would think I bought the car with their money.”

Basically, my friend is perfectly right. It has been bought with his client’s money. Except that he did not get it for his car, but for his unorthodox and helpful advice.

When Marius Müller-Westernhagen was subjected to unfriendliness because of his money, he said: “Have I stolen my money, or what?”

Sometimes, when I tell some of my acquaintances what outrageous taxes I have to pay, all I hear is: “I wish I had to pay that kind of tax”. To this day, I have never been congratulated for paying such high taxes. Nobody ever said: “My dearest Ulf, I think your contribution to the general welfare is absolutely admirable”. Sometimes I get the impression that I had better hide my wealth. But why?

A Jealous Society

Are we a jealous society? The answer is: Yes. Saying that someone has a ‘high income’ is offensive. In Germany, you have to apologize for being a success. If you own more than others, it is assumed that you must have come by it through criminal activities; there must have been something sinister involved. People with a ‘high income’ should give more to the public, because they are not doing enough for our society. It would be best if we re-introduced property tax. Even though those who demand its re-introduction most vehemently know that the federal constitutional court has outlawed it, their cry for it comes often enough. But who cares that it has been outlawed? Ironically, people keep forgetting that the high-tax regulations for high-income employees already contain their extra contribution. What is especially sad is that those who are jealous will never admit it. They go on about duty, fair share for everybody, political correctness or a sense of mission, or else they claim that they have suffered great injustice or similar nonsense.

As I see it, jealousy is even worse than hatred, because if someone hates me, at least he admits it. Psychologists agree that mostly people with a weak ego tend to be jealous. They say jealousy is symptomatic for immature narcissism. Of course, people so handicapped have to expose charlatans. They must see to it that universal justice prevails and prove that success can only have been the result of unlawful behaviour. Psychologists also think that jealousy is not a sentiment we are born with. A jealous person must have suffered a great disappointment by a beloved person earlier in life. Karl Marx said once: “Common jealousy as manifested in power is a hidden form of greed.” Jealous people, so psychologists say, are practically incapable of establishing a stable friendship or partnership. A jealous person will always try to define a relationship through the wealth he envies the other party. All plotting, mobbing, and unfair rumours are caused by jealousy. Unless we overcome jealousy, there is hardly a chance that we will ever win against in-company mobbing and plotting. All we can do is fight them.

The History of Jealousy

Why is that? Let us look at the history of jealousy. The first to ask the question were the ancient Greeks. They found out that disputes were constantly erupting between those who owned more and those who owned less. Those who owned something did not want to share and those who owned little or nothing wanted a share. The logical conclusion was that those who owned more were just thrifty, since they never wanted to part with any or enough of what they had. Wanting to better the situation, they saw that this uneven distribution of property caused jealousy among those left out, which, to the ancient Greeks, was the real problem.

Thus, for the ancient Greeks the unbalanced ownership situation was the factor responsible for jealousy. Aristotle took a closer look and discovered three different kinds of jealousy:

Jealousy due to Impotence

“Luck stops at my front door”, “It is always me who comes last”, “Life always treats me hardest”. These are examples of how some people complain. A jealous person who feels helpless suffers. It is painful for him to see others own more than he does. However, the poor guy is wrong when assuming the reason for his pain originates outside himself.

Thomas of Aquin found this type of jealousy rather unhealthy. He wondered how anybody can feel jealous for something he should be glad about. Even the ancient Greeks found out that this type of jealousy ate up people from inside.

Jealousy of Ill Wishing

The second type of jealousy is what the ancient Greeks call jealousy of ill wishing. “May that person suffocate in his wealth”, “I hope his money will be his downfall”. The jealous person wished the prosperous one pestilence. For Karl Marx, this type of jealousy was the source of strong emotions during the first phase of communism. His followers, however, seem to have missed this. Thomas of Aquin knew the reactions of a jealous person all too well. He thought that this type of jealousy was going to create envy, ill rumours, gloating, hatred and brainwashing. To me, it seems like Thomas of Aquin could have said this only yesterday.

Jealousy Leading to Ambition

Here, the ancient Greeks discovered something positive. This type of jealousy leads to improved efforts. Instead of being envy of what someone else has, I want to better my own position. This is like the parachutist who, seeing his fellow parachutist fall faster than he does due to an unopened parachute, opens his own parachute with the words: “What, you want a competition?”

In the 18th century, Adam Smith found this type of jealousy rather acceptable. Competition promotes economic growth. He knew, however, that this competition will always mean success for some and failure for others. These inequalities were his theory for social jealousy. In his opinion, law and order where at risk, which made politics important for protecting property against all these jealous people! Unfortunately, our politicians do not seem to have read Adam Smith.

Abolishing Jealousy

So what did the ancient Greeks do? Prudent as they were, they wanted to abolish jealousy. For them, jealousy was an illness. So, around 500 B.C., they decided to distribute wealth equally among all people. Then they waited for some time, wanting to see if the illness “jealousy” disappeared. Unfortunately, however, it did not disappear. Regardless of equal distribution of wealth, the people remained jealous. They still felt they were being treated unfairly. “Basically, I believe I should have more than my neighbour, because my individual circumstances differ from his”, was the general sentiment. The ancient Greeks found out that all men are, after all, not equal, which is why you cannot treat them as equals. Jealousy remained.

Consequently, the ancient Greeks abandoned equality. To them, equality seemed not to be a good way to overcome the illness “jealousy”. It is interesting how the ancient Greeks called their method. They called it “social justice”.

In our current situation, I think it would be helpful for some politicians to be confronted with a good portion of the history of jealousy whenever they start going on about social justice (and hiding their own jealousy behind it?).

UDP (translated by EG)

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Ulf D. Posé
Thursday September 18th, 2008

Excellent Business is not Enough!

Regardless of high profits, more and more employees are made redundant. The Insincerity of Economy!

Our author Ulf D. Posé thinks we should not get used to wordlessly accepting when managing directors talk about making employees redundant and at the same time announce high profits. He keeps looking into what companies advertise as their company values and finds out that there are light-years between theory and practice. More and more people are just considered “human resource” by enterprises. But the logic of social market economy is a different one: the more economically successful an enterprise is, the more it has to do in order to optimize a social community. Here comes a resume by Ulf Posé, the president of “http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethikverband_der_Deutschen_Wirtschaft” \o “EVW” \t “_blank” Ethikverband der Deutschen Wirtschaft (EVW= German Association of Ethics in Economy), which is a registered club with a membership of 17,500 (as of: March, 2008).

There is something we should not misunderstand: what we find abusive is not the fact that an enterprise makes a profit and wants to make a profit. Rather, what we find abusive is the circumstances under which some enterprises make their profits, especially when, regardless of high profits, the “liberate people”. If you have made excellent profits way beyond your expectations and achieved capital gains way beyond average, then it is highly unethical to make employees redundant. It shows an attitude which gives economic success top priority. If, on top of this, you claim that this happened for company safety if de-facto this safety has never been at risk, you are just as insincere.

The following example is quite interesting. In the company code of the Allianz AG, you can read: “The cultural change intended by the leadership wants to create an atmosphere of open communication and trust between employees and customers”. My question is whether Allianz with its enormous profits of around six billion Euros – which far exceeds expectations- , still adhere to this principle if they at the same time announce that 7,500 employees are made redundant.

It also says in the company code of Allianz: “We offer our employees feedback and support and see to it that a job well done is adequately honoured”. This almost sounds like a sneer, because the adequate honour for excellence at Allianz is a “reward” in the form of liberation from the company.

Later on, you can read at Allianz: “We invest in our employees. When we select and sponsor talented employees, our standards are high. We promote diversity and thereby a culture respectful and appreciative of various personalities… We want to be an attractive employer in all respects.” Last not least, the codes of Allianz say: “Our success is based on mutual trust, fairness, integrity and clear and open communication. We encourage our employees to be innovative, show us potential for improvement and hand on knowledge and ideas. A motivated and constructive feedback is thus promoted.”

All this does not seem to correlate with what actually happened. A company’s credibility does not depend on what it says in its pamphlets but on how what they say matches what they do, the relation between norm and reality. In an ARD poll, people were asked what they think about the sacking of 7,500 Allianz employees. Nine per cent found it phantastic, saying this was the only way to achieve the desired profit. 29 per cent thought it was just normal procedure in our economy. 62 per cent, however, found it outrageous, because they found that the mass sackings were simply not justifiable.

Conclusion: Economy degenerates towards low capitalism if what is practiced is not balanced with the ethics of codes and directives.

Our second example is the energy company BP. The enterprise was in the limelight when an oil pipeline had burst and more than a million litres of oil had leaked. Consequently, the pipeline had to be deactivated and 16 miles of it were renovated. The stock market price went up. Incidentally, the pipeline was only checked after the US authorities intervened. It had not been inspected since 1992, although the oil industry had declared a monthly inspection standard procedure. It is interesting to note why BP had not inspected the pipeline any more: 14 years ago, it had already been so soiled that the inspecting robots could not get through.

What does the GP code say about this? “Being one of the leading energy suppliers, we also see our top responsibility in helping to find a solution for the climate problem and its application.” And later: “A well-directed enterprise should be competitive, act progressive and promote general well-being. In all we do, we want to contribute significantly to the world-wide increasing demand for energy and raw materials.” Finally, two more citations: “Being one of the leading enterprises in the world, we have the responsibility to set high standards and be viewed as being dedicated to integrity.” “We protect the natural environment and safety of the townships where we work and guarantee the health, safety and protection of our people.”

What do we learn from this? Economic success has to be paired with a socially acceptable concept of community. That is the basis for social market economy. The only possible logic is: the bigger the economical success, the more can and must an enterprise do in order to optimize the social concept. Everything else is insincere and unethical und ruins the social aspect of our market economy.

Today, globalization motivates many enterprises to behave unethically. However, we should not condemn globalization per se. There should be a careful, objective and critical discussion of globalization. Enterprises should see that it is extremely insincere to use globalization as an excuse for socially unacceptable behaviour regardless of economic success. There is an inner responsibility of enterprises they cannot shed, because they influence their employee’s consciousness by promoting values. That is how they have an impact on the entire social structure of a nation. It also means that a company’s social responsibility cannot be separated from its responsibility towards the employees.

The code of conduct at Deutsche Bank says: “We want to be the worldwide leader of financial solutions for high-standard customers and thereby create lasting increase of value for our shareholders and employees”. The lasting value for employees was counteracted last year with the announcement that 6,000 employees are made redundant, even though the institute had a capital profit of 28 per cent. Another sentence you can read in the list of values of Deutsche Bank is: “Trust: we are absolutely reliable, fair and honest. Teamwork: the diversity of both our employees and fields of activity make co-operation with us a success.”

The managing director of a company with 7,000 employees worldwide shows that it is possible to be different: “Currently, the messages are too profit-oriented for my taste! I am familiar with what my own economic advisers say: unless your capital profit is at a minimum of 10 per cent, you will no longer exist ten years from now. During the last 136 years, we have had but few years during which we were able to get a ten per cent profit! And one more information: 95 per cent of our value refunding (as of 2004) goes back to our employees – and around three per cent to the shareholders!”

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Ulf D. Posé
Saturday August 23rd, 2008

Media and Ethics

Once your reputation is ruined

… you can talk without restraint!

Many want to see themselves in the media, and many media want sensations. So many consider themselves sensational. Our author Ulf D. Posé finds this absurd. He wants a new media ethic; the same ethics for managers and journalists; ethics based on sincerity, competence and responsibility. Unfortunately, the hard core mainstream rarely delivers this. Executions by the media make the hangman and the culprit interchangeable. Managers tell lies, journalists manipulate. And the audience stands around and passes on the rubbish.

Never confuse public relations with advertising!!

Let’s begin at the beginning. Public relations are for creating and maintaining trust, sympathy and a better image. Don’t confuse that with advertising. Advertising is just about sales. Advertising is for selling products and services, to get a higher market quota and/or profit margin. We see already that public relations work is often misused for advertising. The problem is: Whoever sails under a false flag should not be surprised if nobody then believes him. Efficient public relations work aims to win public trust and conserve lasting good relations through considered actions. To achieve this, you must know how to handle media in a trustworthy, authentic way.

The media, your friend and foe.

Most bosses have a negative image of the media. One reason for this is that bosses confuse public relations work with advertising. Another reason is that bosses think that journalists are against them. This mistrust is often based on the fact that bosses hand out information to journalists completely useless to them. More than a few bosses habitually exaggerate their good deeds while glossing over their misdeeds. The manager’s dishonesty encourages him to publish only what he believes to be popular. This populism, however, is detrimental. The “public” does not accept it. People recognize the intent and are disgusted. The Allensbach institute showed without doubt that bosses follow a “conformity pressure of public opinion”, even when they know better. Nölle-Neumann proved that about 60 to 80 per cent even of central Europeans are prepared to agree with nonsense, provided that “it is what the majority thinks”. Background: Clearly, to avoid social isolation, the individual is prepared to forego his or her own thinking and adopt the opinion of the majority. This mechanism shows the manager’s enormous potential for social integration. But it contradicts all ideals of integrity and destroys his trustworthiness.

The power of the media.

Bosses do not have easy lives. Especially in cases of misconduct, more than just trustworthiness is at stake. Even the best of intensions to put things right or to explain is often useless. A respectable boss should know in advance how the media function, otherwise he hardly stands a chance. Considering all that is known of the role of the media, they have appointed themselves to be modern pillories. During the middle ages, people were pilloried on the market place. Nowadays, anybody whose behavior was allegedly offensive is filmed, photographed, degraded, publicly scolded, and tried even before his misdeed is proved. In the media, pre-trial without proof happens every day. The media do not know the meaning of the phrase “in dubio pro reo”. They have reduced the term “moral” to “stigmatizing”. Journalists can easily, without having to fear consequences, draw special attention to some points or leave out important facts if they so desire. They do not feel responsible for the public opinion thereby created. They claim to state public opinion, rather than creating public opinion. Newspapers, radio and television seem to work according to the old Roman principle “panem et circenses”. Their idea of entertainment is public executions.

A considerable part of what we call “news” is nothing but reports about some people’s misdeeds and the consequences thereof. It is remarkable that crimes and unorthodox behavior are so popular. That is why it is easy to understand that managers shun being publicly displayed. When the media feel like it, they even invent reports that have no truth in them whatsoever. For example, a few years ago “Bild” (gutter press) had a report on page one about Karl Lagerfeld demanding that a passenger leave the first-class area with the words: “Remove this cripple”. Allegedly, this happened on a flight to Munich. Incidentally, Karl Lagerfeld had never booked this flight. He was not on board. The report was a fabrication.

On the other hand, people think: If RTL (TV company) or Bild has not reported something, then it did not happen. What is interesting is that media self-censoring largely lives from what they do not report. Media and journalists are “gate keepers”, that is, people who decide what the public should get to know and what not. Since, by a process of subconscious conformity, all journalists do it, the reader gets a sense of confirmation: “If they all write it, then it must be true.” If you want an example of newspapers refraining from reporting, search through the last few years’ issues of Stern, Spiegel, Bild, Süddeutsche or ZEIT (periodicals and newspapers) whether they have cast doubts on the German democracy.

The media’s ethics.

What makes the world such a miserable place to live in is the detrimental pairing of good intensions and incompetence!!

Apparently, Roger Willemsen does not have a very high opinion of media ethics. He says: “Television is interested in only one thing, the quota. Human dignity is of secondary interest.” In Willemsen’s opinion, humans are nothing more than a branded article to the media. Unfortunately, however, like many others, he does not hold this against the media. Their bigoted behavior is the same as the bigoted behavior of the public, and is thus just the result thereof. Willemsen, like others, makes the mistake of seeing the public as the reason for the media’s lack of integrity. However, Willemsen demands from the media that they should report knowledgably, rather than just with good intensions. This is what seems to be the problem. More than a few journalists consider it good enough that they have good intensions or find something outrageous. They do not care to acquire special knowledge. This is how they miss the fact that the world’s misery is, among other things, an indescribably sad mixture of good intensions and incompetence. And this concept is addopted by the reader. Best example: the reports on Hartz IV (the reformed German unemployment benefit scheme, 2005 onwards).

Media manipulate public opinion in order to report again later!!

That means that media have tremendous power. The question is: Are they aware of this power and do they use it conscientiously? I have my doubts, because journalists usually claim that they have no power whatsoever and all they do is report after an event. If they write about public opinion, then this public opinion is there already.

Two facts should be taken into consideration: Firstly, when people are asked in polls who, in their opinion, has too much power in the country, the media always rank near the top. Most people think that there is abuse by media, but they still let themselves be influenced. Secondly, there is an “agenda setting effect”. Comparative research has been conducted about themes which constantly appear in the mass media, actual developments which can also be proved by statistics, and public opinion. For instance, about what are the most important duties of politics. The research showed quite clearly that usually the mass media know it before it happens. The media manipulate public opinion towards certain leanings but refuse to admit it. If this state of affairs continues, ethical behavior in the media is negligible. However, if the media manage to develop an awareness of their responsibility, media ethics has a realistic chance.

Ethical use of media.

Now what are the alternatives for a boss with the media? The only chance for him not to fall victim to abusive populism is trying to act, instead of just behaving. The difference between activity and behavior is easily described.

Whenever talking of activity, five basic principles must be met. They make the difference between activity and behavior:

Accepting responsibility: I must be prepared to live with the foreseeable consequences of what I do. –

Contingency/Alternatives: I must be aware that there are alternatives.

Finality: My activity is aimed at a specific goal. –

Efficiency: Something has to happen, there must be a result.

Explanation: I must be able to give a reason why.

Which is when the question of responsibility comes up.

Active media ethics and responsibility.

Responsibility means to accept the foreseeable consequences of what you have done!!

When the elections in Lower Saxony and Hessen ended with a catastrophe for the SPD, the then Chancellor said into the microphones: “I take full responsibility!” This is easily said. Apparently none of the journalists present came up with the idea of asking the Chancellor: “Mister Chancellor, how exactly does this responsibility manifest itself?”. For a trustworthy and decent manager, taking responsibility means that he accepts the foreseeable consequences of what he has done. If this responsibility does not manifest itself in a following activity, then the statement: “I take full responsibility” is purely word acrobatics!

Ackermann of Deutsche Bank apparently was not very well advised when he tried to explain the victory sign he had made with the one Michael Jackson was known to have made. That was more than embarrassing. The magazine Stern replied by printing a picture of him on its cover page. Ackermann and politicians were accused of arrogant behavior in positions of power. More likely than not, none of the readers ever asked what exactly was so arrogant. Who wants to know that arrogant behavior is defined as feeling superior while not being able to prove this superiority. Ackermann might have been better advised to point out that the victory sign was meant to indicate: “The accusations against me are false and I wish to get a chance to defend myself. I am confident that I will be proved not guilty”. He should have asked himself if he is prepared to accept responsibility for the foreseeable consequences of such careless utterances and signs. Maybe he would and should have acted in a totally different way.

The roots of responsibility.

Responsibility is derived from “to respond” The question is: Who should be the recipient of your response? What is the object of responsibility?

Responsibility towards myself: If I want to show responsibility towards myself, I have to take my behavior towards other people into consideration. I have to choose the appropriate forms of interaction and react to how they approach me. That means you need not approach the issue through intense contemplation, but rather by analyzing the way you interact with others.

We are talking about responsibility towards one or more defined individuals. That means responsibility to the public.

Responsibility clarifies whether an activity is allowed. To be sure, responsibility sometimes also happens by third parties making us responsible for something; for example the responsibility before the law, towards the company, the employee, the customer. But here I mean rather the responsibility to oneself. Consequently, I have to ask myself: What degree of responsibility am I prepared to accept as a public agent?

Possible answers are:

  • I accept responsibility for the results of my activities.
  • I accept responsibility for my intensions.
  • I accept responsibility for the actual activity/process.
  • I accept responsibility for the ethical value of my activities.

Unfortunately, the question about the ethical value of an activity is hardly ever asked. But that is the managers’ job. He can decide if what he did was just behavior or actually responsible performance. Something is certainly ethically responsible if it helps people to discover their potential and does not hinder them in any way

When we say activity, then the agent always has a choice, i.e. he could have chosen alternatively. It also means that the negative consequences are taken into consideration. If negative consequences have to be accepted, then this should happen after a responsible weighing of priorities.

Willingness to accept self-responsibility.

A special approach towards media is necessary. It should be characterized by the willingness to act and thus to accept responsibility. The requirement for this is an ethical conscience, because responsibility usually pertains to responsibility of conscience. Our conscience is what decides immediately before we do something if it has ethical quality. This is also the answer to “guilty or not guilty”. There are only two ways of being guilty: Either you have not schooled your conscience so it can give you sufficient means to decide if an activity is ethical or not. Or else if you decide in favor of what is ethically bad.

Here are some common deficiencies when it comes to conscience: Firstly, there is attitude. For most managers, good intensions are all they need. Secondly, there is the moral value of the results. The intensions may have been rather unethical, but unfortunately, the result is ethically quite admirable.

For the ethically motivated manager, this means that good intensions and even the admirable result are not good enough. The activity itself is what counts. For an ethically motivated treatment of media, it is therefore important to act ethically.

The meaning of ethics during an activity.

Unfortunately, when dealing with media, the question of ethics in media is seldom discussed, even though it would be easy for a manager to determine whether his or her activity is ethically responsible.

Ethical behavior when dealing with media, for example, takes into consideration that facing the reality of the media world has high priority, regardless of my personal interests. If I lack ethical behavior, I will consider everything that is not in my interest negative. That means that I will tend to oppose media as a matter of principle. Ethical behavior does not include the idea of negative influences. All that matters here is that media are different, which makes it easier to deal with them.

Another difference between an ethical and unethical manager is that the latter looks to the media only for confirmation, rather than reality. That makes ethical behavior a necessary means for adapting to reality.

Unethical behavior.

There are three forms of unethical behavior:

Ignorantia simplex:

The manager has never taken any pains to discover ethics. Consequently, he must not be surprised if the media report his lack of ethics. However, he is very much surprised because, due to his ignorance, he does not understand what the media are talking about.

Ignorantia crassa et surpina:

The conscious choice to act unethically. Here, the manager probably has only one motive: How can I camouflage my unethical behavior? He will only admit what is already known and try to hide everything else. Best example: The Döring affair in Stuttgart. (Translator’s comment: if I remember correctly, in 2004, Döring, a right-wing CDU-politician in a speech described a dead colleague as having been opposed to Hitler, when the reverse was true).

Ignorantia affectata:

Overcoming one’s ignorance connotes with negative sentiments. Dealing with the media is a pain in the neck, especially after misdeeds.

What matters is how a manager understands his or her responsibility. Here Hans Jonas did pioneer work with his book “Das Prinzip Verantwortung” (The Responsibility Principle). To deal responsibly with media, you must ask your conscience what you should say to them. Unfortunately, many managers have lost their ethical conscience. Ethical conscience is replaced by the normative power of facts. They do what they have to do. Since the conscience receives less and less queries, its importance when dealing with media dwindles.

The prerequisites for ethical behavior towards the media.

Which requirements must be met if you want to deal with the media in an ethically responsible way? The company itself must become a place where ethics are an issue. As soon as that is achieved, the manager will have to ask himself about the attitude and awareness with which to meet the media.

The requirements within the company:

The recruitment policy should be consistent with the company policy.

The directors should have a recognizable exemplary function.

The company values should be realistic.

The border morals should be consistent with the company culture.

The recruitment policy should not counteract human dignity.

There should be a formal, non-material, system of values.

Border morals concern the relation between the moral efforts a company makes and its possible public reward or punishment. Generally, moral behavior is rewarded. A customer buys rather from a clean company than from a dirty one.

What a manager must do when dealing with media.

He should be trustworthy, competent and honest.

He should be prepared to accept responsibility.

He should have a personality with internalized values and identify with them.

He should have primary virtues.

His orientation in life should be an ethically responsible one.

He should not limit himself to admitting what is already known.

He should evaluate what has happened from a realistic perspective.

He should not consider the media his enemies.

If you want to treat the media in an ethically responsible way, you should always keep in mind that you might easily be hit by a conformity mechanism. In modern opinion research, it is called “loop of silence”. This mechanism is well-documented and describes the isolation with which every manager is punished by the public as soon as he voices an opinion that is not popular. At the same time, every manager should be aware of his own hidden fear of isolation.

This fear of isolation constantly motivates him to keep informed about which opinions and what behavior is generally accepted and how they increase or decrease in the public scale of acceptability. But it is the ability to live even with this loneliness that makes some managers strong and capable. If you do not fear isolation or know you can always retreat into a circle of like-minded people, you can publicly declare what you think without having to suffer.


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