GegenüberStrandStraßeFor us, it has become pretty normal to be granted a right to trade and business. Historically spoken, however, this right is and was nowhere near self-evident, both in our and other cultures. In our “modern economical order”, the right to trade and business has become a quasi-basic right – just like the right to own property.

But every right also constitutes a duty. This is particularly well formulated in the Bavarian Constitution. I always like citations of relevant articles from our beautiful constitution.

Article 151

All business activities are oriented towards the common good. In particular, they are oriented towards providing a humane existence for everyone and the gradual increase of welfare for all social groups. Within these goals, freedom of contract is guaranteed according to the law. Freedom of personal decisions and autonomous business activities for everyone are guaranteed.
All freedom of business underlies the restrictions that considerateness towards our fellow citizens and ethical requirements of the common good demand. Business transactions detrimental to the common welfare or unethical transactions, in particular exploitive transactions, are against the law and therefore void by law.

As to credit transactions, the Bavarian Constitution says:

Article 157

Building up capital is not a goal of its own, but rather a means for expanding the national economy. Money and the credit system shall serve to furnish us with valuables and fulfil the needs of all citizens.

All texts in cursive writing are the copyright of the Bavarian Government 
(© Bayerischer Landtag).

KotronasA survey showed that many people consider these texts parts of the revolutionary program of a radical party. In the Bavarian textbooks for schools of the 1950ies and 1960ies, the tasks of banks, commerce, industry and service were described exactly according to the words of this constitution: everything was represented to serve a greater good constituting the source of life for people in freedom and social welfare.

As late as the 1970ies, leading German enterprises still proudly presented their positive social balances. There was a list of achievements for the common good, along with lists of products and paid taxes: it said how many apprentices they had educated and how many handicapped people they employed (in those days still voluntarily), as well as the number of kindergartens and the investments made for further educating their employees, and much more.

GutesEssenKontronasSo a first necessary requirement might simply be:

An “ethical enterprise” must adhere to the articles of the Bavarian Constitution.

Since the days of Alfred Rappaport, there is a doctrine saying:

It is the main or only task of the enterprise management to increase the “shareholder value”.

According to my definition, an enterprise that mainly or singularly follows this rule is not an “ethical enterprise”.
Schöne BuchtWhat is more: an “ethical enterprise” also has to give itself “meaning”. It must under no circumstances just be satisfied with creating Ebit.

However, the number of employees or the economic value alone will not suffice for defining meaning. After all, an enterprise is not just an economical, but also a social system. Thus, an “ethical enterprise” has to create social value on top of the economic value.

Some companies find substitutes for what meaning they lack. I am thinking of initiatives such as motivation by championing (We need to become number one in the business!), a special and impressive enterprise design (Corporate Identity as a substitute for enterprise philosophy), creating a sense of elitism and feeling of superiority (We are the best!), quasi-religious rituals (We sing the company hymn together every morning!), partying all the time (work hard, party hard!) or exciting mission statements (You can find a printed version of our values everywhere – even in the escalators!).

These modern leadership knick-knacks are (or may be) making a good impression and for some time they might even have some influence. However, they do not solve the problem of giving the enterprise meaning – which is my requirement for an “ethical enterprise”.

Conclusion:

BuchtIt is a necessary requirement for an “ethical enterprise” to follow rules such as for instance laid down in the Bavarian Constitution. Besides the economic values, it also has to generate social values for all the people working within and as many people as possible outside the enterprise. That also has something to do with a social market economy as it has been striven for by former governments of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Now I hear your question: “But how does that fit in with today’s “predator capitalism mentality?”

The answer is simple:    
Today is not the standard by which all things must be judged! Federal communism, too, ended rather abruptly. I sincerely hope that we will be more prudent in the future, so that our system will not totally break down, after already having suffered some injury like it probably happened during the allegedly now almost finished crisis.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
I am well aware that I am dealing with a very difficult problem in these articles. As soon as I have written anything, I can think of improvements and amendments right away. I therefore ask your understanding that the situations described in our world are very dynamical and that all I can do is “dump” (as the computer scientists say) a situation description on you.

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