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Tennessee’sBUSINESSBUSINESSVol. 15 No. 1 2006 Ethicshere is lots of talk about ethics nowadays: ethics in business, gov-ernment, personal dealings, and even the family setting. Unfortu-nately, much of the discussion centers on a lack of ethical behavioracross the board. Have individuals and society in general lost their sense ofhonest, aboveboard, straightforward behavior? Certainly not entirely, butenough to raise red warning flags everywhere. Ours has been referred to as the “cheating culture.” Cheating is perva-sive in many places. It is not unusual for businesses and individuals to cheaton their taxes. It is commonplace for employees to bring home office sup-plies for personal use. Many students knowingly download Internet musicillegally, justifying it as only a minor wrong. Surveys suggest cheating andplagiarism are rampant on college campuses.The business world has been rocked by ethical failures, most notablyEnron and WorldCom. In both cases, investors lost millions of dollars whenstock prices fell because of fraudulent financial reporting. Consequently,there has been a growing loss of confidence in America’s big businesses. Ethical failures resemble the addictive process: they start out small andthen slowly but surely progress to bigger infractions—with more frequencyand more devastating consequences. Ethical breaches also resemble theaddictive model in that they are chronic and progressive and end in disaster. To counter the ethical abuses of corporations, university business schoolsnow routinely teach business ethics courses. These courses are needed to armstudents with an ethical framework for making moral as well as legal deci-sions when they formally enter the business world. However, business ethicscourses alone cannot clean up the “cheating culture.” Many things have tochange; first the higher-ups at a company—the officers and board of direc-tors—need to set the example of ethical responsibility. Capping off the ethical dilemma is the current nasty image of Ten-nessee politics. Shocking and disgusting were the arrests last spring of oneformer and four current legislators on charges of accepting bribes inexchange for their votes on legislation. Most of those cases—as well as thescandals surrounding the Tennessee Highway Patrol—are still pending.In response to ethical problems in state government, both the governorand the legislature initiated panels to make recommendations. Governor Bre-desen has called a special legislative session, beginning January 10, toaddress the matter of ethics. It is difficult to predict what the legislature’sfinal package will be, but surely it will produce some improvement.It is feared that too much emphasis will be placed on the usual whippingboys: lobbyists who try to influence legislation on behalf of themselves,their employers, or their clients. Lobbyists have a genuine right to advocatetheir positions to legislators but should do so in an ethical manner. It shouldnot be forgotten that lobbyists do not force legislators or other governmentofficials to do wrong; they are ultimately responsible for their own actions.The major focus of ethics reform must be on lawmakers. The criteria forreform are simple: set clear rules for lobbyists and legislators, require precisereporting of anything with monetary value, conduct all legislative businessin the open, assign a panel independent of the legislature to oversee it, andespecially, as often as possible, elect honest politicians to public office.—Horace Johns, editorVol. 15 No. 1 2006Published by the Business and Economic Research Center (BERC)Jennings A. Jones College of BusinessMiddle Tennessee State UniversityBox 102Murfreesboro, TN 37132(615) [email protected] A. McPheePresidentMiddle Tennessee State UniversityE. James BurtonDean Jennings A. Jones College of BusinessDavid A. PennBERC Director Horace E. JohnsExecutive EditorSally Ham GovanCreative DirectorWWeebb ssiitteeView our latest issue online: www.mtsu.edu/~bercTennessee’s Businessprovides an exchange ofideas in the fields of economics and businessamong businesspersons, academicians, andgovernment officials. The opinions expressed inthe articles are not necessarily those of the Busi-ness and Economic Research Center, the Jen-nings A. Jones College of Business, or MiddleTennessee State University, but are the respon-sibility of the individual authors. The materialmay be reproduced with acknowledgement ofthe source. Middle Tennessee State University,a Tennessee Board of Regents university, is anequal opportunity, nonracially identifiable, edu-cational institution that does not discriminateagainst individuals with disabilities. Sendaddress changes to Tennessee’s Business,Business and Economic Research Center, P.O.Box 102, Middle Tennessee State University,Murfreesboro, TN 37132, (615) 898-2610, [email protected] AA138-1205Recipient of the 1991, 1996, 2000, and 2004AUBER Award of Excellence in PublicationsTT ee nn nn ee ss ss ee ee ’’ ssBUSINESSTTMTSU Photographic Services; prop courtesy Neal’s LightingEEddiittoorr’’ss NNootteeContents261014202428The Costs of Poor Business Ethics: Sarbanes-Oxley Three Years LaterKevin L. JamesTeaching the Importance of Being EthicalM. Jill AustinResisting Temptation: Sentencing GuidelinesGary M. BrownJust Another Day at the Office:The Ordinariness of Professional EthicsDon WelchThe Road More Traveled: Illegal Digital DownloadingTimothy N. TappanTennessee Government EthicsJoseph SweatThe Dean’s View: Thoughts on Ethicsin the Education of Business LeadersE. James BurtonCover photo:


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