Do Ethics Matter In India?

Here are some facts about India to decide how the country is progressing as a global power. Assess from these factors whether business ethics matter to India.

  • In Forbes World Billionaires list Mukesh Ambani and Lakshmi Mittal are ranked fourth and fifth respectively, and there are over 50 billionaires in India.
  • Forbes Powerful People list for 2010  has four Indians with Sonia Gandhi  ranked 9th in the world.
  • The Forbes Global 2000 list of 2010 is ranking   world’s leading companies based on  sales, profits, assets and market value. There are 58 Indian companies in the list with Reliance Industries ranked  126th and State Bank of India ranked 130th.

Ethisphere conducted two surveys. One list consists of 2010 World’s Most Ethical Companies and the other is of 2009’s 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics. In both these lists I did not find a single Indian name!

The Corruption Perception Index 2010 issued by Transparency International shows India ranked 87th of the 178 countries listed. The score is 3.3 which comes under highly corrupt countries.

The question is can India become a global economic power when it is portraying such a dismal picture in business ethics?

Risks of Deteriorating Social Values

This week India celebrated the festival of lights, Diwali. The sound of firecrackers is still ringing in my ears and everybody has binged on sweets and dry fruits. Everybody is spending Sunday recuperating from the excesses of Friday and Saturday. On Diwali, Hindus celebrate Prince Ram’s return to his hometown Ayodya after living fourteen years in exile.

gerlin5.yaraho.comLet me go a bit back in Hindu philosophy. As per Hindu cosmetology, the world has a cycle of four yugs (periods). One cycle consists of 12000 years and the four yugs are named Sat, Treta, Dwapar and Kali .  The four combined are called chaturyugi. The yugs cycle is called a movement from the Golden Age to the Dark Age as the yugs are defined according to the prevailing ratio of virtue and sin in the society. In Sat yug there was only virtue, in Treta yug virtue-sin ratio was 3:1, in Dwapur yug virtue-sin were equal and in Kal yug the virtue-sin ratio is 1:3.

Prince Ram was born as an avatar of Lord Vishnu in 5000 B.C. in Dwapur yug to remove the sins of the society. Presently, we are living in Kalyug where are sins are exceeding the virtues. As we can see across the world, the crime rate is increasing, ethical values are deteriorating and terrorist activities are intensifying.

According to Hindu mythology collective karma (in modern-day terms collective consciousness) of the society brings the specific yug. Considering that society goes through various stages of morality and ethics,  I am highlighting the present day issues regarding social values and ethics. The three posts below discuss these aspects and one is forced to think regarding their own contribution to society.

1.     The American Leader’s Love Affair with Integrity by David Weinberger  (Via Harvard Business Review)

You can’t argue against integrity. Everyone ought to have it. But how did it become the pinnacle quality for leaders? After all, when people point to the great leaders of the past — Churchill, Kennedy, Alexander the Great — they usually point to other qualities. Courage. Vision. Steadfastness. Sure, they have may also have been people of integrity, but that did not used to be the sine qua non of leadership. Was Genghis Khan a person of integrity? How did integrity become the key characteristic of leaders?

I have a theory. I think there are two reasons.

First, America puts its leaders in a tough spot. You have to be a special sort of person to deserve to be a leader, but American culture is resistant to people claiming to be special. If integrity qualifies you for leadership, then you can be special not because you are so talented or smart, but simply because you see yourself honestly. This enables American business leaders to humbly protest their ordinariness — they are just like you and me — while justifying their being put in privileged position of leadership. The memoirs of modern American leaders are filled with this two-step tango.

2.    What Happened to Intellectual Honesty? (via find fulfill flourish)

One of my core values is intellectual honesty. Harvard ethicist Louis M. Guenin describes the “kernel” of intellectual honesty as “a virtuous disposition to eschew deception when given an incentive for deception.” Intellectual honesty involves presenting and discussing facts in an inclusive, fair, and open-minded manner. It entails examining and considering all available data not just the information that supports one’s preferred solution or position. Intellectual honesty requires that people put aside personal interests and assumptions and be as objective as possible. The opposite of intellectual honesty is “spin” – creating misleading, distorted, or false impressions by intentionally omitting some facts and/or selectively emphasizing or exaggerating others to promote one position or viewpoint over another. Spinning is calculated misrepresentation.

3.  On the Rise of the Totalitarian Personality ( via Rogue Operator)

There are many ways to describe a political phenomenon: One is by typology, or by describing the characteristics of that phenomenon; and another is by definition, or by identifying the underlying essence of the phenomenon.

A quick and dirty way to gather a look at what totalitarianism is popularly believed to be is to look the term up in the encyclopedia, in our case, Wikipedia. It is predictable that the publicly edited description of totalitarianism is typological in form:

Totalitarian regimes or movements maintain themselves in political power by means of an official all-embracing ideology and propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, a single party that controls the state, personality cults, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, the use of mass surveillance, and widespread use of state terrorism.

Arendt insisted that these manifestations of political evil could not be understood as mere extensions in scale or scope of already existing precedents, but rather that they represented a completely ‘novel form of government’, one built upon terror and ideological fiction. Where older tyrannies had used terror as an instrument for attaining or sustaining power, modern totalitarian regimes exhibited little strategic rationality in their use of terror. Rather, terror was no longer a means to a political end, but an end in itself. Its necessity was now justified by recourse to supposed laws of history (such as the inevitable triumph of the classless society) or nature (such as the inevitability of a war between “chosen” and other “degenerate” races).

 In nutshell, people define the ethical and social values of a society. They cannot walk blindfolded and claim the society is responsible for its status. Each individual contributes to the status of the society, hence is accountable for it, the good and bad.