A simple ethical framework
27 March 2015
There is always beauty in simplicity. At our public event yesterday, our guest speaker Sir Tim Lankester spoke about Business and ethics in international development, with special reference to the Pergau dam scandal in 1994, which he wrote a book about. He analysed the case from a very effective – because simple and clear – moral framework, consisting of three main criteria – legality, truth or transparency, and justice. (The latter one entails equality, fairness and all such variants). He applied each of the three criteria to both levels of management and responsibility involved in the aid-for-trade affair – the government (including civil servants) and company directors and partners abroad, respectively. The conclusion was that the Pergau aid agreement had been unethical on all counts – unlawful; dishonest; and unfair to both British taxpayers and the Malaysian people (who could have got a better deal).
There is always beauty in simplicity, and when it is matched by sound judgement, it can lead to valuable practical insights.
Business with a French twist
August 2013, Paris
Less than two years ago, France lost its top-credit rating. There are fears that S&P might further downgrade it to a simple AA. Government debt is 90% of the GDP, and unemployment – still over 10%. Creativity helps in these conditions. The French may be talkative and we may think they spend too much time in cafés, but that is not necessarily unproductive business. They have a flair for things that can be fun and work at the same time. Their joie de vivre need not be reason for bankruptcy.
During the five days that I was there, I saw more artists and writers making money while having fun than I would normally see in a month in London. Terrance, our ‘American friend in Paris’, spends most of his time at Café de Flore, and earns his living by showing Paris around to brainy tourists. The young intelligentsia get together at La Belle Hortense, a book-bar with expensive wines and free books in Le Marais. Students shop at Mona Lisait – a cheap bookstore chain that one can find in all the trendy areas. And if you can’t afford the clothes and the champagne in Montparnasse, you can always stop at L’Academie de la Bière on the same glorious road.
We take our time in France, says le garcon with a smile. He couldn’t possibly make more than 1,000 euro a month, but he seems happier than most white-collar colleagues I know in the City.