Capitalism and business ethics

August 23, 2010

Professor Thomas DiLorenzo's article, "Business ethics' wrong focus" (Commentary, Aug. 22), unfortunately contains a misinformed premise. He claims that "(b)usiness ethics courses typically combine anti-business moralizing with advocacy of more government regulation…" This ultimately leads him to a conclusion that a focus on business ethics by universities represents a "disservice."

Professor DiLorenzo might be surprised to learn that I and most other business ethics professors are committed capitalists. We believe in principles of free markets and choices for participants. What we object to is the all too common tendency for business managers to focus on very short-term profits for a very limited constituency (typically stockholders).

Most business ethicists agree that free markets have a self-correcting tendency that will punish dishonest managers while rewarding those that create value for a broad range of constituents. This fundamental feature of business success is frequently lost amidst all the egoistic, "whatever it takes," "greed is good" messages that populate a good deal of conversations about business.

William P. Smith

The writer, a management professor, teaches business ethics at Towson University.

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