2009: The Year Ethics Came Back Into Vogue?‏

Okay,  it’s time to unleash a little creative thinking on the dark side..

I have no problem with alleged crimes being committed if the lesson attached highlights the importance of sound ethics in the way many people conduct themselves (yes, especially politicians).  I’m inspired already by this example from the world of finance.

Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff, accused of masterminding a massive investment fraud, has been handed an ethics lesson by thieves who stole a statue from his Florida mansion, and promptly returned it, according to local press.

Robbers who swiped a $US10,000 ($14,400) statue from Madoff’s estate near Palm Beach, Florida on December 22, dropped it off at a nearby country club where Madoff was a member, signing the return “The Educators”.

Hanging from the 1.2 metre statue, which depicts two lifeguards sitting on a raised stand, was a note, reported the Palm Beach Post.

“Bernie the Swindler, Lesson: Return Stolen Property to rightful owners. Signed by – The Educators,” the note said.

The statue was not damaged and police are continuing their investigation of the robbery, said the daily.

Madoff, 70, is under house arrest in his Manhattan apartment on a $US10 million bail.

He is so far the only person charged in an alleged $US50 billion Ponzi, or pyramid scheme in which major banks, ultra-wealthy private investors, universities, charities and Jewish organisations were among the victims.

What type of (alleged) criminal scheme could you come up with to teach others a good lesson in ethics?

I can think of a few.

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28 Responses

  1. Infiltrate the three main parties, destabilise them and form a new party with a rock solid policy platform and utilise the Democrat structure that lies dormant.

    Put candidates of the new party in every seat and also place independents and preference each other…put high profile people in the seats of Griffith, Lilley, Wentworth, Lalor and Curtin to put the incumbents under pressure to spend more time in their respective seats.

    If there is seats won then do no deals with any party and woo any independents to form a voting bloc in both houses whilst trying to encourage independent thinkers from other parties that don’t bow down to the machines to cross the floor on important issues.

    Criminal…no more than what is happening now!!!

    Put high profile people in place and fund them well, mainly in Tasmania and Victoria to put the heat on Brown and Filter Conroy.

  2. Scaper,

    Please feel some sympathy for us in Tasmania. We have that cyborg – Senator Eric Abetz to contend with.

    It’s a pity that Andrew Wilkie threw in the towel. he was one of our last remaining hopes.

    Now all we have left is Terry Martin and to some extent Bob Brown.

    But I really can’t imagine the Greens ever running the country. They’d just turn it into a commune or something…

  3. Scaper, great! You get the concept. Too often we fantasise about some devious plan to set things right. Sometimes you’ve got to fight fire with fire.

    I’ve been running a rather devious email campaign designed to aggravate certain politicians here in NSW. Not illegal, but very satisfying.

  4. Good topic. I also can think of one example in particular.
    I’ve thought on occasions, it may do well for all those who were mercilessly ‘clipped’ by Alan Bond to scan ‘outstanding, unpaid invoices’ and related documents for collective display on the www.

    This person must never again be able to trade on any basis with Australian citizens. Never.

  5. If you want a good chuckle, just email me at whistleblowermack@live.com and I’ll add you to my mailing listing along with a few other notables in the media and government.

    Joni and reb have surely had a few good laughs about my approach even when the subject matter is of a serious nature.

  6. “What type of (alleged) criminal scheme could you come up with to teach others a good lesson in ethics?”

    As I have mentioned on sevral ocassions, I would like to see public floggings brought back. Just like in medieval times. A kind of replacement for what has now become loosely termed as “reality TV” in the 21st century.

    Also, putting people in “stocks” for the public to throw rotten tomatoes and vomit on them et cetera.

    It’s this form of light-hearted entertainment that’s missing from society today. No sense of community spirit for the despised, other than just cursing at them when they appear on TV.

    It’s just not the same anymore…

    *sigh*

  7. 6. reb | January 2, 2009 at 10:14 am

    How about a few public crucifixions as well……………………………………And if we do them at night we set them alight with kerosene to light up the streets a bit.

  8. 7. Walrus.

    Sounds good. You bring the tar, I’ll bring the feathers…

  9. Perhaps a bit of ‘drawing’ and ‘quartering’.? Take the case of Robert-François Damiens.

    “Before the torture, on 28 March 1757, he said “the day will be hard”. He was tortured first with red-hot pincers; his hand, holding the knife used in the attempted assassination, was burned using sulphur; molten wax, lead, and boiling oil. Horses were then harnessed to his arms and legs for his dismemberment.

    Damien’s limbs and ligaments did not separate easily; after some hours, representatives of the Parlement ordered the executioner and his aides to cut Damiens’ joints. Damiens was then dismembered, to the applause of the crowd. His torso, apparently still living, was then burnt at the stake.”

    A graphic account but notice the ‘applause’ of the crowd which most certainly would have included women and children. We seem to have come some distance. But I suppose we could always go back

    The problem with such public displays is that sometimes it can lead to demonstrations and riots in support of the ‘guilty’ one, The political cost can be too high. Better to put them into a prison well away from the public view. Better to control their mind rather than mutilate their body?

    Michael Foucault wrote a book on the subject “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.:

    More here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discipline_and_Punish

  10. I think we should encourage cannibalism on an island and send all our criminals over with rosemary & coriander.

    T.A.B
    Bets on who gets eaten first and at what time.
    if they will be rear or well done.

  11. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm……..!

    A thread on “Ethic” attracts a measly total of 10 comments in 3 hours.

    Says it all really……………!

  12. Ethics: the study of what is morally right and what is not.

    Walrus, that is because these days due to actions by the political, business and religious institutions there is no clear cut ethos.

    To have a functioning society we have to formulate and abide by one set of morals, not bow to interpretations by ethnic, native or the social engineering by the minority in order to create some new order.

    A divided society is very easy to manipulate and the powers that be will ensure the status quot until they are challenged and defeated.

  13. John @3, don’t waste your time on politicians. Once elected ALL MPs enter hospital and undergo a personality bypass operation. They are devoid of feelings.

  14. Walrus@11- excellent point – me thinks we’ve become too desensitised and if given the opportunity to actually do something to right the many wrongs we complain about, we wouldn’t know where to start.

    And here I was think many blogocrats were an imaginative and innovative in their thinking and actions.

    Come on people..surely there are many more schemes than this!

  15. Reb@6 actually an excellent idea for a reality tv show!

  16. Stephen@13. I agree . I’ve also got rocks in my head because I enjoy giving the ‘evil doers’ a serve.

  17. And here I was think many blogocrats were an imaginative and innovative in their thinking and actions. (John McPh).

    Sorry John, but I’m just not in a thinhking mood today.

    But if it’s any consellation I will do my bit during the year to make this world a better place. I will make sure that I am a nicer person than I was last year, even if the change is a tiny one per cent. I will go out of my way to make life better for at least one more person than I did last year, be it by a small donation, a helping hand, a kind word or a kind heart.

    I will also endeavour to work harder this year. As a Commonwealth public servant I serve the people of Australia, and I will work hard for the people of Australia.

    I could go on and on. But instead of writing about it, I’m just going to go out there and do it.

  18. And then we get another comment implying that a commenter is drinking…

    In Reb’s case it might have been right.

  19. Geez Migs I can’t argue with that.

    I do have a fantasy though about calling an airstrike in on the Bush family home just as they’re pulling into the driveway.

  20. Please ignore my comment @ 18. Wrong post.

  21. I do have a fantasy though about calling an airstrike in on the Bush family home just as they’re pulling into the driveway.

    That certainly WILL make the world a better place. Shoulda done it 8 years ago John.

  22. And here I was think many blogocrats were an imaginative and innovative in their thinking and actions.

    Come on people..surely there are many more schemes than this!

    I’ll stick to the actions of my first comment…when one comes to a brick wall that one can not pass through there is the option of either demolishing it…get the concrete cutter out to cut a way through or simply sit and wait for it to crumble.

    Patience is not an option!

  23. Aquanut: as human tastes very similar to pork, so I’ve read, haven’t tried it myself maybe add in a barrow or 2 of apples for the apple sauce 😉

  24. That sounds nice min. That would mean more ribs wouldnt it?
    I cant wait to eat someone now.

  25. Aquanut..was curious about the ‘rear or well done’. Sounds more like rump rather than ribs.

    Back to ethics..or the topic pertaining to same. This article caught my eye: Tim Costello versus Paris Hilton. Now there’s a visualisation for you. http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/hilton-stunt-leaves-society-limping-20090101-78f0.html

    It would seem that Paris/her publicity machine p’sses Tim off as much as it does the rest of us.

    I suspect that old Tim was breathing fire when he wrote this article which includes the following: I suspect that she and the media are co-dependent and that their mutual addiction makes for great complicity..(and)..She has simply found a mode of marketing that suits this shallow culture that is all of our making.

  26. There’s a major lesson in here somewhere I’m sure. In fact, I had a mate who was interested in buying shares sometime back until I took him through the financial statements – we both concluded something wasn’t right.

    Lessons to be learnt from ABC Learning’s collapse
    http://business.smh.com.au/business/lessons-to-be-learnt-from-abc-learnings-collapse-20090101-78f8.html

    Statements from ABC Learning just before it finally collapsed in November indicated losses for the year ending June 30 would easily wipe out any profits the company ever made.

    In simple terms, ABC Learning has wiped out its dubious claim to having ever made a profit.

    When it came to the treatment of revenues and earnings in those fateful half-year accounts, Ernst & Young’s Brian Long took a very different view from ABC’s previous auditors from Pitcher Partners – who were happy to endorse the interpretation provided by the company’s management.

    Payments from developers that subsidised loss-making centres – and hid the fact that ultimately a quarter of them were losing money hand over fist – were included as normal revenue, hiding the fact that the Government’s child-care largesse was no El Dorado for ABC Learning shareholders.

    This got the OK from Pitcher Partners along with valuations on billions of dollars worth of now discredited intangible assets that made up most of ABC’s balance sheet.

    Dr Philip Ross, the head of the school of accounting at the University of Western Sydney, describes it as a “failure of regulatory and accounting processes” and says that despite changes to corporations law and accounting standards ABC Learning’s situation is not that different to the One.Tel and HIH collapses.

    “All three sought rapid expansion of market share which carried significant risks clearly not reflected in [their] financial statements,” he says.

    He notes that ABC Learning’s profits increased rapidly through acquisitions, which should have raised questions about the underlying valuation of assets it acquired – especially given that 70 per cent of its assets were intangibles.

    “The inherent risk associated with the valuation of the assets was enormous and should have been a red flag,” Dr Ross says.

    Embarrassingly for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, this issue was pointed out to it in 2006, but the regulator could find no fault with ABC Learning’s massive intangible assets, which would go on to play a crucial role in the expansion that brought the company undone.

    The ASIC complainant said: “It’s suggested that the methods of financial reporting being employed here are designed to artificially create apparent shareholder value, when, in fact, that shareholder value associated with the child-care licences (91 per cent of net assets) is based entirely on the future net cash flows of the company, which may or may not be realised. It’s also suggested that this may be misleading to potential investors in the company.”

  27. Ethics – it’s about Right and Wrong isn’t it? Actually that’s only part of the story because Ethics can also be about Good and Bad. While ‘ethical systems’ abound they can be reduced to a binary opposite for discussion purposes.

    Deontological Ethics are about Right and Wrong; about Intentions; about moral obligations (the 10 Commandments spring to mind); about categorical imperatives; about adherence to independent moral rules or duties formulated by others Get the drift?

    To put it simply from a deontological perspective – When we follow our duty, we are behaving morally. When we fail to follow our duty, we are behaving immorally. That’s the deontological ethical system in a nutshell.

    Then there is Teleological Ethics which are about Good and Bad; about outcomes rather than intentions; about consequences; about the greatest Good for the greatest number.

    Simply – “in order to make correct moral choices, we have to have some understanding of what will result from our choices”.

    When we make choices which result in the correct consequences, then we are acting morally; when we make choices which result in the incorrect consequences, then we are acting immorally.”

    A practical example – when should we tell the ‘Truth’? When Eve asked Adam – Does my bum look too big in this? Adam, in deontological mode, would have answered ‘yes’ because it was his duty (obligation) to tell the truth and Eve’s bum would have looked too big in any garb including a Caftan.

    Adam spoke the Truth because it was the Right thing to do. But was it the Good thing to do? Perhaps not. Who benefited from his truth telling? Who would have been ‘wronged’ if he said ‘no’.

    Another example. A knocks on the front door which B answers. A asks B if C is home. B suspects that A intends to kill C – how should B answer? Given B’s suspicions should B simply tell the truth and say C is at home. And in telling the truth actually contribute to the death of C? Or should B in teleological mode say no which could save C’s life assuming A departs on the basis of B’s untruth?

    To make it a little more complicated. Imagine C hears A’s inquiry at the front door and assumes that B will tell the truth and admit that C is home. C decides that fleeing is the best course of action because he believes that B is a deontological truth teller.

    Unfortunately for C he is shot because B didn’t adopt his usual deontological stance and decided to lie on this occasion. So when A departed, A ran into the fleeing C and shot C.

    Does B bear any responsibility for the death of C? Would any court blame B?

    The possibilities are endless but I would be interested in your view on your ‘ethical’ position.

  28. Nature5@27 – ethics can be an extremely complex subject – I wish it were more black and white but it just isn’t – a level of subjectivity is always involved. But I think we can all agree if intent (motive) can be established then whether certain actions are good or bad/right or wrong when viewed by what we may consider reasonable behaviour within a civil society.

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