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What Price the Moral High Ground?

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What Price the Moral High Ground?

Ethical Dilemmas in Competitive Environments

Princeton UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Do people act only out of selfishness, or is honor still a force in the Western society? And, is it good for business?

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Why are prison stripes the new fashion trend sweeping the ranks of executives caught pulling cheap tricks on Wall Street? Read Robert H. Frank’s book to find out, although it is probably too theoretical to have an immediate influence on business practices. Frank offers a timely, penetrating critique of the contemporary social-science notion that rational people always act out of self interest, without charitable or moral inclination. Frank shows why this dangerously simple-minded approach to human nature threatens to diminish further the moral standards of the West, which are already about as ugly as that frog you dissected in high school biology. Be forewarned, this is a philosophical presentation. It is not a practical volume filled with profit-making, cheerful case studies. If that’s what you’re looking for, just drop the cover price into your legal defense fund. In hopes that Frank’s ethical treatise will have a strong influence over time, getAbstract highly recommends it to those seeking a solid theoretical basis for simply doing the right thing.


Do You Have to Cheat to Win?

Do nice guys and gals finish last? In the real world, will the good guys come from behind to win? Or are they more likely to get ambushed by those who act without the moderating influence of moral compunction? If you notice that the real world often seems to reward meanness while no good deed goes unpunished, you may wonder if age-old standards of right and wrong really apply anymore. In other words, has the notion of clear-cut right and wrong gone the way of the horse and buggy, based on a type of indeterminacy theory of ethics?

No one can debate the severe consequences of unethical behavior, as shown by recent history's accounting scandals, fraud and corporate wrong-doing. The consequences include shareholder losses and plummeting stock values, as well as the downfall of high-profile personalities. Nonetheless, some cynical observers of the 2002 accounting scandals concluded that doing well and doing good had become mutually exclusive. This argument accepts the notion of contagion, that is, the more wrongdoing there is, the less viable a healthy morality becomes. Like a clean baseball player who competes against batters on steroids, ...

About the Author

Robert H. Frank is the Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management and the Goldwin Smith Professor of Economics, Ethics and Public Policy at Cornell University. He is the co-author of The Winner-Take-All Society, and the author of Microeconomics and Behavior and Luxury Fever.

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