Sunday, January 18, 2009

Join the Club!

Still subscribed to this course blog? Nice.

So, I'm trying to start up a school club -- the "Owning Our Ignorance" club -- devoted to fun and logic, in that order. I've put up a blog for it over here.

Check it out. Please join if you're interested.

Real Original, Landis

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Goodbye to Yesterday...

Well, it took long enough, but it finally happened. Your grades are now posted. Happy New Year!

Toni Likes PJs; Dave, ShortsYankees? More Like Stinkees!

Don't Ever Change!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Final Exam

The final exam is at 4:50 p.m. on Monday, December 15th. It's in our normal classroom.

OK, One: Napping

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Car That Gives You That Warm Feeling

My Other Car Is a ChevetteHere are some links about consumer safety and the Pinto:
Finally, here are some videos. First, here's an actual Pinto bursting into flames after a rear-end collision:

Second, here's a fictional version of an exploding Pinto from the comedy Top Secret!:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Intellectual Honesty

An important claim I make in class is that, although it has many benefits, advertising is a fundamentally intellectually dishonest medium. So here's a little rant on the topic of intellectual honesty to help explain what I mean.

A simple goal of this class is to get us all to recognize what counts as good evidence and what counts as bad evidence for a claim. I think we're getting better at that. But it's not clear that we're caring about the difference once we figure it out.

Getting us to care is the real goal of this class. We should care about good evidence. We should care about it because it's what gets us closer to the truth. When we judge an argument to be overall good, THE POWER OF LOGIC COMPELS US to believe the conclusion. If someone likes an arg, but still stubbornly disagrees with its conclusion, she is just being irrational.

This means we should be open-minded. We should be willing to let new evidence change our current beliefs. We should be open to the possibility that we might be wrong. This is how Todd Glass puts it:

Admitting when we're wrong, or simply ignorant, is a very important step in intellectual honesty. Here's an excerpt from a podcast I listen to called Jordan, Jesse GO! about owning our ignorance:

Here are the first two paragraphs of a great article I just read on this:

Last week, I jokingly asked a health club acquaintance whether he would change his mind about his choice for president if presented with sufficient facts that contradicted his present beliefs. He responded with utter confidence. "Absolutely not," he said. "No new facts will change my mind because I know that these facts are correct."

I was floored. In his brief rebuttal, he blindly demonstrated overconfidence in his own ideas and the inability to consider how new facts might alter a presently cherished opinion. Worse, he seemed unaware of how irrational his response might appear to others. It's clear, I thought, that carefully constructed arguments and presentation of irrefutable evidence will not change this man's mind.

Ironically, having extreme confidence in oneself is often a sign of ignorance. In many cases, such stubborn certainty is unwarranted.

Certainty Is a Sign of Ignorance

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

After These Sponsors...

Here are some links on advertising ethics.
Finally, here's a recent Saturday Night Live skit on the distortions of political ads:
Lies in News?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Extra Credit: Mom's Clippings

Since I started teaching business ethics, my mom has sent me a bunch of articles that she thinks would be helpful for the class. So I thought I'd use her gifts to create an optional extra credit assignment, due at the beginning of class on Wednesday, December 10th.

Below are links to these articles. (As you can see, she reads a lot of Newsweek.) The assignment is to write a short (about one-page) response to one of these articles. The response should include the following:
  • A brief summary of the article (no more than a paragraph).
  • An explanation of your opinion regarding the ethical issue the article brings up.
  • A defense of your opinion. Support your opinion with good reasons!
The response doesn't have to be typed. You won't be graded on your opinion. You'll be graded on how well you DEFEND your opinion. This assignment is worth up to 25 points.

Mom's Clippings
-How Much Privacy Do You Have at Work? (Newsweek)
-Humane Fast Food? (Newsweek)
-Salmon Fishing Crash (Newsweek)
-The Business Behind Niagara Falls (Newsweek)
-The Financial Crisis Disproves Libertarianism (Slate)
-The Invisible Hand Still Works (Newsweek)
-David Foster Wallace: Consider the Lobster (Gourmet)
-Nudge: Government Paternalism (Chronicle of Higher Education)
-You Don't Deserve Your Salary (San Francisco Chronicle)
-How Obvious Was Enron? (New Yorker)
-Free Market for Organ Donations? (New York Times Magazine)
-Company Rewards Workers... with Its Profit! (MSNBC)

I'm Not Doing Anything!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Email Privacy

Here are some links on email privacy.
As always, feel free to email me. I promise to keep our correspondence confidential.

Don't Fire Me!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Paper Guidelines

Due Date: The beginning of class on Monday, December 15th, 2008

Worth: 15% of your overall grade

Logistics: Write an argumentative essay on one of the topics below. Papers must be typed, and must be between 600-1200 words long. Provide a word count on the first page of the paper. (Most programs like Microsoft Word & WordPerfect have automatic word counts.)

Assignment: Explain and evaluate a pair of articles from our textbook that we do not go over in class.
  • First, briefly explain each main argument in the two articles you read. (Choose pairs from those listed below.)
  • Then, evaluate each argument. Are the premises true, false, or questionable? Is the structure good or bad? Consider criticisms to each argument, along with responses to these criticisms.
  • Finally, explain and defend your opinion on the issue. Which side—if either—do you think is correct? Why? Be sure to defend each of your opinion with reasons.
Topics (readings and page numbers from our textbook)
1. Can restructuring a corporation’s rules make a moral difference?
-Josef Wieland (25-37) and Ian Maitland (38-53).

2. Is it a mistake to urge corporate managers to be moral?
-John Boatright (74-81) and Jack Guynn (82-90)

2. Is privatizing Social Security good business?
-David Altig & Jagadeesh Gokhale (94-112) and Thomas Bethell (113-119)

3. Should the states regulate appropriate business behavior?
-Eliot Spitzer (122-131) and Alan Yuspeh (132-142)

4. Is “employment-at-will” good social policy?
-Richard Epstein (221-226) and John McCall (227-244)

5. Is direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals bad for our health?
-Sidney Wolfe (281-285) and Alan Holmer (286-290)

6. Should we require labeling for genetically modified food?
-Philip Bereano (322-328) and Joseph Levitt (329-338)

7. Are multinational corporations free from moral obligation?
-Manuel Velasquez (342-347) and John Fleming (348-351)

8. Should patenting life be forbidden?
-Jeremy Rifken (354-359) and William Domnarski (360-364)

9. Do environmental restrictions violate basic economic freedoms?
-John Shanahan (368-377) and Paul Ehrlich & Anne Ehrlich (378-386)

10. Is bottling water a good solution to problems of water purity and availability?
-Julie Stauffer (389-392) and Brian Howard (393-405)

11. Should the world continue to rely on oil as a major source of energy?
-Red Cavaney (408-411) and Howard Kunstler (412-417)

Default on This

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Banality of Evil

Here are some links related to our discussion about the documentary we watched in class:
Also, here are some deleted scenes from a recent episode of "The Office" titled "Business Ethics." You can watch the entire episode online.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"The Corporation"

The two-part movie below is "The Corporation," the documentary we're watching in class.

So what did you think of the movie?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Midterm on Monday

This is just a reminder that the midterm is on Monday, November 3rd.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Everyday Low Wages

Here are some links related to our third consensus session on Wal-Mart:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Incorporate Responsibly

Here are some links related to our second consensus session topic on corporate responsibility:
What's this current financial collapse all about, anyway? Here's a bunch of pretty good stuff on it:
Finally, we wondered in class which members of a business are required to be socially responsible. Should we focus on the owners, or the management, or the employees? The following scene from Clerks suggests that Kevin Smith believes we should focus on all of them.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cap & Com

Here are some links related to our first consensus session topic on capitalism and communism.
Now You See It, Now You Don't