Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Corporate Facism or Virtue Ethics?

On March 6, Boeing CEO, 68-year-old Harry Stonecipher was forced to resign for having a consenual affair with a Boeing VP, 48-year-old Debra Peabody. An unnamed informant informed the Board of a graphic email exchange between the two. Stonecipher's wife filed for divorce a few days later in order to end their 50-year marriage.

A number of prominent conservatives--including Dennis Prager and Michael Medved--condemned Boeing's actions, while of course not approving of Stonecipher's behavior. They regarded this as a private moral lapse that had nothing to do with his job performance. Prager referred to the danger of "corporate fascists," and asked, Should you be fired for any sin? Not honoring your parents? Lying outside of work? Having a consensual affair? (And yes, they explained why Clinton's act, which involved lying under oath before a grand jury, was different.)

I disagree with Prager and Medved on this one. In a recent Breakpoint commentary entitled The Virtue Deficit, Mark Earley explains why this matters. See especially the comments by business ethicist Scott Rae.