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Unethical?

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Are the huge salaries being paid to business leaders unethical? That question has arisen recently after it was revealed that the CEO of Westpac bank, George Frazis, is paid NZ$5.5 million per year. There is some debate around the composition of this payment but whatever the details many people seem to think it’s excessive.

Clearly it really is excessive and it would be obscene under any circumstances, but in the current situation where most people are getting minimal pay increases, the economy is in a depressed state (thanks to incompetent and immoral actions of bank executives), and the government is refusing to give important sectors of the community (teachers and radiographers for example) a pay increase, it seems particularly inappropriate.

Of course I don’t really blame Frazis himself, or even the board who authorised the payment. Clearly the problem is far more basic than that. The system which hands out vast amounts to senior executives and can’t find enough to properly fund health, education, and research is what’s really at fault so, like almost every problem the world faces, it really gets back to the failings of capitalism itself.

If this Frazis clown wants to “steal” vast amounts of money while providing a fairly mediocre service at no real risk (while receiving this salary his bank is underwritten by the New Zealand taxpayer – how corrupt is that!) then who can blame him?

Corrupt people have stolen money throughout history and we don’t accuse them of being unethical… Hang on a minute, yes we do!

But I think the general population is starting to catch on to the immorality of modern corporate management too. Other immoral characters include highly paid executives like Telecom chief executive Paul Reynolds (an incompetent leader whose company has been a provider of very average, over-priced, and anti-competitive services for may years) and Fonterra boss Andrew Ferrier (a real scumbag who doesn’t care about pollution back here in New Zealand as long as his company exploits the global market for milk). It almost seems that to be a successful CEO you must adhere to an immoral personal philosophy!

Again, I must emphasise that it’s the system which is at fault. Capitalism encourages unethical, greedy cheats and liars to take charge so it should be no surprise that that’s what we get. And unless a CEO does adopt these personal attributes he (or sometimes she because women are just as bad in these positions) cannot compete with those who do.

So people are beginning to see that unethical behaviour is unacceptable and if they also realise that the system is at fault they might see that the real response should be to change the system rather than criticise those who exploit it. Maybe there is hope that the power of corporations can be reduced. Maybe there is hope that money can be diverted into more meaningful areas. And maybe there is hope that the people who make real contributions to society, and not those who have developed the skill of extracting the maximum personal gain, are the ones we should be supporting.

Maybe I’m being unrealistic but at least I am being ethical!

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