Comparing the ethics of 50 years ago and today
Ethics is a subject which is causing some concern within society and government today and it is only fitting that we compare the philosophy and culture of today and 50 years ago. Do you remember a time where a man’s word was his bond? This type of culture was in place 50 years ago and even longer. As individuals came to this country they brought not only themselves but the culture which existed in their home country. Each country was distinguished by the manner in which individuals treated each other with respect to the philosophy of ethics and integrity. Does that philosophy exist today? The answer to this question is sometimes.
The business environment of today is totally different than in years past. The times we now live in for many businesses, not all is making a profit which is not a bad thing. Profit seems to be the objective of many businesses not necessarily the process of how they are achieved. The culture which existed when our country began does not exist today at least in the same scope. The principles of ethics and integrity seem to be losing their place in society as evidenced by several scandals over the years not only in private industry but also in government.
The times of the past when a man’s word was his bond between him and those with which he has made a commitment is hard to find in the environment in which we find ourselves today. Customers were important then and they should be important now. Customers are coming to realize that commitments by business and the way they treat their customers and their employees affect the path to profits along with continued existence. The communication between customers and the reputation which businesses had were important and while it is important today the concept in which it is discussed is totally different.
Comparing the principle of ethics today to the years gone by is like comparing apples and oranges. It was a different world then. It was a world without computers, cell phones and the Internet. Population was also much smaller and communicating with them through advertising was limited for the most part through city newspapers and to some extent radio. Communication also took place by word of mouth. Customers who were well satisfied about how a business was operated not only from how they were treated but from a personal perspective communicated with their friends, family and co-workers. Owners of businesses in many cases personally knew their customers for they were their neighbors and friends for the most part. It was a world of small businesses not the large corporations which exist today.
Treating customers as a person not as an incoming dollar was the principle on which businesses operated. Does this exist today? The answer again is sometimes. There are many fine companies and organizations who respect their customers but there are others that have a different perspective. Businesses today make attempts to compare their products or services to other businesses and the words they use can sometimes be misleading but not necessarily a lie or what is considered to be false advertising. Competition today is much more competitive than 50 or more years ago and therefore ethical practices goes a long way in retaining and getting new customers. In the past customers looked at the character of the small businesses and their owners who for the most part was heavily involved in decisions being made.
Today owners amount in many cases to be stockholders and are far removed from the everyday business environment and the decisions being made. The Internet and the technology it brought with it totally changed the way businesses operate. It is difficult at best to know if you are doing business with an ethical company. The principle of ethics as it applies to business is more focused on by customers. Businesses need customers to stay in business and many will do all they can to keep the customers they have while trying to increase their share of the market.
The decisions companies make today are in large part associated with profit and not necessarily considering their customers. In the past it was the customer not making a profit. One of the keys to evaluating the operations of a company involves whether their principles can be visibly seen. Words displaying the principles by which they operate must be matched by the actions and decisions they make. The culture of ethics or the lack of it in businesses today cannot even compare to the manner in which businesses operated 50 years ago. The previous sentence is not meant to imply that some businesses operate within the culture they did 50 years ago only that they may not be easily recognized.
Putting a label on businesses today is not the right thing to do but the widespread culture of ethical behavior 50 years ago identifies that overall today’s businesses have a long way to go to come close to the culture that was previously in place. While profit is needed for businesses to survive if you treat your customers right profits will be there. Ethical behavior with respect to competitors involves fair advertising campaigns. Granted there is legislation involving truth in advertising and some liberties can be seen by some to be questionable while not necessarily violating the law, they violate the principles of ethics. Today the ethics of business are questioned more as a result of scandals in various businesses and organizations involving their solvency and the picture it presents to the public.