We Have Lost Our Moral Compass

by Jack Nadel

During the past year, we have been flooded with bad news. Daily reports of plunging markets, fading companies, and mammoth industries in danger of extinction have all but destroyed our faith in the American Dream. Every segment of our society has been hit hard! Homeowners have had to face the fact that they were way overextended and were facing foreclosure and possible bankruptcy. On the super wealthy front, people and institutions have been hit with massive frauds that have destroyed their savings and hopes for the future.

It is evident that something has got to change and in fact our government is about to change on January 20, 2009 with the inauguration of Barack Obama. There are many moves being planned to reverse the recession. Massive bailouts to automotives and financials and new great job creation is promised. We will certainly attack the needs of our infrastructure and atmosphere that is crying out for a “green” policy and massive reduction in fossil fuel emissions.

I believe there is one major factor that has contributed greatly to our problems and is not even questioned. We have lost our Moral Compass. Our younger generations have been raised in the school that says the end justifies the means …that it is OK to bend the truth or cheat a little if it will help you accomplish your goals. It does not dwell on what is right or wrong. It is OK to cheat if you don’t get caught. In the 80s Michael Douglas starred in a picture, “Wall Street.” In this movie, we discover a new kind of hero, whose name is Gordon Gecko and Gecko’s most famous statement and theme of the movie is “Greed is Good”. It is greed that motivates individuals and entire businesses to succeed. The results of greed is living in luxury and not worrying about the fallout. In fact, the fallout is good for everybody. Even great schools retained teachers to spread the word of success without responsibility. Any class taught by Michael Milken was oversubscribed by thousands of students.

I do not believe that any governing agency or group of whistle blowers can police the many areas in which fraud can be perpetrated. If a brilliant person wants to cheat his friends and associates, he will find a way to do it. The thing that amazes is Ponzi schemes like the one perpetrated by Bernard Madoff must result in the thief being caught. The amazing part of this particular scam was that it thrived for 50 years and victimized some of our society’s brightest people.

The cry goes out for more oversight by the government and that could be part of the answer. To me, the real problem that must be solved is that which is involved in regaining our Moral Compass. I made a feeble attempt some years ago by writing a book with the unlikely title “How to Succeed in Business without Lying, Cheating, or Stealing”. Although it was mildly successful, the principal of profitablility with honesty and integrity was and is a viable thought. It is time to cast aside the principals in the motion picture, “Wall Street” and numerous books that recite the same mantra.

My friend, Joel Silberman, wrote an article which I have picked up on. The title is “Progressive Capitalism”. We believe that the capitalistic system is the most productive concept in the history of the commercial world. It has produced in the United States the highest standard of living ever experienced. We must add to the capitalistic model its responsibility to the entire society. There is nothing wrong with profit when it is accompanied by a social conscience.

I would like to amend Gecko’s statement. Capitalism is good if it is administered with an intensive desire to benefit the entire community in the process. I say good luck to all those who will make a fortune with clean air, better roads and bridges and a totally solid infrastructure. I say good luck to all the venture capitalists who will finance new businesses built around the principles of Progressive Capitalism. I tip my hat to our new government, particularly if it is able to intelligently oversee the economy. I will always be grateful to the whistleblower who levels accusations at the thieves and who recognizes the extent of the damage that can be done. I will be particularly thankful to the educators who will teach young people to created a bright new society that has a Moral Compass at it’s center.

This essay can also be found at Jack Nadel's blog, www.CommunicationIsInspiration.com. Jack Nadel's pocket book, "How To Succeed In Business Without Lying, Cheating or Stealing" can be found at this Amazon link: