Archive » November 16, 2007
IT’S JUST MY OPINION
By Harris Sherline, Journal Contributor
The news is constantly filled with stories about people like Jack Abramoff, Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Andrew Fastow and Reed Slatkin, who was guilty of perhaps the largest case of fraud (as in Ponzi scheme) in American history, ripping off some 800 investors for about two hundred-fifty million dollars..
We were deluged with wall-to-wall media coverage about Enron, their executives and auditors, Arthur Anderson. The government quickly indicted the accounting firm while our ever obliging politicians, with their usual eye to re-election, held hearings and passed new laws to fix the problems they perceived, or thought they perceived — without even waiting for all the facts to be brought to light.
Is everyone a crook?
Does all this mean that everyone in business is a crook? That seems to be part of the undercurrent of the hype that the media constantly promotes to pump circulation and ratings.
There have always been, and always will be, dishonest people. No matter how many laws are passed, dishonesty and taking advantage of others is like water flowing to whatever outlet it can find.
But, that doesn’t mean everyone in business or who works for some private enterprise (large or small) or for the government is inherently dishonest or a cheat.
What about you? Do you automatically look for some way to take advantage of other people when you do business with them? I doubt it. Some may, but I believe they are in the minority.
That may seem naïve in these times, but I have reached this conclusion after over 50 years in business, so it is not without considerable thought and experience being factored into my perception. What I do believe, however, is that everyone tries to make the best deal they possibly can in commercial transactions or in politics: buying, selling, negotiating contracts, seeking employment, hiring others, or cutting deals to get legislation passed, etc.
In spite of over 60,000 pages of legal gibberish that favors special interests and extracts as much as possible from taxpayers, most people still try to minimize their taxes. At least, those who can, do. Does that make them or their tax advisors dishonest? Or, are they merely trying to interpret their way through an impossible labyrinth of detailed rules that confound everyone, including the legislators who write the laws.
And, what about politicians and the government? Are they honest?
Consider the duplicity that’s evidenced by the nation’s so-called Social Security “trust fund.” Our Social Security system is nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme, continuously taking funds from new investors (workers) and paying the money out to retirees. That’s similar to what Reed Slatkin did, and he went to jail for it.
There is no Social Security “trust fund.” It’s nothing more than an accounting gimmick, employed to disguise the fact that Social Security monies are being used to fund the government’s current operations. It’s hidden by tricky accounting practices for the purpose of keeping the liability for these “borrowings” from appearing on the Federal balance sheet. That’s somewhat analogous to what happened with Enron.
Are more laws going to improve the character and ethical behavior of business and professional people, or politicians? Not likely. That comes from somewhere else, doesn’t it?
What to do?
So, what should be done? Continue to pass more laws that attempt to control the conduct of individuals or try to do a better job of raising and training ethical people?
But, that’s just my opinion.
© 2007 Harris R. Sherline,
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