Excerpt: Making a Living, Making a Life by Daniel Rose

About the Book:

Five decades of the best speeches of Daniel Rose, Chairman of Rose Associates. Winner of a number of national Cicero Speech awards, he has spoken at universities throughout the U.S., Europe and Africa on a broad variety of topics: economics, inner city education, racial problems, real estate, food & wine, and housing. “Dan Rose’s gifts of analysis and exposition are superb, and I always relish reading him.” Jacques Barzun. “Dan Rose has created a body of work that is philosophy at its most useful how does one live a good life.” Fareed Zakaria

Read an Excerpt:

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The ancient Greeks loved words, and one of their best was “oxymoron,” a contradiction in terms, such as a hot ice cube or a tiny giant.

At times, it seems that my subject today, “business ethics,” qualifies perfectly as an oxymoron. This year’s headline stories about the atmosphere of corruption that prevailed at General Dynamics, the nation’s third largest defense contractor, recall the bribery stories at Lockheed in the 1970’s, the General Electric scandals
of the decade before, and
so on.

In the broader society, municipal corruption seem so widespread; shabby influence-peddling even at the level of the White House staff; insider trading accepted matter-of-factly on Wall Street; the casual indifference with which our country’s largest and most respected banks laundered huge amounts of what was obviously criminal cash—all of these (and the other scandals that will undoubtedly be revealed in next week’s or next month’s headlines) pose fearful problems for those leaving university and entering the business world.

The public today seems to believe that throughout the business world sharp practice is admired, duplicity and deliberate misrepresentation are the norm, and the only crime involved in outright fraud is getting caught. The average businessman is seen as echoing Mark Twain’s view that while he believed in honesty, he didn’t “make a fetish of it.”

Worst of all is a widely-held perception that such a low standard is expected of you, and that you cannot succeed in business without it. Perhaps even your family and friends are nervously wondering if, for business success, you must make some Faust-like pact with Mephistopheles.

Relax; your souls are safe.

That is, that are safe if you want them to be. For that is what history tells us.

Morality and worldly success are not now and never have been, necessarily incompatible. Just as every society contains some people with larceny in their hearts, so every society known to man has had people who conducted themselves honorably and who led satisfying and fulfilling lives in the process.

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