Should We Trust Business?

The present mantra is that everything can be done best by business. Anything that is done that is not for the best will be corrected by the "invisible hand of the market".

We can evaluate this claim by looking at the public face of business as presented in their advertisements. The picture isn't promising. Everyone in modern society has developed a skeptical attitude towards advertising claims. Elementary schools even give training to young children on how to evaluate the claims made in advertisements.

We have come to expect the usual types of misdirections like "New and Improved" and "Works Better". The undefined comparison is common. It's not patently false, but implies something about the competition without having to prove the claim.

Perhaps this is harmless enough when buying a box of soap, but there are more serious cases. Recently there have been a number of cases of drug companies suppressing studies that don't prove the benefits of their drugs. Even worse have been cases of studies about adverse effects being hidden. This type of non-ethical behavior can cause injury or prevent a person from receiving the best available treatment.

So if companies are willing to lie or mislead their customers why should we trust them to behave ethically when running the rest of their enterprise? Cheating on taxes or manipulating financial reports is harder to uncover and can have significant effects on a company's financial standing and those who invest in it. Without proper government regulation and enforcement honest companies are put at a competitive disadvantage.

Moral: Trust your neighbors, but lock your door.

If you have any comments you would like to add email me at
Copyright © 2004 Robert D Feinman
Feel free to use the ideas, but the words are mine.