This is “Case Studies”, section 5.3 from the book Business Ethics (v. 1.0).
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Source: Photo courtesy of ictsan, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ictsan/3025080337/.
Jason Everman (b. 1967), Kodiak, Alaska
In February 1989, Jason Everman joined a new act called Nirvana as a backup guitarist. A few months later the group’s first record, a raw and noisy effort titled Bleach, was recorded and released by an obscure local distributor.
Everman played in the 1989 summer tour supporting Bleach, then was kicked out of the band: the rest of the guys found him too showbizzy on stage and too introverted off it. Bleach scored a minor success on the college radio circuit.
Nirvana’s 1991 follow-up, Nevermind, is one of the more important and financially lucrative pieces of recorded music in history.
In 1990, Everman joined Soundgarden to play bass on their promotional tour for the EP Loudest Love. Not meshing with the other band members, he was sent packing after the tour’s end.
Soundgarden’s 1991 release Badmotorfinger scored a moderate success with the indie crowd. The 1994 follow-up, Superunknown, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart. It stayed there.
In 1994, Everman joined the US Army Rangers and then a special forces unit. He toured in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was honorably discharged in 2006.
Fifteen minutes of fame came to Everman on November 10, 2008, when he was featured in a New Yorker piece titled “Theatre of War.” While being interviewed to provide a veteran’s perspective on war, a friend of Everman’s breaks in to add that besides being a warrior, Everman had once been a musician. The article’s author was skeptical. But, she writes, later investigation revealed that Everman had, in fact, been a small-time rock star.
During the interview Everman related that he’s a devotee of the Renaissance intellectual Benvenuto Cellini, who believed that in order to live a full life, you must develop each of the soul’s three parts: the artist, the warrior, and the philosopher. At the time of the interview, Everman—bearded and heavily tattooed—was studying philosophy at Columbia University in New York City.
Kurt Cobain (b. 1967), Aberdeen, Washington
Cobain was born into a broken home and eventually lived with a born-again Christian family. He adopted the religion. The faith didn’t last; soon he was spray painting “God is Gay” onto random pickup trucks in the neighborhood.
In 1981, his uncle gave him a choice between a bike and a guitar for his birthday. He went for the guitar.
By March 1988, Cobain had formed a noisy outfit called Nirvana. They were playing dives around Seattle, doing bad covers, and making up some of their own songs. They decided to make a record. No one wanted to sponsor them. They decided to go ahead anyway and pay for it themselves. None of them had any money.
In 1989, another local musician, Jason Everman, agreed to pay the $606.17 it cost to make the record if they’d let him join the group. They did. They recorded Bleach. Though he’s named on the credits and pictured (hazily) on the cover, Everman didn’t actually play on any of the tracks. Cobain said the credit was a symbolic thanks to Everman for paying the $600 it cost to record the album. Everman never got his money back.
The group took the music on the road, and when they returned home, they kicked Everman out.
The group’s next record, Nevermind, knocked Michael Jackson’s disco sensation Dangerous off the top of the charts in January 1992.
In 1991, Cobain met Courtney Love. They did massive drugs, got married, and she got pregnant.
While revolving through detox programs and heroin binges, Cobain wrote music for the next album. In Utero debuted at number one in 1993.
In 1994, Cobain committed suicide with a shotgun. These are fragments of his note:
I haven’t felt the excitement of creating music for too many years now. For example when we’re backstage and the lights go out and the roar of the crowds begins, it doesn’t affect me the way it used to. The fact is, I can’t fool you, any one of you. It simply isn’t fair to you or me. The worst crime I can think of would be to rip people off by faking it and pretending as if I’m having 100% fun. Sometimes I feel as if I should have a punch-in time clock before I walk out on stage.
I can’t stand the thought of the self-destructive death rocker I’ve become. I don’t have the passion anymore, and so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.Wikipedia, “Death of Kurt Cobain,” accessed May 16, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Kurt_Cobain#Suicide_note.
Consider the seven values used for ethically defining jobs: meaningful work, leisure time, money, power, prestige, comfort, and security.
Everman worked to live; Cobain lived to work.
Everman is a sequencer; he wholeheartedly followed one career path, then a second, and a third. He’s a different kind of sequencer than the more standard version: a man or woman following a single main career path interrupts it to do something else (have a child, start a small company, travel around the world) and then returns to the old job.
Cobain comes to believe that he’s unethically exploiting consumers.
Source: Photo courtesy of Todd Huffman, http://www.flickr.com/photos/oddwick/1954905403/.
Roberto Pulido, a ten-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, was arrested by the FBI and charged with protecting drug dealers, cocaine dealing, identity theft, obstruction of justice, robbery, assault and battery, and money laundering.David S. Bernstein, “Cop or Drug Dealer?,” Phoenix Boston, November 9, 2006, accessed May 16, 2011, http://thephoenix.com/Boston/News/26961-Cop-or-drug-dealer/?rel=inf.
What are some of the advantages to being a policeman? What are some of the advantages to being a drug dealer? Presumably, Pulido started out being an honest cop, and over the course of ten years fell (or climbed) into the illegal drug business. Can you imagine how the seven values of his work might have shifted as this transformation developed?
Imagine that you are considering two career directions: joining the police academy or growing some pot in the basement and getting a start in the drug-dealing business.
From the newspaper report on the Pulido case, “Pulido bought a Hyde Park building where his wife began teaching dance to children—and where once a month for the next several years Pulido hosted and provided protection for drug-and-sex parties. Admittance ran from twenty to forty dollars, and narcotics were often in open use. Lap dances in the “boom-boom room” cost an additional twenty dollars. As many as one hundred people attended on a given night, including well-known felons, drug dealers, and law-enforcement officers—some in uniform.”
Compare and contrast Pulido’s wife’s job and Pulido’s. Which post is most desirable for the person valuing prestige?
In a sense, Pulido’s wife worked for her husband. By running a dance school out of the building where Pulido operated, she provided cover for his operation.
Source: Photo courtesy of Dave Bleasdale, http://www.flickr.com/photos/sidelong/4110738292/.
The blogger Dahlia (she doesn’t provide her last name) wants to invent a new career. She calls it investigative fashion journalism. In condensed and slightly altered form, here’s what she writes:
Investigative Fashion Journalism is a different kind of job. When people talk investigative journalism they think Watergate, Area 51, etc. Also, due to watching too many movies, there’s the fear that the consequences of investigative journalism include losing your job, your family, your money, and on the very rare occasion—your life. (Though last I’ve heard, the fashion journalists that I’ve admired are still very much alive.) Part of the fun is being your own detective by trying to dig up evidence, to see what the big cover up is about. I mean, how many of you were actually aware that illegal immigrants working long hours in manufacturing jobs were happy being paid minimum wage in Europe?
We love scandals. And what better scandals can you uncover than the fashion industry? I mean I know celebrity gossip is hot right now, but exposing a multi-billion dollar industry gives me a bigger high, but that’s just me. Also, by exposing the corruption like those working illegal immigrants, you can change how the industry works and perhaps enforce better practices for all current and new companies coming into the mix. If you lead by good example others will follow, right?
If local universities would offer such a program in journalism, I’d sign up for it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, for now, I’m resolved to my fashion blog.Dahlia, “Investigative Fashion Journalism,” Dualité, July 7, 2008, accessed May 16, 2011.
Ethically troubling exploitation in the fashion industry.
Source: Photo courtesy of mangpages, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mangpages/3701097713/.
In January 2009, the woman known as Octomom gave birth to octuplets. Her real name is Nadya Suleman; she’s a single mother who’d split from her husband because they were unable to have children together. She was on welfare when she conceived the children via in-vitro fertilization. She already had six young ones at home.
All her children were implanted by Dr. Michael Kamrava.
The delivery required forty-six doctors, nurses, and attendants.
In 2009, she was offered $1 million to star in a pornographic movie. She refused, but later that year she signed a contract for each of her children to earn $250 a day to star in a reality show.
Source: Photo courtesy of Tami Vroma, http://www.flickr.com/photos/32314864@N02/3253051215/.
Sally Kane, an attorney and writer, drew up a list comparing the practical realities of two careers, paralegal and lawyer. Here’s a summary:
Paralegal: A few months training.
Lawyer: A few years of school after college.
Paralegal: Low-cost education.
Lawyer: Law school is EXPENSIVE.
Paralegal: Earning limit under $100,000 in most markets.
Lawyer: The sky.
Paralegal: A paralegal now is pretty much a paralegal forever.
Lawyer: Working as a lawyer opens doors to other careers.
Paralegal: One of the fastest-growing careers in United States.
Lawyer: Job outlook above average.
Paralegal: Limited responsibility and stress.
Lawyer: High responsibility and stress.
Paralegal: Overtime pay.
Lawyer: If there’s work until 11 pm, you work to 11 pm.
Paralegal: Once you’ve got the job, no more school.
Lawyer: You need to keep updating your knowledge (every year, if you’re a tax attorney).
Paralegal: Shorter learning curve, and your work is routine and mundane.
Lawyer: Long learning curve, and your work is intellectually challenging and varied.
Lawyer: Private office.Sally Kane, “Should You Become a Paralegal or Lawyer?,” About.com, accessed May 16, 2011, http://legalcareers.about.com/od/legalcareerbasics/a/paralegallawyer.htm.
This comparison is a list of facts. Can you go through the list and attach ethical value to the facts? In terms of what value(s) does each fact make a job more or less desirable?