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  • Fordham's Anti-Business School

    2/12/2010 4:31:44 PM Posted by Patrick Coyle

    Fordham Business SchoolThis past week at Fordham University, a business school program called GLOBE--which students can participate in to receive a designation on their diploma and transcripts--hosted its annual week of lectures and programming focusing on international business.  Students seeking this designation were required to go to at least two of the events this week and although I am not a business student, I found myself attending two presentations regardless.

    Chalk it up to naivety, but I thought when I was going to business school programs that I might actually find a few individuals who were pro free-markets, against excessive regulation and actually pro-business.  Silly me!  The two events I went to were dominated by liberal (I’m not even positive that’s an accurate term for their brand of leftism) speakers who went on to decry wealth accumulation and what they viewed as excessive compensation for executives as well as socially-unconscious business practices by international companies. 

    Perhaps the most laughable solution to the “problem” of executive compensation came from a Fordham professor of sociology who was eager to share a “new” (her word) idea of how to determine compensation for all business people and employees--not just executives.  This new idea essentially boils down to allowing the American people to vote on compensations under the premise that the more democratic a decision is, the more egalitarian compensations will be. 

    My first response?  This new idea is about as new at Lenin!  The Communists of yore may not have proposed direct democracy on the question of compensation, but they sought equality in income through redistribution, which is little different than utilizing the tyranny of democracy to limit certain individuals’ rights to make a higher than standard living.  The means may be different, but when the ends are the same, equality by democracy is little better than equality by communist dictate. 

    To be fair, this panel featured three speakers- two leftists and one capitalist.  And while I won’t begrudge the capitalist being outnumbered by two to one (a three member panel must have a bias one way or the other) I do begrudge universities consistently inviting the least eloquent of conservatives to offer rebuttal.  Was a conservative present?  Yes.  But it does little good and shows the university’s bias when they consistently choose a poor exemplar of our beliefs. 

    The second event focused on international businesses’ social responsibility but this one didn’t even feign balance as essentially all of the panelists were employees of the United Nations (one was a professor from South Korea who backed up everything the other panelists said).  After paying lip service to the primary purpose of business, which is to make a profit, the panelists went on to lambaste international businesses and corporations as being too powerful and too much out for their own and their shareholders’ good. 

    One can be sure that if the UN had more regulatory and enforcement powers these individuals would have been promulgating a different prescription, but instead, due only to their lack of power, they use the authority, status and influence of the UN to pressure companies in to being “socially responsible”.  It may sound benign enough, but take this example which one speaker offered as an exemplar for other companies to follow: an air conditioning company based in China put out a set of guidelines for its employees to follow in their everyday lives.  Some suggestions were benign enough, such as ride a bike instead of driving a car.  But the company’s fifth suggestion?  Do your best not to use air conditioning!  This coming from an air conditioning company! 

    Although I may not be majoring in business, at least now I can tell friends and underclassmen who are considering it to consider again.  We do not have a business school, we have an anti-business school. 

    Chadwick Ciocci is a conservative student activist at Fordham University.

     

    • Readers' Comments

    • Dear Chadwick and Patrick, I disagree with basically everything you said, mostly because it is entirely anecdotal (you argue the UN is ineffective based on one speaker's one example), but, I do want to take issue with you on your whole anti anti-free-market ideology. First, explain to me, and everyone who might read this, why you don't seem to see any problems with "excessive" wealth accumulation. Maybe, to you, there is no such thing as excessive wealth accumulation? If you feel that way, why? Second, I was under the impression that free-market enthusiasts like yourself believed that the free market is a bedrock of democracy, since it essentially allows the citizen-consumer to "vote" with his or her dollars. Is that how you see the ideal free-market, at least one aspect of it? If not, how do you see it? If yes, then explain to me what would be so "radical" about the Americans voting on executive compensation. You argue that "equality by democracy is little better than equality by communist dictate." Couldn't the citizenry independently decide to boycott a company, thereby ruining its profits? That, even I'll admit, is a form of punitive power exercised by a collective over an individual holding. Is that what your specifically against? You also seem to get capitalism and the free-market confused, but I'll let that slide since you're not a business student.
      Posted by Ben on 02/17/2010
    • Ben, Thanks for reading and taking the time to post. You are correct in believing I do not believe in “excessive” wealth accumulation. This is primarily because the term excessive, in the instance of wealth accumulation, is impossible to fairly define. According to the US Census Bureau, the median household income in 2007 was $53,233. To determine at what point one’s income is excessive relative to the median national income (which seems an agreeable point at which to start) one only has intellectual recourse to arbitrary standards. Is it excessive to make $60,000, a million dollars, one hundred million dollars? During his campaign, then candidate Obama cited the $250,000 mark as the point at which he would be willing to raise taxes on people, presumably because this amount of income was excessive, or unnecessary. But how can one derive such a number and honestly say that is the point at which people should not make any more money? Any proposal is necessarily arbitrary, even if it is based on some type of percentage, say 200% of the national median income. But more importantly, even if someone were to create such a standard and the concept were to become broadly accepted by the American people, we arrive at the problem of enforcement. Certainly businesses would not willingly enforce such a rule since income (compensation) is the primary way they incentivize people to work for them. This is just as true of someone making $50,000 a year (whereas they could have been making $45,000 at a different job) as it is of someone making $10,000,000 a year (whereas they could have been making $8,000,000 somewhere else). Therefore the only recourse to enforce such an arbitrary income limit would be through taxation, which necessarily limits freedom- something that should be avoided. To your second point, free markets are not necessarily a bedrock of democracy (bedrock being something upon which something else must necessarily stand). In fact, if we look at the vast majority of democracies around the world, very few of them believe in free markets. England, France, Germany, Italy (the list could go on and on) practice varying degrees of socialism. It follows then that one can have a democracy and not have free markets, since the ability to engage in capitalist endeavors has no bearing on one’s ability to choose their government, which is the bedrock of democracy. One can have a thoroughly socialist country and a thoroughly democratic one as well. You ask for an explanation of what would be radical about Americans voting on executive compensation, but regardless if one supports this practice or not, it seems all should be able to admit how obviously radical the idea is. Americans have never voted on such a thing before! There is no precedent for such a practice, and it is a clear break from past practice (which is, letting companies decide on executive compensation) and so it must necessarily be radical. My calling the idea radical is less a statement of opinion than fact. Even if I supported Americans voting on executive compensation, it would still be radical for the same reasons above. There are other points in your post that are very worthy of comment, but unfortunately time and space does not permit a full fledged rebuttal. Please do continue to post here though and even if we disagree, I at least hope you have enjoyed reading the other side. Regards, Chadwick Ciocci
      Posted by Chadwick Ciocci on 02/17/2010
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