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Ethical stories?

May 16, 2007

My thanks to John Caddell who found this Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure produced by the Pentagon. Before anyone gets exciting this is not a new take on Just War theory, but a set of stories of human failure, told in a whimsical style that makes them very readable. I give an example here.

“But, Judge, I didn’t get anything!”

An offshore safety inspector found much of the Government’s equipment to be in need of repairs to meet safety standards. He then referred the business to his brother-in-law’s repair shop. The rig operators smelled a rat and called the FBI. They discovered that, in return for each referral, the brother-in-law was treating the inspector to an evening with a lady of dubious morals.

The case was brought to trial. In his defense, the inspector claimed that he had not received a “thing of value” in return for the referral. The judge didn’t buy it – and neither did his wife.

John kindly references my own work on the fact that we learn more from failure than we do from success. I would also make a more general statement that imposing a best practice system flies in the face that millions of years of evolution have taught us it is a bad idea. In effect avoidance of failure has been a more successful strategy than imitation of success. I expand on this argument here.

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