Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
Presenter: Neil Funnell
Moderator: John Miller
Neil is an Engineering graduate of Lehigh University and worked in IBM World Trade Corporation with extensive experience in both Latin America, Europe and the Far East. Neil retired from IBM as Program director in university relations and is responsible for IBM’s grant programs for higher education. Dr. John Miller moderated our discussion.
Neil presented the following questions and statements:
Market Triumphalism: You Can’t buy Nobel Prizes or buy children
There are 4 sections to my presentation:
(The following is the interchange dialogue between Neil and our HHI Ethics audience):
Life and Death:
Janitor Insurance or Dead Peasant Insurance ("I need insurance on my dead peasants. Hey, then I can make even more money if I deny my peasants health care and work them to death"..This immoral and unethical practice by many large corporations was unknown to the average American worker until the turn of the 21st century.) Taking a census of serfs in Russia and mortgaging them to government. Walmart cashes in a life insurance policy for some lower level employee, who dies in parking lot---Money comes to them tax free. This is used by prominent major corporations. Should it be outlawed? No, this a perversion of key employee insurance, if they die prematurely. How about on a lower level worker?
Then, why not over work employees, in order to hasten their deaths, if you are the corporation.
It makes sense to insure the top executives. Insurance on employees without their consent is no longer legal, but was so 10+ years ago. Now they have to tell you. Should corporations be able to buy insurance on low level employees? The 1st people paid off in 9/11 were those with “peasant insurance”. Shouldn’t this be unethical if the employees are paid so little that they can’t pay for their own insurance? Actuaries in Insurance companies can see a profit to be made for the corporation and have shown them the stats.
However, wouldn’t it be ethical for corporations to notify the individual? Part of risk/reward is the risk to corporations of their employees unionizing.
What is the harm to the insured? Could there be a clause to pay the next of kin, whatever Walmart receives?
This Issue is not ethical, but this seems to be business, and is the policy of the market, however, shouldn’t the client be notified? It should Not be the corporation’s job to value a human’s life. The whole point of life insurance is to replace money to heirs. Walmaris only gambling. Can you have insurance on someone that you don’t have a personal
contact with? Why should I want a company to buy insurance on me, even after I leave the company? Eg “Dirty Harry Movie”. Corporations aim at the lowest level employees, who perform the most physical work.
Only the top 1/3 of salaried employees can legally, be insured by most corporations. This is a great return on investment for corporations, that is “tax free”. Insurance companies always make money on this.
Is there a law for husband and wife taking out insurance on one another?
A Viatical: ("Viatical settlement" typically is the term used for a settlement involving an insured who is terminally or chronically ill). Write someone as the beneficiary when they are near the end of their life. Then buy insurance on timing of death; they can buy on 5 or 6 or more policies and the key things are, when they will die. AIDs patients were a large part of that business, but now AIDs meds have tanked part of that market.
Life insurance companies don’t like Viaticals, since 30% don’t get redeemed, but Viaticals lessen that figure for insurance companies.
The Department of Defense DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) after 9/11, is trying to improve intelligence. They found that the futures market in terrorism is a great predictor, using the concept that participators were very knowledgable and could help, but this never got a hold in congress. Trading does not necessarily represent intelligence, but may just be opinions.
Also a shift in currency values is notoriously hazardous. There are too many concerns regarding some insider trading in that market. The CIA might watch who invested in these. The DARPA created an intelligence in contraband then went back to the CIA and generated their own intelligence, in order to make themselves look better.
John Miller noted that this is fascinating, that anyone could come up with these types of markets!!! There are some real ethical issues in all. There seems to be a presumption that markets are intelligent and will resolve everything; can any market be proven to work efficiently? There is a premise that looking for all inputs into an appraisal of what is going to happen. Could making money be inherently unethical?
Contributions of blood; Have you ever sold your blood? Is it sold to the patient? The Patient pays for processing and storage. The Problem is commodification. Should organs be sold, e.g. a starving person wants to feed his family. One can no longer sell people--they are still sold in sex slavery, but it is illegal. Is that the only line that we draw?; selling body parts,; how about selling sperm. Have we already gone to far. Generally the market is the best indicator, but where do we restrain? Their is a problem with adoptions; should their be an auction? We are in a runaway market driven society; short term is better, but long term we should worry a lot about it, and society is not caring for people, because we get too busy making money. Every part of our body is ours; can I sell anything that I want to sell and set a price? A poor person can not buy this. Is that ethical? Pick your own ethical principle for each issue. The law is there to protect a patient from a foolish transaction.
John Miller noted that the highest rate of executions is in China; harvesting organs of those executed, and selling them; is that ethical? Your son needs a heart transplant and gets one from China. One has to look at the motivation. What’s so ethical about incinerating all these parts? it is Illegal in the US to sell organs, based on some ethical considerations. Someone in terrible straights goes to China to sell their heart and wants the money to go back to their heirs. (this is either suicide or murder); to cash in on this; is it ethical?
Paying kids for good grades; underperforming in reading and bonus system for such
System for each AP test passed; there is a cash bonus. Does it work? We need Evidence-Based research.
There are huge futures markets in kids going to college; it doesn’t work. Yes, kids do things for different motives and it is OK to do this. The converse is to yell at kids who don’t have the ability. We all do this with our kids. One attendee said, ‘not me”. Why not give bonuses for good grades. This has been going on for centuries, giving bonuses for encouragement. So is it ethical? Some of us who coasted in school, would we have done better if we were paid or rewarded? That depends on the standards. Someone noted ‘I don’t approve of the rewards’. Mentoring volunteers in school helps to identify early problem students, Hispanic or Black, usually. These kids can only motivate themselves, and one must find what turns them on or off. They can get extra attention. Mentors are often retired teachers. Giving "Carrots" or money does not work. We get results without doing such. Ask them, what have they done to improve themselves and to help others.
Never say never to money for good grades, but the best reward is to give someone the joy of learning and more ethically valuable. in athletics there are trophies and awards, but then their performance is not that much better. Rewards can create interest and opportunity. in some of the lower echelon school systems, it is important to find something that the poor learner can be interested in and insure that they have enough food and a place to go at night. This may be in a shelter, a car for example and one should adjust education to such early on. if a student is way behind by the 3rd grade, they never catch up. If they love soccer start with a book on soccer. Find a book that is appropriate and individually sit down and work with each child; then they make progress. Technology has created diagnostic software that can be effective for these kids and should help a child to learn on a specific grade level. Mentors found out that a child wanted to be in the band and used that as an incentive to get the grades up; it worked. David Lauderdale printed it in one of his his articles. Sterilization of drug addicts: Many countries pay an individual for sterilization, which saves society money. Is this a market solution to a social problem? The majority of crack babies are never normal. Perhaps a hormonal implant to temporarily limit pregnancy, if the addict can give truly informed consent. IQ levels et al., create slippery slopes. This could cost society untoward money and grief to those afflicted newborn children. This is not unreasonable and should be done to prevent birth abnormalities. Five Million men in India were persuaded to have a Vasectomy and it worked.
Many problems are at a societal level; Look at society and then the individual.
This might open up a Pandora’s Box and should not be done. Preferential treatment:
Line Standers: in Washington DC, congressional hearings are open to public so a company hires a low paid “line stander” to get up at 4 AM and get a ticket to get in. Is that OK? This Depends; if all are line standers, then it is not ethical, because it is not fair to public. Can they stack the audience?
They do line standing in Massachusetts, re MV Bureau. This is a good job for those who are unemployed, a booming business. Weinberg from Goldman- Sachs sold his position when he got to the head position; is this enterprising? To pay for a way to get into a congressional hearing is bad for public policy. There should be full disclosure as to a corporation or lobbyist’s financial interest; there should be a limited number allowed into a hearing for each organization. What is the correct answer? We are a capitalistic society and this should be OK. Democracy is a weak form of government, but individual people determine the fabric.
Neil indicated that his entire presentation was based on a book by a Harvard professor of Ethics: What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets, By Michael Sandel.