WAT Support - Detailed Essays
 
WAT Support - Detailed Essays

90. The evils of half-knowledge

The wise have said that ignorance is preferred to half-knowledge. Half-knowledge is dangerous in every aspect. The person possessing half-knowledge has false notion of his knowledge while the person at the receiving end is harmed by it as he/she follows it blindly.

“A little learning” is not only dangerous in itself but may become more in the modern scientific era. The man who picks up a smattering or shallow knowledge in medicines and poses as a physician becomes a dangerous quack and enemy of the society, so it is in all walks of life. Imperfect knowledge is the source of blunders and mistakes and might easily lead to disaster. Such a man should learn first to be properly trained.

Perhaps the greatest evil of half-knowledge is that it makes a man proud dogmatic. An empty vessel sounds much, and an empty-brained fool is not ashamed to beat his own drum. He is always advertising the little that he knows as if he is an oracle. Unsuspecting people often are taken in by their commonplace utterance and platitudes and quotations of other people's words as very learned.

Today it would be impossible for any man to know everything of a thing. Imperfect or incomplete knowledge seems to be due to the necessity or circumstances. So superficial but tall- talking men now abound in the society: errors like straw on the surface flow. But he who really wants to know, must dive below.

Vanity is nowhere so dangerous as in the filed of knowledge. Often when a serious case is perplexing the most experienced doctors, they should hold consultation, avoiding ego.

We must acquire the habit referring all our difficulties to persons who are competent to deal with them applying their expertise. The reign of amateurs must submit themselves to the really knowledgeable and the Government must rely more and more on the advice of experts in the different departments of public life. Sir Bronjendranath Seal, who in his days was regarded as walking encyclopedia, made recommendation to the Maharaja of Mysore,-that every department of the State must be assisted by small committees of experts. It is a recommendation worth pondering.

Swami Gulagulaananda has aptly said: "Half knowledge and extrapolating with that is extremely dangerous"

We like to think of ourselves as modern. We like to think of ourselves as people who have a scientific bent of mind. The problem is that, we have reached great levels of complacency in this area - of our confidence to extrapolate our minuscule knowledge to areas that we don't even understand and even go to levels of judging them.

There was a man goes on rambling about the Vedas, saying that they are merely literature that have no value per se, saying that they are terribly flawed and are books that can be read by anyone. He goes on to say that the religious people are actually creating a blockade by saying that only enlightened people under enlightened gurus can understand them, and ordinary people can't. He rubbishes all this, and explains his version of what he thinks is right. He also goes on to say that there is nothing deep hidden in them.

Alright, one approach to this is to accept what he says is right. Perhaps it is. However, let's take another approach - The Vedas have always been considered to be the greatest literature of all time. If it was not, there would not be so many great geniuses in the past such that each was writing his own interpretation of the Vedas and related scriptures. If it was as easy as this person was saying, then everyone should have been writing same conclusions. It's like watching a movie or reading yet another novel and asking for their conclusions.

There are numerous examples to show that one who displays half-knowledge misleads himself, as also others. In conclusion, it may be said that knowledge is the ultimate state of pinnacle in the journey of man; ignorance is the nadir. Half-knowledge is neither of the two states, but is that caught in the maze, unable to find the way out, and totally lost.

^ Top

89. Death penalty in India

Death penalty in India is being enforced by courts and implemented by the Executive. There is both support and opposition for the sentence of death penalty and its execution, in legal, academic, social, religious organizational circles and in media. Petitions are put before the courts asking for its total eradication, while there is demand for its continuance, representations from UN bodies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch notwithstanding.

India retains capital punishment for a number of serious offences. The Supreme Court in has struck down Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code, which provided for mandatory death punishment for offenders serving life sentence. Imposition of the capital punishment is not always followed by execution (even when it is upheld on appeal), because of the possibility of commutation to life imprisonment. The number of people executed in India since independence in 1947 is a matter of dispute; official government statistics claim that only 52 people had been executed since independence. However, the People's Union for Civil Liberties cited information from Appendix 34 of the 1967 Law Commission of India report showing that 1,422 executions took place in 16 Indian states from 1953 to 1963, and has suggested that the total number of executions since independence may be as high as 3,000 to 4,300. In December 2007, India voted against a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. In November 2012, India again upheld its stance on capital punishment by voting against the UN General Assembly draft resolution seeking to ban death penalty.

The Supreme Court of India ruled in 1983 that the death penalty should be imposed only in "the rarest of rare cases." While stating that honour killings fall within the "rarest of the rare" category, Supreme Court has recommended the death penalty be extended to those found guilty of committing "honour killings", which deserve to be a capital crime. The Supreme Court also recommended death sentences to be imposed on police officials who commit police brutality in the form of encounter killings.

In addition to the Indian Penal Code, a series of legislation enacted by the Parliament of India have provisions for the death penalty.

In 1989, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act was passed, which applied a mandatory death penalty for a second offence of "large scale narcotics trafficking". On 16 June 2011, the Bombay High Court ruled that Section 31A of the NDPS Act, which imposed the mandatory sentence, violated Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution and that a second conviction need not be a death penalty, giving judges discretion to decide about awarding capital punishment.

In recent years, the death penalty has been imposed under new anti-terrorism legislation for people convicted of terrorist activities. On 3 February 2013, in response to public outcry over a brutal gang rape in Delhi , the Indian Government passed an ordinance which applied the death penalty in cases of rape that leads to death or leaves the victim in a "persistent vegetative state". The death penalty can also be handed down to repeat rape offenders under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.

Execution of death sentence

The execution of death sentence in India is carried out by two modes, namely hanging by the neck till death and being shot to death.

Hanging

Colonial era legislation, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, provided for hanging by the neck until death. This has been adopted by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The execution is carried out in accordance with the section and Jail Manuals of the respective states. An attempt to challenge this method of execution failed in the Supreme Court, which stated in its 1983 judgment that hanging did not involve torture, barbarity, humiliation or degradation.

Shooting

The Army Act and Air Force Act also provide for the execution of the death sentence. Section 34 of the Air Force Act, 1950, empowers the court martial to impose the death sentence for the offences mentioned in section 34 of The Air Force Act, 1950. Section 163 of the Act provides for the form of the sentence of death as:-

This provides for the discretion of the Court Martial to either provide for the execution of the death sentence by hanging or by being shot to death. The Army Act, 1950, and the Navy Act, 1957 also provide for the similar provisions as in The Air Force Act, 1950.

On a final count, the principle of “eye for eye” might be extreme in tone and tenor and in the words of Marti Luther King might “make the whole world blind”. Nevertheless, it would serve as deterrence for heinous acts of crime committed by people of all hues and colours, with impunity. Death penalty should be used judiciously, “in the rarest of rare” cases, and after providing proper legal support to the convict. It should not be used as a means of seeking vendetta, personal or political; otherwise such a measure would transport the Indian state back to barbaric times.

^ Top

88. Should the rich pay more taxes to reduce inequality?

Human society comprises the rich that lead lavish lives and the poor that struggle to make both ends meet. For a ruler or an administrator, the problem of formulating a tax regime has been vexatious, with bias towards the poor and against the rich shown time to time.

Governments argue that taxes are a necessary evil—the price of a “civilized society.” Whether you agree with that sentiment or not, it is undeniable that the price is usually a high one. Progressive tax policies have always been based on the idea that wealthy individuals should pay more, in proportion to their means. A specific question within this idea is whether they should pay more specifically in order to reduce inequality and lift-up poorer classes.

Arguments in favour:

In a market economy, the larger an investment is, the higher its rate of return. This is due to both economies of scale and the increased range of investment opportunities. In addition to these economic forces, those who control greater amounts of capital within a society are able to participate more directly in shaping government policy, often in ways that further maximize their wealth. Thus, due to both economic and political realities within a market economy, it is a natural process for the wealthiest individuals and firms in a society to become disproportionately wealthier over time.

In response to the concern that progressive taxation creates an unfair psychological burden on the wealthy, it is argued that if the utility gained from income exhibits diminishing marginal returns, as many psychologists assert, then for the tax burden to be shared in a utilitarian way, the tax-bill must increase non-linearly with income.

Societies are only fair if poor people who work harder, and have capability, are able to make it out of poverty. Progressive taxes are needed in order to pay for the schools, and programs that can make this a reality.

Inequality is a problem when the poor have little chance of upward mobility. Progressive taxes that prevent inequality prevent civil unrest. In order to prevent the political instability resulting from the natural stratification of the populace into an ever smaller and wealthier aristocracy or moneyed class, and an ever-larger working class, all free market democracies engage in progressive taxation and programs to enhance economic opportunity for the lower and middle classes.

Progressive taxes help prevent the offspring of billionaires from becoming a permanent the ruling class. Rich people have plenty of advantages in our society. They have better public schools, better healthcare, can afford better lawyers, get treated better by the law, and can pass on large sums of wealth to their children. If they have to pay a little bit higher taxes, it is the least they can do.

The government provides the roads, libraries, schools, and protects rich with armies, and policemen. The government made it possible for them to make their wealth. Paying slightly higher taxes is not too unfair, and it is better than public unrest caused if the plight of the poor is ignored too long, and they grow disgustingly rich.

Vertical equity usually refers to the idea that people with a greater ability to pay taxes should pay more. Some believe that the wealthy have a disproportionately greater interest in maintaining societal goods typically supported by taxation such as security of property rights, defence and infrastructure, as they have much more to lose if these fail than do the poor. Public investments in defence and foreign aid often support assets abroad whose expropriation is a far greater risk than is the risk involving domestic investments.

It is inherent in tax policy that it implements economic and social policy. People, who are concerned about a runaway, cancerous character in the global economy, greenhouse gases, etc., see benefits in progressive taxation, both in its braking effect on the economy and in helping shape economic activities towards necessities more effectively than purely monetary or fiscal policies

Arguments against:

Progressive taxes lower savings rates. High-earners have a lower average propensity to consume, so shifting the tax-burden away from them will increase the aggregate savings rate, which should increase steady state growth (if the savings rate is initially below the Golden Rule savings rate).

Brain drain and tax avoidance. High progressive taxes may encourage emigration because taxes are not internationally harmonized, so very high earners are sometimes able to relocate in order to pay less tax, or find tax havens for their income. Unlike the opposing income effect and substitution effect of leisure, which may make tax progressively neutral in terms of working hours, the emigration rate must increase with the top rates of tax.

Increase in tax loopholes such as income splitting techniques. This creates an incentive for business owners to split their business into smaller, less efficient ones for a lower tax bracket. It also encourages production from less efficient smaller businesses than larger ones.

The increasing energy expended on tax avoidances which occur with greater progression produces an increase in the work of accountants and lawyers. Because tax avoidance creates no net wealth, this work is unproductive, and can make taxes on the rich less efficient than on the middle class, who have less motivation to exploit tax loopholes.

Progressive taxes are argued to create work disincentive. Consider again someone who makes twice the minimum required to live on but pays all income above the minimum living threshold in taxes. Such a person had no monetary incentive at all to try to increase his or her income above the base level.

Justice in representation: Economic equity is sometimes used to argue against progressive taxation, on the grounds of representation being out-of-proportion to taxation: While the top 5% in income in most countries pay over half the taxes, they have only 5% of the voting weight. This argument can be reversed into the plutocratic case that if tax is to be progressive it should be accompanied by greater say in elections for those who contribute most.

Policymakers are argued to be under a pressure from lower and middle income voters to limit higher incomes by the means of progressive taxation.

Progressive income taxes punish success and may have some distortion-related effects (on entrepreneurship and job mobility, among other things) Progressive taxes punish hard work and good behavior. Progressive taxes punish those with marketable skills.

It has been argued that progressive taxation violates the principle of equality under the law. Being fair means that you treat everyone the same. You can’t tax the rich at a higher rate and say that you are fair.

On a final note, it may be stated that the rich who end up paying more taxes than the poor should be given good incentives applied to their selves or to their businesses and vocations, so that their contributions and sacrifices get acknowledged not only by the tax authorities, but by the rest of the people, on whose behalf the tax is paid towards the growth and progress of the state.

^ Top

87. The threat of Climate Change is exaggerated

Climate Change is a burning subject in the present times, with analysis, expositions, seminars, conferences and global summits being organized on it. The doomsayers are ever propounding the imminent destruction of Planet Earth on account of Climate Change

The current threat of climate change and global warming is not the only popular environmental movement there has ever been. It appears to have been exaggerated.

In the 1970s, the trendy climate change fear was global cooling. Notably, that didn't happen. Scientists came crawling out of the woodwork to explain why the next Ice Age would usher in the next millennium, which it hasn't and the media and government spin-doctors were all over the idea in much the same fashion, as they are now. As can be seen, it hasn't happened - and in fact the opposite idea is now prevalent. The current climate change scare is just a repeat of the 1970s.

Furthermore, does anyone remember chlorofluorocarbons? Those really did damage the environment: most notably the ozone layer. The papers were flooded with the idea that the ozone layer would be stripped away irreparably and man had well and truly destroyed his own planet. Except that it's now closing and that too rapidly. Once again, it is a case of unsubstantiated media hype exaggerating an environmental issue way beyond its realistic scope.

Neither the media nor the politicians understand the science behind climate change theory. When a report from the government or a newspaper comes out about climate change, there are usually scientific errors throughout the arguments. For example, the carbon dioxide emissions debate: neither the media nor politicians consider how much carbon dioxide was thrown up by the Icelandic eruption that grounded flights. If carbon dioxide is theoretically so bad for the ozone layer, then why was this never mentioned?

Except that there is no proof.

Scientists themselves are divided on the issue. Clearly, if they are divided, then the issue is not as clear-cut as the media and popular opinion would have us believe.

Secondly, there was no proof for the 1970s 'global cooling' scare and, remarkably enough, the idea was eventually dropped. There is little to say that the current trend will not do the same thing.

The opposition at this point provide no examples of their 'proof it's serious', and therefore, the point is invalid.

The Ozone layer hole is a really bad example for saying that the threat is overblown. The ozone threat was recognised by everyone as being vital and most likely much worse than any potential global warming. It was also easy to identify what caused the problem and the problem was therefore not too difficult to fix. This resulted in recognition from states that something had to be done in Vienna in 1985 and then in 1987, at the Montreal Convention. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the main cause of the problem, were banned. This makes this precisely the opposite of what is being argued by the proposition. The ozone is only no longer a problem because something was done to solve that problem. This has not happened with climate change.

Ozone is also a greenhouse gas in the upper atmosphere and, therefore, plays a role in Earth's climate. The increases in primary greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, may affect how the ozone layer recovers in coming years. Understanding precisely how ozone abundances will change in a future with diminished chlorofluorocarbon emissions and increased emissions of greenhouse gases remains an important challenge for atmospheric scientists.

Eruptions are of course having an impact, but such eruptions have happened ever since the earth was created. So while they have an impact, it is not likely to be any different to what it was in the pre-industrial era. If there are suddenly a lot more eruptions, then there may well be nothing that can be done to reduce carbon dioxide to 'pre-industrial levels'. Volcanoes do also tend to balance themselves out by adding particles to the upper atmosphere.

It should be noted that we should not be bothered whether it is bad or not to the ozone layer but whether the result of that is bad for humans and ecosystems; it is unlikely the ozone layer or atmosphere cares how much CO2 it contains.

We have so much proof it's serious.

In conclusion, whether the threat of climate change is exaggerated or otherwise, man has to act fast to arrest further changes in climate, which would be adverse to living not only of man, but that of other creatures too.

^ Top

86. Indian politics consists of people tainted with criminal records

It is common place that politicians dotting the Indian political landscape are persons with dubious moral and social standings. There has been a demand from society comprising the electorate to rid and cleanse the political system so as to accommodate persons of high probity. Commissions are constituted to study the nexus of politicians with criminals and anti-social elements. They have come out with certain findings and recommendations, which await their implementation.  The matter appears to be unresolved.

Indian law does not allow those awaiting trial to vote but there is no bar on people fighting elections from jail if not yet convicted. The Election Commission has ordered all candidates to clearly state in an affidavit the number of cases pending against them.

Close to 40 per cent of Lok Sabha candidates belonging to the leading political parties in India face criminal charges that range from assault, extortion, rioting, attempt to murder and defamation.

At least 18 people facing serious criminal charges, including the alleged mastermind behind the leak of papers for entrance tests to management institutes, have contested the parliamentary elections from Bihar.

The High Court has said that candidates with criminal records and lodged in jail have no right to contest the elections. The fact that the voting rights of prisoners with a criminal background are suspended under election laws gives additional support to this new ruling. While some of the political parties appreciate and support the High Court's stand, there are a few others who prefer to be silent on this ruling.

The Indian Election Commission has in recent years tried to tackle the problem of criminal politicians by making it harder for candidates with criminal records to stand for election. But the trouble is that the cases against many candidates have not been proved. In fact, it is hard to find a single case of a politician being sent to jail for corruption in independent India.

In 1997, the Election Commission issued an order requiring candidates to submit affidavits about their convictions for any of the above criminal offences. However, there was no provision in the election law to make this information available to the voter. The Law Commission gave voice to the growing feeling among voters that it was not enough to disqualify criminals found guilty by a court.

In the last general elections, it's estimated that around 1,000 candidates who were alleged to have committed a wide range of crimes stood for election. These varied from murder, theft and rape to extortion and banditry.

For longer than a decade, section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, has been the subject of intense debate. It's that part of the election law that lets those with convictions continue their term in Parliament and state legislatures so long as they've filed an appeal. Those in favour of reforming the law have argued that the Parliament protecting its members is unconstitutional. Over the decades, the effective immunity offered by parliament and state legislatures has led to large number of lawmakers with dubious records who are able to continue their political career despite convictions. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to explain the dichotomy in the election law, pointing out that it violated the fundamental right to equality under Article 14 of the Indian constitution. There has been a growing sense of disillusionment and despair among Indians with regard to the political establishment. The Supreme Court's verdict will bring a lot of cheer. AFP. The Supreme Court's verdict will bring a lot of cheer. AFP The need for more transparent legislature has been felt by many in the country, especially as the allegations of corruption and unconstitutional conduct have been made against the Indian political establishment. In 2005, advocate Lily Thomas filed a petition in which it said that certain sections of the Representation of People’s Act (RPA) needed to be struck down because they were unconstitutional. The NGO Lok Prahari also filed a PIL, presenting the same argument. These petitions reflect the growing sense of disillusionment with the political establishment that has been seen as increasingly disinterested in public good and focussed upon personal gain. According to a recent study released by Transparency International, 47% of the people in India think corruption is a serious problem in India and 86% believe political parties are affected by corruption. The provision protecting lawmakers has been pointed out as a problematic aspect of the Indian electoral system and an indicator of how the political establishment takes serious issues like criminality very lightly. Declaring section 8 (4) of RPA invalid, the Supreme Court today described it as "discriminatory" and a provision that encouraged "the criminalisation of politics". It clarified that its decision will not apply to MPs, MLAs or other lawmakers who have been convicted and have filed their appeals in the higher courts before the pronouncement of this verdict. While the court’s decision has been welcomed by many, removing section 8(4) also raises certain questions. First, there needs to be some clarity about how this verdict will affect a citizen’s right to first appeal. What happens to a lawmaker’s right to first appeal in the new legal circumstances? For those who like conspiracy theories, the question of what protection can be provided for lawmakers in case of false convictions is another consideration. It’s a valid concern, given the Machiavellian world of politics in India in which personal and political vendetta are constantly at play. Abused as it may have been, section 8(4) offered a measure of security for the falsely accused. That said, perhaps this almost Utopian vision of a political establishment in which everyone walks the straight and narrow path, is more constructive than trying to pre-empt how lawmakers may try to manipulate legal clauses. In newly-independent India, when most of the young nation's statesmen and promising politicians had criminal records thanks to their political campaign against the colonial government, section 8(4) of the RPA was not just relevant but necessary.

However, in a country with decades of parliamentary democracy and a reliable judiciary to its credit, a criminal conviction should be an indicator of a lawmaker's suitability. Ironically, what could be said of the newly-independent India's Parliament can be said of today's Parliament too: if a criminal record were considered a ground for disqualification, the Parliament would have mostly empty seats. The only difference is that the criminal records of the present crop of politicians are far less noble in intention.

Finally, the country is alive to the need to rid Indian politics of criminal elements. Reformation and transformation is a slow process, yet they reach to final conclusion. Hopefully, the country would have a political system which would comprise politicians of noble hues and antecedents.

^ Top

85. Public-Private Partnership is the cornerstone of India’s economic growth

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) have hogged headlines and are considered as drivers of India’s economic growth, post globalization. The Indian government has come out with a slew of measures that make Public-Private Partnerships a concrete reality.

A public–private partnership (PPP) is a government service or private business venture which is funded and operated through a partnership of government and one or more private sector companies. These schemes are sometimes referred to as PPP, P3 or P3.

There are usually two fundamental drivers for PPPs. Firstly, PPPs enable the public sector to harness the expertise and efficiencies that the private sector can bring to the delivery of certain facilities and services traditionally procured and delivered by the public sector. Secondly, a PPP is structured so that the public sector body seeking to make a capital investment does not incur any borrowing. Rather, the PPP borrowing is incurred by the private sector vehicle implementing the project and therefore, from the public sector's perspective, a PPP is an "off-balance sheet" method of financing the delivery of new or refurbished public sector assets.

At the turn of the century, there were just about a couple of major infrastructure projects that were built partnering the private sector, and one of them was the swanky new Kochi International airport at Nedumbassery. The other was the Nhava Sheva International Container Terminal at the JN Port in Mumbai. The Noida Toll Bridge, commissioned in 2001, was still in progress.

In the 1990s, entry of private players in the telecom created a revolution, erasing the long waiting lists. These projects demonstrated that government-only approach need not remain the norm for constructing, operating and maintaining large infrastructure projects.

The policy makers of the country realised that with right dose of fiscal incentives, financial support and risk mitigation measures, the private sector would grab opportunities to build airports, roads, ports, power plants and railways.

The need to pump-prime the economy in the early years of the century pushed the then NDA government to willy-nilly consider public-private partnership (PPP). After all, the government didn't have capital and technical expertise to meet the demands of improved infrastructure.

However, doubts persisted about the ability of the private sector to deliver large projects. Luckily for the government, PPP model gradually and surely gained acceptance. And the gamble paid off.

Greenfield international airports were built in Bangalore and Hyderabad, while Delhi and Mumbai airports were modernised. The new terminal (T3) at Delhi's India Gandhi International Airport ranks among the largest in the world and is one of the few that can receive aircraft as large as the Dreamliners.

That apart, rail-based airport links are being built in these cities, using the PPP mode. In Mumbai, the metro system is being built on PPP model.

The national highway development programme too actively sought PPP. As per some estimates, projects worth about Rs.46,500 crore are under various models of PPP.

Along the coast, government-owned ports sought to partner private companies from India and overseas to build new terminals, to handle primarily container cargo. And, PPP was adopted to develop Pipavav as a modern port. And, in the power sector, private participation was facilitated with power purchase agreements.

The Railways, which was late in jumping on to the PPP bandwagon, took tentative steps under the stewardship of the then minister Lalu Prasad to invite private firms to start container trains, build rail infrastructure and redevelop existing properties. His successor, Mamata Banerjee, too has reiterated her commitment to involve the private sector.

More recently, the government has partnered with the private sector to make courses at the industrial training institutes more relevant to needs.

The success of PPP projects only affirms its potential to address the country's infrastructure deficit. But, challenges remain. For instance, lack of a reasonable land acquisition policy and absence of independent regulators who can enforce contracts and settle disputes.

Finally, it may be averred that Public-Private Partnerships serve as effective growth engines to catapult the Indian economy to glorious heights. The incumbent government, as well as the one that would follow in a few months, would certainly espouse this mode of strengthening the Indian economy.

^ Top

84. Ethics in today's business is a contradiction

Ethics in business appears to be oxymoronic prima facie. Expediency crosses sword with Ethics in business situations. Many businessmen must have been troubled when trying to juxtapose ethics with business acumen without compromising on cardinal rules and moral laws.

"Where there's muck there's brass" is an old northern English expression. It simply means that people will make money where there are raw materials - dirty, of course - such as coal. But what about the expression: "Where there's ethics there's brass"? It doesn't have quite the same ring. If such expressions are any guide, Anglo-Saxon societies clearly tend to think of business as a necessary but essentially dirty activity.

"Business ethics" is a popular phrase for many businesses, but for others it sounds hollow. Business is about making profits, after all, for private individuals, private companies, public companies and shareholders. Ethics, on the other hand, is about doing things as they, perhaps morally, ought to be done, playing by a set of rules that are widely accepted but not necessarily cost-beneficial. Business ethics, therefore, is about making profits without breaking ethical rules. This naturally raises many questions, and the answers to them often depend on one's political persuasion - or one's conception of what ethics are.

At one extreme, some advocates of the free market believe that something called the "hidden hand" of the market will deliver collective good. The market allocates resources according to supply and demand. That is, where there is a need, it will be filled - and thus people's desires will be fulfilled. In the "hidden hand" concept, the collective good is satisfied, therefore this - by definition - must be ethical.

The problem is whether the outcomes justify the means - it doesn't matter how we do things as long as we get results - or if the means themselves are as important, if not more so. To complicate all this a little more, one could also ask if better means or methods can lead to better results. In other words, can business that is done ethically be better business? If this is the case, we need a definition of what we mean by "better means" and "better results" and for whom they are better, the business or the consumer or those employed in the business. But what is ethical and unethical often depends on what part of the world you come from, and your cultural or religious background, rather than being universal.

Many people also argue that the question of ethics in business hinges on whether business is more profitable, in the long-term, for the health of the planet and us, the people who live in it. The question is about means as well as ends.

Cultural differences are clearly important in explaining some of the problems we have in defining adequately what we mean by business ethics. Many societies have - in Anglo-Saxon terms - much looser concepts of how business does and should operate and some have much tighter conceptions. Bribery, for example, is a dirty word in most Anglo-Saxon cultures, but in many other societies, perhaps most, it is treated as a fact of life - how things get done. In other words, it is normal.

We need to ask if there is a "natural" or "universal" set of criteria for evaluating corruption, whether we judge by the aggregate "happiness of most of the people most of the time", or by more concrete, systematised - perhaps moral - criteria based on notions of what is right and what is wrong.

Advocates of ethical business ask if it is ethical for Western multinational companies, for example, to use cheap, often child, labour in Third World countries to produce sports shoes that will be sold on Western markets, while it is viewed as unethical for leaders of this particular poor country to take side-payments for themselves to secure lucrative contracts for these companies. The Western consumer is happy with his sports shoes, the leader happy with his income, the multinational happy with its profits. The only people that suffer are the ones that make the shoes.

There are, nevertheless, certain businesses and business practices noticeably more ethical than others. Anita Ruddock's Body Shop, for example, is widely seen as an example of an internationally successful business that uses ethical criteria when searching for raw materials in developing countries (while also actively promoting recycling). It is also possible to choose investment funds that promise their clients only to invest their money in more or less "ethical" projects, for example, environmentally friendly concerns. There are more and more coffees available on the market whose profits go to the local farmers, who then earn more than if they had to sell their coffee beans to big international suppliers. We pay a little more, but we can enjoy our coffee more!

We shall never have the perfect world. The market will never please all of the people all of the time, and ethical business - however ethical - will still be business, with the bottom line profit. Yet, it is clear that within this some businesses can be more ethical than others.

Thus, on a finishing note while being purely ethical in business would seem to be Utopian, a modicum of transacting business on principled lines, ensuring “fairness” and “legitimacy” is possible, as seen in businesses that took place in ancient India, with “Bahujan Sukhaya, bahujan hitaya being the undercurrent.

^ Top

83. What is success?

Success is a subject and a concept that is seemingly simple but is actually profound. Success is perceived subjectively by different types of persons, spanning continents, cultures, outlooks and professions. Its vastness can be gauged from the fact that no unanimity is arrived at among people when they define, expound, interpret, understand and explain it. People hanker for it in various ways, planes and levels, and with various objectives, notions.

Reaching the top of the tree in one's chosen occupation or profession is the usual standard by which success in life is measured, at least in the Western world. This is the realm of achievers, go-getters and profit-makers. What is before successful persons are set goals and objectives, against which performances are pitted and evaluated accordingly. Those close to the targets or eclipsing them are dubbed as being successful.

However, many Asians and those belonging to the Orient would reject this criterion. The contemplative religions assert that success is only measurable in terms of religious and spiritual advancement, and of the acquisition of the virtues. Thus, success would be in inverse ratio to material advancement. Denial, abdication, transcending, sublimity, et al would be the states that would align with “success”. Hinduism, Vedantic philosophy, Buddhism, Jainism that sprung up and thrived in India, as also the timeless Sanatan Sabhyata, are exponents of such a school of thought.

Most of the world accepts the definition of material advancement, its objectives being affluence and perhaps power over others, both being the most important means of self-expression. Some are born into positions which already confer affluence and power, so success to them might lie merely in the preservation of the family business or estate and perhaps its enhancement for the benefit of the next generation. Most people have to work hard to achieve success. Industrialists, entrepreneurs, capitalists, promoters, magnates and tycoons espouse such notions of success.

The western concept of success is not always satisfying and some people, at the height of their affluence and power, reject it in favor of the simple life. This happens for a variety of reasons. Beyond a certain point, the acquisition of money proves unsatisfactory. The difference between the lifestyle available to a millionaire and that available to a billionaire is marginal. Unhappily, money making can become an obsession, and some very wealthy people become very mean. Money also creates anxiety, since it usually has to be put at risk if more is to be made. Other anxieties may be created when a large number of people become dependent on a financial empire. It is not uncommon to see such super-saturated people indulge in acts of charity, altruism, philanthropy, to create the required balance in their lives ere they go berserk. Examples are galore in Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Azim Premji, Sachin Tendulkar, and so on.

Money confers power which may corrupt. It is often made at the disadvantage of others, and it may damage a business man's relationships, both with his peers and with his subordinates. These pressures and anxieties often have a detrimental effect on health and on family life. One's wife and children are inevitably neglected and unhappy. The children of successful capitalists or career workaholics sometimes reject everything that the father offers and want to start a life of their own, where they could get and give that love and care they always missed and which was replaced by materialistic things. Although such persons have tasted and relished success, they have not ingrained it. An inexplicable void is created, which leads to bouts of depression, chronic alcoholism, drug consumption and other unproductive and unhealthy ways of living.

In all finality, a life of success is totalitarian in nature. While materialistic success is an essential part of a successful life, it is not its summum bonum. It has to be balanced with other aspects that could be social, cultural, vocative, with some time devoted towards recreation, work-outs and stress-busting. While the Oriental approach of being satisfied with what one has in life may not be the proper prescription for proper living, following that adhering to Mammon would be calamitous. A way between is to be discovered and tread. An Epicurean should share space with a Spartan.

^ Top

82. Media casts a significant influence on society

Media and man share a platonic relationship. There is no area and aspect of present-day living, which is not influenced by media. Media has both benign and baneful influence, depending on the situation and the person in question. One cannot think of the present world sans media. Values, culture, ethics, deals, and so on, all get influenced by media. Verily, it is not an over-statement if it were said that people in a society move, conduct themselves and lead their lives as the media decides.

The Mass Media is a unique feature of modern society; its development has accompanied an increase in the magnitude and complexity of societal actions and engagements, rapid social change, technological innovation, rising personal income and standard of life and the decline of some traditional forms of control and authority.

There is an association between the development of mass media and social change, although the degree and direction of this association is still debated upon even after years of study into media influence. Many of the consequences, either detrimental or beneficial, which have been attributed to the mass media, are almost undoubtedly due to other tendencies within society.

Few sociologists would refute the importance of the mass media, and mass communications as a whole, as being a major factor in the construction and circulation of social understanding and social imagery in modern societies. Therefore it is argued that the mass media is used as “an instrument”, both more powerful and more flexible than anything in previous existence, for influencing people into certain modes of belief and understanding within society.

The question of media’s influence on society and its cultural framework has often been debated upon from leading theorists to anyone with any form of media connections, but to contemplate that the character of Chulbul Pandey from Dabang or student group of Rang De Basanti can have an influence on an audience members’ attitude, beliefs or interpretations of society is a very simplistic and debatable version of the truth.

The media does influence, but using more diverse and subtle roles of impact. Some theorists suggest that it is even a case of society influencing the media and not the more widespread and presumed version.

Media has proved to be a boon for companies, campaigns, businessmen, activists, politicians, celebrities, scholars, sportsmen, musicians, spiritualists, and so on, with each among them making their presence felt before the intended and targeted group. It is on account of media that the layman is informed and made aware of the goings-on in the realm of science and technology, medicine, space expeditions, market buzz, consumer rights, retail business, politics, sports, films and entertainment, career counseling, to name a few. In a globalised time, the role of media is far-reaching and influential. Media is indispensable for man.

Media is made the culprit of the evils that plague modern society. It is made out that media brings out a perverse effect on the impressionable minds of the viewer, particularly the youth, through the serials, sitcoms and soaps that are aired in huge numbers, often portraying things that are downright vulgar, obscene, offending and outlandish. Cultural decadence, erosion of values, deviant and wayward conduct, all these are ascribed to media influence. Children are prone to acquiring bad habits, unacceptable demeanour and censorious outlook, all courtesy the debasing influence of the media.

However, it is unfair to blame the media solely for the evils that are found in contemporary societies. “Art imitates life” and vice-versa premise needs a re-look. Evils have existed in this world prior to the existence of media. The Satanic effect was not the creation of media. Deplorable and ghastly crimes were committed the days of yore when media was not born or was in its infancy. Media is just a reflector of what transpires in society, and certainly does not advocate wrong acts.

Media influence has two facets: the good and the bad. Like all other things, it has to be judiciously employed for people to be motivated to do what is right and proper, and to be cautioned towards the horrifying outcomes of doing things that are bad and improper. Media is just a mirror: do good to look good; do bad to look bad.

^ Top

81. Presidential Vs. Parliamentary Democracy

Democracy as a model of governance has become the predominant subject over the years. The spate of uprisings in nations of the Arab World signifies to the efficacy of democracy as the mode of governance that people aspire and fight for. There are campaigns, both military and civilian, that devote towards the establishment and sustenance of democracy.

A nation's type of government refers to how that state's executive, legislative, and judicial organs are organized. All nations need some sort of government to avoid anarchy. Democratic governments are those that permit the nation's citizens to manage their government either directly or through elected representatives. This is opposed to authoritarian governments that limit or prohibit the direct participation of its citizens. Two of the most popular types of democratic governments are the presidential and parliamentary systems. Nations like the USA follow the Presidential type while nations like the UK and India follow the Parliamentary type.

The office of President characterizes the presidential system. The President is both the chief executive and the head of state. The President is unique in that he or she is elected independently of the legislature. The powers invested in the President are usually balanced against those vested in the legislature. In the American presidential system, the legislature must debate and pass various bills. The President has the power to veto the bill, preventing its adoption. However, the legislature may override the President's veto if they can muster enough votes. The American President's broadest powers rest in foreign affairs. The President has the right to deploy the military in most situations, but does not have the right to officially declare war. More recently, the American President requested the right to approve treaties without the consent of the legislature. The American Congress denied this bill and was able to override the President's veto.

In parliamentary governments, the head of state and the chief executive are two separate offices. Many times, the head of state functions in a primarily ceremonial role, while the chief executive is the head of the nation's legislature. The most striking difference between presidential and parliamentary systems is in the election of the chief executive. In parliament systems, the chief executive is not chosen by the people but by the legislature. Typically, the majority party in the parliament chooses the chief executive, known as the Prime Minister. However, in some parliaments, there are so many parties represented that none holds a majority. Parliament members must decide among themselves whom to elect as Prime Minister. The fusion of the legislative and executive branches in the parliamentary system tends to lead to more discipline among political party members. Party members in parliaments almost always vote strictly along party lines. Presidential systems, on the contrary, are less disciplined and legislators are free to vote as per their conscience, with fewer repercussions from their party. Debate styles also differ between the two systems. Presidential system legislators make use of a filibuster, or the right to prolong speeches to delay legislative action. Parliamentary systems will call for cloture or an end to debate, so that voting can begin.

Most European nations follow the parliamentary system of government. Britain is the most well known parliamentary system. Because Great Britain was once a pure monarchy, the function of the head of state was given to the royal family, while the role of chief executive was established with Parliament. Some parliaments, however, do not have a history of monarchy. Israel is a parliamentary system with a president. The president, however, does not hold the same power as a president in a presidential system, but functions as the head of state. In both presidential and parliamentary systems, the chief executive can be removed from office by the legislature. Parliamentary systems use the ˜vote of no confidence', where a majority of parliament members vote to remove the Prime Minister from office. A new election is then called. In presidential systems, a similar process is used where legislators vote to impeach the President from office.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, democracy has begun to flourish around the world. As emerging nations struggle to identify themselves, they are also debating which form of democracy is best for them. Depending on the nation and its citizens, they may choose the more classic parliamentary system or the less rigid presidential system. They could also blend to two popular systems together to create the hybrid government that works best for them.

Nations adopt either of the two types of democracy, as per their suitability. A switch-over from one form to the other is unlikely. India endeavoured towards such a move in 1979, when the then President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy initiated such a move, in the capacity of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, which was defeated, as it did not have the mandate of the masses. It is a tribute to the democratic spirit, be it of the Presidential type or the Parliamentary type, that anarchy and unrest is not there, when compared that with nations having monarchy that have uprisings and rebellions in them.

^ Top



PT Education ● 20 years ● 4,50,000 students ● 50 cities ● Legacy of success