September 16, 2018

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘Who Cares if Cornell Cares?’

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In the “Discourse and Discord” column published September 11, Mr. Wu wrote “Choosing who will build an apartment complex should be an economic decision, not a moral one.” This statement is fundamentally fallacious. ALL decisions have a moral component. Every single one. The decision to go get food at The Nines vs McDonalds has a moral component, as does the decision to go get food at a restaurant vs cooking food at home. The decision to hire union labor or non-union labor also has a moral component, whether you’re a homeowner, a small business owner or a major university.

The pretense that economic decisions should be, or even could be, made without any moral consequences or considerations involved is simply false. The idea that nothing matters as much as money is wrong, but this is the underlying assumption of Mr. Wu’s assertion. The idea that the ONLY factor worth considering is ‘increasing shareholder value’ is fundamentally sociopathic and essentially evil. Decisions made on that basis alone are likely to be unethical, at best.

Yes, there is often an economic case for ‘doing the right thing,’ especially in terms of the value of the ‘brand,’ or ‘public relations,’ or with respect to the ‘local economic environment.’ But these are neither sufficient, nor necessary. The ‘right thing to do’ doesn’t depend on the economic considerations, but on the moral ones. There’s no right way to do the wrong thing. Caring counts.


James Keegan ’81