The Ancient Rule

Despite posts and comments such as found here, I doubt very much that human nature has recently changed. The so-called ethics problems and accountability problems are all of one ilk: agency problems. When you entrust someone to act in your behalf (an agent), their interests are never perfectly aligned with yours. Sometimes they will sacrifice your interests in favor of theirs. This is true whether the agents are corporate officers, politicians, government regulators, or the kid who mows your lawn. The only defense against this is the agent’s concern for his own reputation and your own caution. Our agents may have engaged in ethical lapses, but many of us have allowed our prudence to lapse as well. It’s a bad combination, but not a new problem. The Romans had a rule that everyone should understand and hold dear: caveat emptor.


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