Integrity Matters
January 01, 2003

We lose when a trust is broken

Question: (E-019) Is there possibly an economic system that is not so structurally flawed that it can result in a society that places its priority on leadership with integrity? ... How could we build an economic system that rewards integrity and ability at the same time so that those qualities are inherent in our leaders?

Response: Trust is broken between and among the various participants and partners of the free market when we allow our officials (academic, economic, political and spiritual) to feed us “lines” of comfortable (and dishonest) clichés.

Traditional economic controls -- the brakes on our system -- are broken. Passengers, those buying and investing, have lost confidence. They are casting about for sound and dependable counsel, financial and beyond.

These passengers are flailing… out of fear, mistrust, uncertainty, and doubt. Such flailing energizes downturns that lead toward recessions and depressions.

The answer has been and will remain that “It should be common knowledge that free markets must regulate themselves or governments will”.

The bottom line, from philosopher, M.H. McKee: "Integrity is one of several paths; it distinguishes itself from the others because it is the right path and the only one upon which you will never get lost."

The answer seems to be that we must choose between a drift toward government-controlled socialism, which is the path that today seemingly attracts all too many, and a responsible free enterprise system. The “let the government do it” attitude results from the excesses that are only too fresh in our minds. A responsible free-enterprise system, on the other hand, would find capitalism in a self-regulated mode and help to preserve the way of life we have enjoyed up to now.

Perhaps Time Magazine selected three “whistle blowers” as their “Persons of the Year” because those women felt that their own job security was less important than the free enterprise structure and our governmental system.

The three who spoke up about problems at Enron, the FBI and WorldCom were were chosen by Time because they stood up to the rot of dishonesty and replaced it with their very own courage.

Can we do less and expect our structures and systems to endure?

JIM BRACHER is founder of the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership in Monterey. His column, "Integrity Matters," appears Wednesday on the Business page. Readers are invited to submit questions on business-related ethics and values. Please write in care of INTEGRITY to The center's Web site is

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