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Charting a Moral Course

IF there could be a global code of ethics, what would James Baker put on it? The first point, he says, is that ``if you're working for me, I want you to know that you have the right to differ with me on anything that I say. I think the right to differ with authority is at the heart of an ethical environment.''

A related point, he says, is the need to create an environment where there is ``more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement.''

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There must be ``an incentive to be scrupulously truthful.''

Companies make a mistake by placing too much emphasis on codes of ethics. ``Ethical principles must be recognized as being far more than a specific set of rules.''

In an organization, there are no ``levels of people,'' but only ``levels of responsibility.'' Every individual, he says, ``possess the same fundamental rights as every other human being.''

Along with equality, fairness, and principled justice, he notes the need to ``sense the feelings and emotions of other individuals.'' These feelings, he says, ``often represent an accurate indicator of the ethical, moral course.''

Trust is essential. ``I've been in very quiet rooms with only one other person who had a great deal of power, and I've shaken hands with the person on a deal, only to have it broken. With that shake of hands went an exchange of trust. To me, if that is absent, then I really do believe that business can grind to a halt.''

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