The Ethical Economics
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ETHICS IN THE MOVIES

Many movies have been made about business and economic issues. Curiously, many Hollywood movies are more likely to portray business activities as villainous rather than honorable. Of course there are some exceptions. There is a regularity worth noting: when business activities are decried, they are invariably violating one or more of the ethical principles highlighted here. These businesses are acting greedily, which is not consistent with ethical capitalism. In contrast, when businesses are portratyed as honorable, they comply with the principles of ethical capitalism.

This page will highlight some of the movies I am familiar with that offer some commentary about ethical behavior in business or economic activities.

Click on the links below for an overview of each movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wall Street (1987)

This is clearly an anti-business movie by filmmaker Oliver Stone. However, the now-famous "Greed is Good" speech was effective enough to inspire many pro-market advocates despite the fact the the main character Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) goes to prison at the end.

 

 

Wall Street

Wall Street - Money Never Sleeps (2010)

This Wall Street sequel was made shortly after the world financial crisis of 2008 cast doubt on the merits of the free market capitalist system. Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) returns after many years in prison and reflects on his "Greed is Good" mantra.

 

Wall Street - Money Never Sleeps

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

This movie is an American classic that ranks as one of the best of all time. It shows the journey of George Bailey (James Stweart) towards the realization that small-town values are the key to success and happiness.Those small town values are in line with the notion of ethical capitalism, which are continually contrasted in the movie by the behavior of George's nemesis, Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore).

 

It's a Wonderful Life

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Alec Baldwin appears as a sales motivator, informing a group of realtors that they must compete in a sales contest where the losers will be fired. Baldwin's motivational speech to ABC (Always Be Closing) inspires business practices that are certainly in line with many peoples' expectations of business but which also clearly cross ethical boundaries. The movie should make viewers queasy about the lengths salepeople will go to make a profit.

 

 

Glengarry Glen Ross

Executive Suite (1954)

This is one of the best businees ethics movies I have ever come across. Watch it to learn why a company run by the protagonist McDonald Walling (William Holden) offers a guide to honorable and ethical business practices and why a company run by any of the other characters is much less appealing.

 

 

Executive Suite