The 1987 movie Wall Street which stars Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox, the film’s lead character, offers a picture of ethical dilemmas in the corporate realm. The movie questions the dynamics of the economic world, which tends to ignore ethical considerations in favor of material profit and advancement. This movie certainly raises a flag as a reminder that there are very real surreptitious occurrences taking place on a daily basis in the corporate world, and poses the question whether it should remain to be tolerated and ignored.
Ethically and morally speaking, the actions of the characters of Fox and Gekko are definitely inexcusable as it violates legal policies and moral values. The economic gains of their company and individual bank accounts comes at the high price of putting in jeopardy the future of other companies and people working for those companies. The movie does not explicitly claim nor argue that the market-capitalist culture should be overhauled, but it does give a view of the dark side of the corporate America.
Niccolo Machiavelli, in his book The Prince, posits the central argument that the end justifies the means. The Prince, in order to maintain and augment his political reach and power, must be prepared to take any kind of action without any regard for moral or ethical considerations. Manipulation and deception is definitely not something that is condemned by Machiavelli, if such actions would aid in the person’s achievement of his objective.
Machiavelli would have agreed to the action of Fox and the company to employ stealthy means to advance corporate and personal interests. In fact, Machiavelli would have recommended that Fox should have been more intelligent in his actions and not put himself at risk of legal impediments or reprimands. There has to be a way of taking revenge at Gekko without risking personal security, and gaining materially more. Machiavelli sneers at business ethics are mere roadblocks to achieving success, therefore ridiculous and unnecessary.
The Prince must go through any lengths, moral or otherwise, ethical or not, if what he wants is power and success. Definitely, if it had meant being partially abstained from his crimes, Machiavelli would cooperate with the authorities to capture Gekko. Henry David Thoreau, author of the essay Civil Disobedience, is an anarchist who claimed that the best government is one that does not govern at all. Thoreau, supporting anarchism, rejects any kind of government structure and government intervention.
If Thoreau is placed in the situation of Fox, he would not have cooperate with the SEC or any government agency, as it would mean being in conflict with his principle of the abolishment of the government. Though there are ethical question to the actions of Fox and Gekko, it is less negligible, and not worth pursuing if it would been fraternizing with the enemy – the government. Being an anarchist means being devoid of any form of hierarchy and structure, and to be cooperating with the government for any goals would be an implicit recognition of its importance, hence Thoreau would be in disagreement with such.
If I am placed in the situation of Bud Fox, and at the risk of sounding righteous, I would have tried to rid myself of any involvement in Gekko’s company at the first sign that something clandestine is going on. Of course, it is easy to claim that there would be no response to the temptation of wealth and power, but upon learning that I would have to gain at the expense of others, then perhaps it would be wiser to make the right decision to resign and look for other form of employment.
But, if ever I am already in the situation that Fox discovered himself at the end of the movie, when he was arrested by the Securities and Exchange Commission, I would do the same thing that he did, and act as a vehicle for the arrest of corporate man Gekko. After this, I would – to chastise myself – do acts of philanthropy to at least give back to society what I have taken. I would accept my faith of being persecuted for my grave mistakes. The movie clearly explores the moral and ethical angles of the corporate world that are susceptible to apathy from most people – the stark reality of the corporate America.
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