Exploring small effects on the brink of mistrust.


1)      Is the Sociological Imagination a tool that can help understand the butterfly effect?

Sociological Imagination is defined by C. Wright Mills as a tool by which its possessor can understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and external career of a variety of individuals. Simply, this is a way whereby individuals can come to understand what is around them by taking all actions by themselves and others into account. Understanding the concept of Sociological Imagination would also help an individual understand that, not matter minutely, they have an effect on their surroundings. This is the concept that no matter how big or small of an action, everything has an effect on its surroundings. Furthermore, this is the concept that even a small action can have extremely large effects on the world surrounding them or in other words, the butterfly effect.

2)      Does the blame for a situation go to the most unethical individual or is it shared by all involved?

In Managing Business Ethics Trevino and Nelson talk about the financial crisis and how there were many parties which were involved. One question they do not raise, however, is who should bear the responsibility for causing the financial crisis. Individual opinions are bound to differ on this topic. In reality, banks had to pay large settlements for bad business decisions, other firms were bailed out, and many more businesses had to shut their doors due to poor lending practices. In theory, though, everyone who reaped any type of benefit from the eventual misfortune of others should bear some slight responsibility for the mass misfortune that came with the Great Recession. Personally, I feel as though each different party should take some responsibility no matter how big or small of an impact they had in causing the crisis. However, I feel as though those who have the biggest stake in the downfall are the ones who should take the biggest share of the blame.

3)      Integrating the butterfly effect and deciding who takes the blame, what is the importance of someone taking blame for the GSA scandal that occurred in May 2012 and does it matter?

The GSA stands as the government’s landlord and is often known for being one of the best government agencies for saving taxpayers money. However, in May 2012 they held a conference for around 300 of their employees in Las Vegas where they spent just under $1 million on lavish expenses including a $44 a head breakfast and a $75,000 bike building exercise. The question, then, is whether or not we should care and what effect this expense has on the population as a whole.

To begin, the GSA has a budget of about ½ a trillion dollars. This scandal accounted for less than .0012% of the agencies overall operating budget for a single year making the amount truly trivial. The scandal was also thrown into the media spotlight as no one elected official was involved which made it an easy bi-partisan target for congressional members to attack. Trivial nature aside, the actions were still done with taxpayer money and have an impact on how the public views the government. These further implications are the reason why this event matters. Even though the amount was so small, the public’s image of the government was tarnished even more than it already is. This can have much greater implications as the government relies on the trust of its citizens to be able to get things done in a timely and well organized manner. Someone with a Social Imagination would understand that it is the failure of trust which is the greatest loss both for the GSA and the federal government.

Does it matter who takes the blame? Yes. It would be more beneficial for an individual to take the blame instead of the organization as a whole. By one person assuming all responsibility some faith could be restored to the agency and the course of events would be altered such that citizens have a greater sense of faith in the government.

You can find the article I referenced here.

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3 thoughts on “Exploring small effects on the brink of mistrust.

  1. I would not use your first question as is for homework as the ‘butterfly effect’ is not an idea covered in the readings.

    The idea of the second question is relevant and interesting. I was thinking that we have the limited liability of corporations to enable greater pools of capital to accumulate (like, going back to early Capitalism in 15-17 th centuries.) Your question suggests we have also established limited ethical liability, or, if you prefer, laundering away personal ethics to the larger organization, be it a business or a government agency.

    Should we use the size of the damage of something like the GSA to assess its ethical import?

  2. For the first question, while the readings don’t touch on it, I think that the Sociological Imagination is an understanding that every little thing has a level of importance (similar to the butterfly effect in that little things can make a significant change).

    Secondly, I think that the ethical nature of something and its scope are two distinct things. A large or small action in scope can be measured in the same ethical importance but because of the size of the action it has a different impact. For example, stealing $1 dollar or $1 billion dollars are both ethically wrong things to do. However, due to the scope of stealing $1 billion dollars vs. $1 dollar there is a much greater impact and is likely to alter the amount of importance given to the scenario.

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