Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vegan and Dangerous!

While I have made a good number of choices in my life which were not in line with the predilections and views of the majority and consequently did not always reap enthusiastic accord, so I was nevertheless unprepared for the in part fierce reactions that my decision to forthwith abstain from animal products (including milk and eggs) prompted. I have since been subjected to everything from “this is too radical” and “you vegans are all so judgmental” to “Vegan – that’s a cult!”. At times I was also just derided as if I was some airy fool or I was again attacked in the sense of “oh, so you are one of those ‘holier than thou’ do-gooders who then also wants to impose his personal morality on us.” (An excellent example of argumentum ad hominem: instead of engaging in a factual discussion, one a priori attacks the person and discredits him or her).

Friday, April 11, 2014

Good theory

In academic circles you frequently encounter the opinion that a good theory is mainly able to demonstrate model cause-effect-relations (causalities) and quantifiable results. This view is based on the so-called exact sciences where it may well have its validity. But what is the situation in the humanities and social sciences?

When reviewing the leading economic journals for example, one gets the impression that this view applies here without any restrictions as well. Contributions predominate which draw quantitative conclusions and demonstrate model periodic causalities in any form.When addressing a problem, only the quantifiable aspects are shown and taken into account, while everything else is eliminated by abstractions or marginalized as externalities.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Can the law promote doing the right thing?

Yesterday, the Swiss federal government published a report addressing the responsibilities of companies. The crux of the report is the question of whether the legislator should declare the non-binding global ethics standards as binding for Swiss companies. Here, opinions differ along the well-known lines: On the one hand the voices of business-critical NGOs, which are using every means to gain attention for what they consider right; on the other hand business-friendly representatives for whom any regulation is one too many. I don’t plan to join in their mantra of voluntariness, business’ ability to restrain itself. However, I ask myself to what extent more regulations actually enhance a sense of responsibility in companies. Can the law promote doing the right thing? The so-called fat-cat-initiative that passed last year and going to be a paragraph in the federal constitution provides illustrative material for this – as far as the consequences can already be estimated. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Good stress management

Currently, we are holding a seminar at the University about stress at the workplace and health promotion in companies. The relevance of this issue is evident not only because of the keen interest of our students, but also due to its presence in daily press. Articles on the subject appear almost weekly on all possible aspects of stress:

- how stressed we are („Burnout Is Everywhere“),

- who is affected by it  ("Exhausted dancers make their point"),

- what personal and economic consequences can be observed („Feeling stressed? It's probably harming your health", "Get a life", "Burnout on the rise: Workplace woes adding up"),

- what can be done against it („Stress in the city: how employers can help"

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Zara – a reputation made, a reputation squandered?

In some of my past blog posts I discussed the significant value a good reputation has by example of Switzerland’s repute as a high-quality producer of products and services. I showed that there is concrete evidence that a good reputation and the trust that it engenders in potential customers is not only an exercise for “doing good for goodness sake”, but also translates into hard cash and profits (see my recent blog entry on "Dismantling of a Swiss Holy Cow" ). Many corporations, due either to considerable competitive pressure or simply due to the myopic imperative of maximizing profitability, take short-cuts or systematically exploit the vulnerable. So it seems to be the case with Zara, the fashion house of the Inditex Group.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mass Immigration, the Growth Imperative and the Creative Metropolis

In Switzerland, votes can quickly turn into a political thriller accessible to the public. Here, the people as the ultimate sovereign has the right (which is rather exceptional compared to other countries) to say “stop, not like this!” in a vote, notwithstanding the recommendations of its government, of wealthy interest groups or expert warnings. This was the case with the recent initiative against mass immigration launched by the SVP that has won with a narrow majority of votes. 

The reactions to this result produced quite predictable waves of indignation, hyperbole and panic (while the winners’ joy was a bit muffled): Switzerland at the economic abyss, an isolated island of happy xenophobes, a nation of spoiled farmers who tore open the “Röstigraben” and slapped the EU.

Is this outcry justified?