The “trickle-down” theory of ethics

How a ruinous corporate culture has taught entrepreneurs and businessmen to eschew ethics in pursuit of the almighty dollar and its impact on the creative industry.

The past six years of the Bush administration have changed the way business is done. We have watched as scandal after scandal has blasted open the doors of greed and shown us entrepreneurs how businesses are run. We have watched the trickle-down theory of “getting ahead” work it’s way through the business world from the big boys all the way down to small businesses, independents, and home-offices.

What we have learned from our corporate CEOs is that it is perfectly fine to lie, steal, and cheat as long as you make a dollar. The "trickle-down theory of economics" was originally conceived as a method of redistributing money from the rich down to the poor … In reality, it is a means of educating people how to cheat others’ in pursuit of the elusive dollar.

Atlanta boasts a thriving creative scene, replete with an almost absurd overabundance of creative agencies, studios, independents, freelancers, and students. Not to mention the legions of unemployed designers, illustrators, and the like all vying for the few open positions and contracts around town. The creative industry has always been a tough industry with high turnover, yearly layoffs, and ever increasing competition for work. Not to mention, the simple fact that employers simply never want to pay fair market value for creative work.

The combination of a ruinous corporate culture, a booming ad market, countless choices for fulfillment and legions of desperate out-of-work designers has led to a precipitous decline in business etiquette and a situation that has proven extremely detrimental the industry and the whole notion of creative rights.

Over the past six years, I have witnessed an awful display of general business courtesy and ethics from small business owners to large companies to independents. Most alarming to me, as a creative, is the rapid increase in the number of creative agencies, advertising firms, interactive firms, and small design studios that have joined the ranks of the ethically challenged. Business courtesy and the whole notion of working together to further everyone’s goals is a dead practice. Even in an industry as liberally inclined and comprising some of the most social creative minds in all-the-business-world, the overall decline in common courtesy and mutual respect for each other is alarming … especially, among creatives themselves.

This trend is bolstered by a simple clause that EVERY independent creative, freelancer, and small creative studio should know intimately. It’s called Work-For-Hire and it is NOT YOUR FRIEND.