Chapter 5. Too Much Business Conduct, Not Enough Professional Conduct

Among the most obvious, and troubling, manifestations of the change from the stern traditional values of yore to the, well, flexible values of our modern age—with its myriad numeric measures and its largely missing moral measures—is the gradual mutation of our professional associations into business enterprises. Even as power corrupts, so money corrupts the sound functioning of our national agenda.

It was not ever thus. Only a bit more than 40 years ago, Daedalus—the venerable and prestigious journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences—proudly declared:

Everywhere in American life, the professions are triumphant.

But when Daedalus revisited the subject in its 2005 summer issue, the lead essay found that the triumph had been short-lived. "Our professions have gradually been subjected to a whole new set of pressures, from the growing reach of new technologies to the growing importance of making money." The idea of having a calling, the essay noted, was being undermined by "potent market forces [that] have made it increasingly difficult to delineate just how professionals differ from those non-professionals who have [most of] the power and resources in the society."

Let's begin by considering what we mean when we talk about professions and professionals. The article in Daedalus defined a profession as having these six common characteristics:

  1. A commitment to the interest of clients in particular, and the welfare ...

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