Conflict of Interest

by Lewis Strauss



No government can afford the contagion of moral lapses in high places. Conflict of interest is not a modern phenomenon. There was the warning two millennium ago in the Sermon on the Mount against serving two masters. Early in history, the first Congress took official notice of the possibility of a conflict and endeavored to remove one temptation to it. Thus, despite the eminence and the reputation for probity of Alexander Hamilton, it was written into our laws that the Secretary of the Treasury might not own directly, or hold in trust through others, any securities of the United States or of any State or be engaged in trade or commerce or own any part of any sea-going vessels. The most effectual precautions for keeping men virtuous in business or government are laws, regulations and codes of conduct requiring full public disclosure. These at first impression seem distasteful; yet men who aspire to careers where the property, welfare, and even the lives of their fellow citizens are to be governed by them (and where great honor and recognition are the expected and deserved need for duty well performed) ought not be reluctant to bear the scrutiny of those who have delegated authority to them.

California Management Review

Berkeley-Haas's Premier Management Journal

Published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business.

Learn more
Follow Us