The WSJ’s Andy Kessler’s Frightening Confession

Wall Street Journal editorial writer, Andy Kessler, wrote a column that appeared on August 9, 2021 entitled, “To Lie Is Human.” He began the column by confessing that as he and his family visited Lake Louise, Alberta he did the following:

1. He told his son to lie about his age when they were going to go horseback riding. His son was 6 and turning 7 that day (his birthday). The minimum age was 9. His son lied about his age, saying he was 8 and turning 9 that day, and got his horseback ride for his birthday.
2. Later that day they went to ride the ski lift. The fare is $35 unless you are five or under. Then the ride is free. He told his son to tell the lift operator that he was 5 — the son complied.

Mr. Kessler seemed entertained by the thought that his son was ages 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 all in one day. Mr. Kessler used it as an example of how children are not always refreshingly honest. He took pride in believing he was training his son for a career in politics.

What Mr. Kessler may not know is that children’s attitudes about ethics and honesty are formulated at a very early age by, you guessed it, the example of their parents. What Mr. Kessler’s son saw was that it’s okay to lie when you really want to do something or when you want to save $35. Children do not forget these incidents, precisely because they were placed in an ethical dilemma: Do I do what dad says or do I do what I have learned is the right thing to do?

Complicity of adults in the bad behaviors of others has resulted in everything from ongoing sexual harassment to the slaughter of innocents. What Mr. Kessler confessed to was training his son to be complicit under a standard of moral relativism. He should not be surprised if his son’s actions as a teen and adult mirror his lessons taught alongside the glistening and reflective water of Lake Louise.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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2 Responses to The WSJ’s Andy Kessler’s Frightening Confession

  1. Jeffrey Miller says:

    I was totally upset reading his attitude to teaching lying as something to be admired and even more so that to save $35 was not only good to lie about but something he was proud of.
    I emailed him with some scathing remarks about his parenting skills.
    I hope that his behavior is not indicative of the majority of people and that lying is not something to crow about.

  2. mmjdiary says:

    His writing style was just so casual about something so serious — children learn what they live! He created a lifelong impression that he justifies with, “We all lie!” If that is true, we have some work to do, but we could start by not teaching children how it’s done.

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