"The Book of Questions: Business, Politics and Ethics," Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Pros: Extremely thought-provoking questions; no judgment–just things to think about
Cons: None
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 1/10/2005
Review copy courtesy of Workman Publishing.

Gregory Stock, Ph.D., has put out “The Book of Questions,” “The Book of Questions: Love and Sex,” “The Kids’ Book of Questions,” and now “The Book of Questions: Business, Politics and Ethics.” I’ve now read all of them except the book for children, and oddly enough, while the concepts in each are similar, I think that each book occupies its own niche and serves its own purpose.

The original “Book of Questions” made a good conversation-starter and, in my opinion, inspirational tool for writing or journaling. “The Book of Questions: Love and Sex” is better for helping you to see your own relationship values and how they may be helping and harming you and your loved one, and it can also be used to help open up communication in a relationship if approached carefully. “The Book of Questions: Business, Politics and Ethics,” on the other hand, is perhaps best for pushing you to explore your own moral values and how well you’re living up to them.

What’s most impressive about this is that very few of the questions seem to imply a “right” answer or try to push some sort of specific realization, and even those that do sort of come across that way don’t have to be read in that way. Dr. Stock specifically says that he doesn’t want to push an agenda–he merely wants to spur people to think more carefully about what it is they’re doing and why:

But this book is not a quiz on ethics or public policy. There are no right or wrong answers to the questions found here, only honest and dishonest ones. We each have our own answers, and as we reflect alone or in the company of others, we may find that our answers change. This is as it should be. With these questions, our answers are not as important as whether we reach them in a way that brings us to better understand both the issues and ourselves.

The goal is not to make you do “the right thing,” but to make sure that you’re at least thinking about the issues and taking your actions for a reason. Whether considering these issues changes your actions is up to you.

The questions run the gamut from economic programs to health care, international policy to business. There are questions about hiring and firing employees, stealing from or betraying employers, tradeoffs in public programs and government spending, and so on. Many of the questions seem particularly relevant to today’s political situations. While I wasn’t as fond of the tradeoff questions in the “Love and Sex” book, I think that in this one they come across much better. Somehow they end up feeling less arbitrary and more like realistic quandaries. For example:

Do you consider it more important for government to foster a society with prosperity, freedom, or security for its citizens?

Dr. Stock tries not to give us easy questions with easy answers, instead forcing us to truly think about the hard things; some questions force you to think about seemingly-familiar or trivial questions in new and enlightening ways simply by how they’re worded. A number of questions, marked with an asterisk, have “follow-up” questions that are presented later on in the book:

Most of the value of questions comes from actively exploring them. Good questions generally lead not to definitive answers, but to more questions.

So give “The Book of Questions: Business, Politics and Ethics” a try. Use the questions to spur journal entries. Use them to discuss ethical matters with your spouse or children. Heck, they’d make great essay questions for a class on ethics, and character-exploration questions for fiction writers. I think you could get a lot of value out of exploring them–even if you don’t ever answer them.

Posted in Reviews, Writing

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