This essay, one of three guest columns in Common Knowledge on “Economy and Humanity,” discusses Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography in the context of modern business education. In particular, it examines Franklin's “thirteen virtues” for personal success and the reaction to them of MBA students in business ethics classes at Harvard and the University of Chicago over the past decade. Asked whether Franklin's business principles have stood the test of time, students are typically skeptical that the thirteen are suited to modern commerce, regarding them instead as ethical nostrums. The essay concludes by speculating on what it means that people intent on entering the business world now perceive so sharp a distinction between the principles for success in business and the principles for leading a good life.

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