Interesting article. One thing I've always liked about the Wharton professors I've had was their sense of humor. They never took themselves too seriously.
What this crisis has done more than anything else is forcing people to question basic assumptions.
In my opinion, there isn't any one constituency to blame - government legislation, executives, consumers/homeowners, banks, etc. It's that since the 1980s, we've falsely assumed that "free market principles" explains the totality of all human experience. Rather than have a free market system serve us, we have ended up serving the free market - because we falsely believed that the free market will solve everything (without taking into account externalities and asymmetries that happen with human behavior).
It's that as a society, we've all taken "profit maximization" as an end in itself -- and not a means to an end. The "end" no longer is something virtuous. Profit becomes the mission itself, as opposed to the fuel that fulfills a greater mission.
There is nothing wrong with making a profit or accumulating more wealth - so long as it's merely a means to some end and not an end itself. But when it's wealth accumulation for its own sake, that is the underlying nihilistic philosophy that got us in this mess in the first place. When the mission and the reason why your company exists boils down to cold numbers like dollars and cents, it opens up a huge door for abuse and manipulation (us humans can't help it), and closes the door on judgment and prudence.
And that's what got us in trouble. It's this underlying mentality that underpins the legislation towards unfettered free markets, the behavior of the boardroom, the entitlement of executives, and the consumerism of citizens.
When "free markets" is no longer just "a good way of doing things most of the time" but a religion that governs our mentality, it's easy for everyone to become self-absorbed and self-referential, because everything boils down to "what's in it for me?"
So many institutions - business, politics, etc. -- have taken self-interest to the extreme. The pendulum does need to swing back a little towards a more balanced approach between individual self-interest and collective responsibility. And that starts with our laws/legislation. On the business side, it starts with corporate governance and that while "shareholder interest" should still be important, it's not the ONLY constituency to be considered - especially with multinationals whose footprint has a huge impact on the communities it operates in. And on an individual level, it really means getting back to knowing our neighbors. To caring about what goes on in our streets, local parks, schools, etc. and not just what happens in our house.
If there is anything positive about this crisis, it's that hopefully it wakes all of us up to the fact that while we have a capitalist/free market system - it's not ALL that we are limited to.
Not sure how b-schools can really teach this, but it's really about changing our basic mentality. But maybe the circumstances that we're living in will force us to change...
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