Generous Orthodoxy  

Friday, December 19, 2008

The moral implications of greed

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has a column today, "The Madoff Economy" in The New York Times, which raises all sorts of good and probing questions about the ethics of the financial services industry. One of the salient paragraphs reads as follows: much has our nation’s future been damaged by the magnetic pull of quick personal wealth, which for years has drawn many of our best and brightest young people into investment banking, at the expense of science, public service and just about everything else?
Most of all, the vast riches being earned — or maybe that should be “earned” — in our bloated financial industry undermined our sense of reality and degraded our judgment.

One of Mr. Krugman's main points is addressed to all of us. By admiring and encouraging these high-flyers, haven't we all contributed to a culture in which teachers, community organizers (yes), journalists (that threatened species), engineers, and honest laborers are devalued? Haven't we as a society been insufficiently committed to raising a generation of young people who seek to contribute to making a better world, rather than making a pile and living in back-country Greenwich (hedge-fund capital of the world) behind eight-foot stone walls and an electronic gate? (My doctor's nurse told me today that you can actually get a parking place on Greenwich Avenue [the equivalent of Rodeo Drive] these days. That's a first.)