Posts tagged ‘Goldman Sachs’

March 14, 2012

It’s really all about the prime directive…

Today’s New York Times has an op-ed (http://mobile.nytimes.com/article?a=925225&f=28) written by a fellow who is resigning from Goldman Sachs due to ethical concerns that is causing quite a buzz at work. I was facilitating a session with some rather senior bankers from another firm this morning and many thought the move quite outrageous. Maybe for different reasons, but certainly outrageous nonetheless.

For them, it’s a no-brainer that you need to serve the clients and give them the best options for their growth, and that not everybody, nor every firm, does that. The taboo of writing an op-ed and what the possible repercussions may be was another topic.

For me, it’s a continuing though process about ethics in our society and whether or not having a good moral compass is mutually exclusive with having profit-based goals. I’ve spent years reading philosophy and literature on the subject and am constantly evolving in my own opinion on the matter. When I was in my young 20’s I felt the world was a zero-sum game. By now I’m feeling like I see a more complex relationship between the have’s and have-not’s but as far as what is possible I am still searching for answers.

There are many organizations who have sprung up since the most recent recession began that have business models based on the greater good and that are able to make a profit. Heralded as the new entrepreneurs for a modern age, these companies are mixed bag as far as I’m concerned. Well-intentioned white people, self-empowered to make the world a better place, make me a little uncomfortable sometimes (see discussions on White Savior Industrial Complex,http://bit.ly/HbOzMa, via The Atlantic). To the extent that self interest is a necessary component of acting on the behalf of the hungry huddled masses, as we all feel better when we are being appreciated for being so selfless and giving. It’s like a Miss America pageant, world peace and all of that. I’m sure you do want that, dear.

And isn’t everything commerce of one type or another? Where is a pure egalitarian society, no greed, no hierarchy, and no popular cliques? Even the most radical organizations I have known have social hierarchy and favored cliques. Instead of money the currency of these social groups is still hoarded, spread out unevenly, and scarce.

I’d like to think we could rise to the occasion and be both ethical and engage in the current global marketplace. It would behoove us to figure out what baby steps we need to take, even if the full picture of how we get there is a bit murky.

It’s like the prime directive in Star Trek. They had a moral rule, don’t interfere with anyone’s development, that they really tried very hard to follow on the Enterprise. And more times than not, they failed. But in trying, they were able to come to the most ethical solution that they could, given the information that they had. And most of the time, most of the people were better off for the experience. Well, as long as you weren’t the anonymous ensign nobody had seen before. It never turned out well for him.