Saturday, July 04, 2009

Greed is NOT Good: The MBA Oath

M.B.A.'s at Harvard and Columbia are now taking an oath "to 'create value responsibly and ethically.'” The meaning of "ethically" is not as clear as I'd like, but at least there's this line:

"I promise... I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves."

According to the New York Times,

"In the post-Enron and post-Madoff era, the issue of ethics and corporate social responsibility has taken on greater urgency among students about to graduate. While this might easily be dismissed as a passing fancy — or simply a defensive reaction to the current business environment — business school professors say that is not the case. Rather, they say, they are seeing a generational shift away from viewing an M.B.A. as simply an on-ramp to the road to riches.

Those graduating today, they say, are far more concerned about how corporations affect the community, the lives of its workers and the environment. And business schools are responding with more courses, new centers specializing in business ethics and, in the case of Harvard, student-lead efforts to bring about a professional code of conduct for M.B.A.’s, not unlike oaths that are taken by lawyers and doctors."

While no one has any illusions that the oath will make business a more ethical undertaking, it does offer a measure of comfort to know that there is at least a challenge to the famous "Greed is good" philosophy that has ruled for so long, and that has had such disastrous results.

I agree with the YouTube commentator who wrote, "the United States shouldn't be thought of as, or run like, a corporation. It's a country - with people. The moneyed interests are just a slice of the pie, there's more that makes up a nation and a company." Maybe this oath is a step toward acknowledging that.

Michael Douglas, as Gordon Gecko in Oliver Stone's Wall Street.

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.

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