Josh Haas's Web Log

Thoughts on ‘Inside Job’

without comments

After seeing the movie, I’m very interested to hear what the reaction is.

Part of it is going to center around sorting out the facts of the matter.  It’s hard to tell just from watching it how much of the movie was an excellent simplification of complex issues, and how much was an over-simplification.  The rebuttals are starting to come in and it’s going to get messy.  My personal guess is that the story the movie tells is accurate at a mile-high view and much messier near the ground, which in part explains how something like this can happen in the first place.  In the middle of it, it’s a lot harder to see.

One of those mile-high truths is that the finance sector, by and large, doesn’t have a strong moral compass, stretching from the CEOs down to the analysts.  It’s particularly bad in finance because there’s so much opportunity, but in my personal experience it is very easy to graduate from a top university without learning a thing about ethics and morals, which leads to a bunch of bright young people entering the real world without any societal inoculation against that kind of corruption.

I got lucky — I was raised by parents who weren’t complete moral degenerates, and then my tenure in finance was spent working for a firm whose business model is to profit off of long-term integrity.  One of the things I learned there, actually, is that integrity is practical — it’s not a matter of real world gains vs nebulous ethical consequences, it’s a matter of short-term gains vs long-term suffering.  But I’m not sure how many people entering the workforce have been taught to see it that way.

What I really want to see is some form of secular moral education.  Traditional moral education has been pretty much systematically eradicated from the educational system, for some good reasons: it tended to be dogmatic, close-minded, and logically dependent on unprovable suppositions (i.e., the truth of the bible).  But there’s a gap where it used to be, and I think the intellectual tools exist to fill the gap with something that makes sense.  I.e., some kind of open-minded, dialogue-based, rational discourse about really what it means to be an effective, ethical member of society.

To be clear, I don’t want more pop-philosophy lectures about pushing a fat person in front of a train.  For this to be at all useful, getting an ‘A’ can’t be dependent on things like an intellectual understanding of Rawls’ theories, or an agreement with group / teacher sentiment.  Rather, it needs to reward genuine, open-minded, personal wrestling with real issues.   It’s hard, but I think we can do this.  I believe that as a secular, rational society, there are things we can still agree on in terms of integrity and other values to form the curriculum.  And in terms of creatively teaching it, I think there are possibilities.

Written by jphaas

October 24th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized