Greed is good, again.

Gordon Gekko is back, ‘greed is good again’, and ‘this time it’s legal’. Maybe fictitious scripted lines for entertainment’s sake, but I’d say it never went away, and probably never will.

As a teenager back in 1987 I thought Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas were pretty cool in the original Wall Street, but being so far separated from the reality of the avarice within the global financial world at the time, I could have never appreciated what deep meaning Oliver Stone was trying to convey. Twenty-one years later that teenager may have matured but has the corporate world the film uses as inspiration?

As the World Economic Forum meets in Davos (as I listen to the webinar on ‘Rethinking Market Capitalism’) at least those at 20th Century Fox didn’t miss that opportunity for ironic timing in releasing the trailer. Greed or good marketing?

How much has really changed from the ethos of corporate world depicted by Gordon Gekko and the icon for greed  the character became? Jeffrey Skilling, Bernard Maddoff and even Fred Goodwin (ex CEO at Royal Bank of Scotland) may be recent examples of those allegedly restrained by different aspects of corporate legislation but in reality are  individuals responsible for their own actions. The regulatory conditions within the theatre of the corporate world may have improved, but individuals with rogue agendas will always prosper when allowed to by others.

I have it on very good information that some corporate reprobates never reigned in their spending at all, they were just far less conspicuous about it. I’m aware of stories about extravagant corporate events under assumed company names. Talk about missing the point on ethics and transparency! The highway robbers are merely hiding below the proverbial parapet until something else comes along to distract our attention – how long til the next war please?

Will Gordon will get his comeuppance again or will Oliver Stone be able to deliver a poignant message about values? Greed may play an important role in stimulating entrepreneurial activity, but we all have to find a better way to direct our businesses and global economies beyond continually bulldozing towards unrestrained growth before exhausting the planet’s finite resources.

Check out the trailer for Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps and let me know what you think will happen to Gordon this time; jail, death, epiphany or Government job?

7 thoughts on “Greed is good, again.

  1. bbrian017

    Hey David,

    I think the trailer looks great. With money and power always comes corruption. You cannot have the one without the other no matter who or what it is.

    We have seen more and more examples of this in our lifetime and I imagine we will continue to see more as we grow older. I think it might have something to do with our human specious want or need to control everything.

    Sad I know but accept the truth already. We are naturally greedy.

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    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Brian

      Thanks for the comment. There is a link between greed and our primitive instincts for survival but as an allegedly intelligent species too many people are selectively overriding moral safeguards in the pursuit of money.

      Greed for protecting fellow human beings and our planet, now there’s a discussion!

      David

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  2. Melanie

    The trailer looks very promising. I recently finished my MBA and often wondered if Greed is just going by a new name now: Profit Maximization.
    But more importantly, does Greed have to be categorically good or bad?

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    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Melanie

      How about greed for true sustainability? In my perspective it is the purest of financial greed that appalls me.

      The film looks fun but I hope it generates more ethical questions about the way we conduct business than fans of the motivations of the characters.

      David

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  3. Tom Snell

    Hi David,

    Very interesting post. Well, my sister is an investment banker and works on one of the largest trading floors in the U.S., and according to her not too much has changed in terms of culture between now and the 80’s.

    Do you think this should be a call to business schools to provide more education on the importance of sustainable growth and transparency? Or do we need something greater to change individual attitudes and beliefs? While some leading MBAs do provide some great CSR education, I guess we won’t see the full impact until that generation gets the corner offices on the top floors.

    Regards,

    Tom

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    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Tom

      I definitely believe that the business schools have to take more moral responsibilities for those passsing through their classrooms but to to be fair to them, most adults form their values well before they reach higher academia. Without wanting to delve into the world of the ‘it’s the parents fault’ or to over simply an extremely complex issue, it is about the basic understanding of right and wrong. Awareness of business ethics, CSR / Sustainability can obviously be improved but those we need to apply those teachings have to feel compelled to apply them. It will be an ongoing battle and the next generation of those in the top floor offices will face increasing scrutiny from multiple stakeholders.

      The developed world is generally over-populated with people of the opinion to look after themselves at all costs and in constant need of winning the status symbol buy-off with their peers. After all many of those in the top offices are supported in their beliefs by their customers taking purchase decisions with ethical ignorance. Unfortunately, and baring in mind I am an eternal optimist, it’s probably going to be a multi-generational timescale before we can feel comfortable with any tangible security, and even then avarice will live forever in some people.

      David

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