The beginning of ethical behavior is asking yourself, “What kind of a person do I want to be?” Next comes “What kind of group (or company or town or society) do I want to be a part of?”
Lincoln asked if we wanted to be part of a nation that was half slave, half free. John Kennedy asked if we wanted to be part of a wealthy nation with millions suffering from hunger. It’s time for Wall Street leaders to ask themselves whether they want to be part of a society that pays top earners thousands of times as much as it pays ordinary hard workers, and enables the top people to live in 18,000 square foot homes while some ordinary workers live in their cars.
These questions have been posed before—by Spartacus, by Nat Turner, by Marx, by Mao. When the questions came as demands from people on the bottom they always had terrible results—think slave revolt or the “Great Leap Forward.”. But when they were posed by leaders of society they often led to constructive change—think Social Security or the Marshall Plan.
It’s time for Wall Street leaders to lead, or risk provoking our political system into a “cure” that will likely be far worse than the disease.