Business mirrors life. Business is about competition. Business is a game. It’s all about winning. It’s all about getting as much as you can. To what extent do these statements reflect your underlying beliefs and values? To what extent to these prefigure your practice?
Consider the Wall Street game board and Goldman Sachs as the major player in this game. A game in which wages are made—gambling is the game and winning is the aim. Oh some call it investment banking, but let’s be nakedly frank about what it is, gaming the financial system for ones’ private gain.
All of the commotion is not about a bet gone horribly wrong. It is about a misguided view of the business of business and its role in life—yes your life, my life and our collective lives. You see business does not mirror life, unfortunately life mirrors business. That is to say life in society is greatly affected by the very nature of the conduct of business.
If you doubt this just look around: no doubt you see far too many people, far too many families, far too many human lives nearly destroyed because of the transactions of others. Transactions they had no direct involvement in whatsoever. Yes people not in the game were gravely affected by the game. Because of this very fact, it is a grievous mistake to carry on business as if it is a game—or even as if it is a private affair.
You see, business is not a game and neither is life a game. If either was a game every person could decide to opt in or out; each could decide to play or not play. But because business and life are inextricably connected, virtually no one has this option. We aren’t in it to win it; we are in it to live it.
Therefore the moment one engages in business is the moment one must expand his/her concern for the effect of his/her actions upon people in society—doing otherwise is irresponsible. The societal impact of business is as certain as death and variation [We can’t include taxes since not everyone pays them]. Business is not a game and its conduct is not a private affair!
Those in authority over the conduct of a business—often referred to as the leadership—must be both willing and able to conduct (their) business in a socially responsible manner. If they aren’t up to the task, they should not be given administrative authority over that business—or any business for that matter. Doing so would be like giving a child a weapon.
Authority and responsibility are two sides of the same leadership coin. Leadership always involves a ‘We’ and the more encompassing the ‘We’ the greater the leadership. The ‘I-WE’ nature of leadership informs us that we are not simply instrumental to each other’s self-interest needs. Recognizing our ‘I-We’ nature puts us in touch with the individual and collective aspects of being human and to the simultaneous responsibility we have as a result. As the saying goes you can’t pick up one end of the stick without (at the same time) picking up the other end.
Given that practice—the decisions we make and actions we take—outpaces the creation and legislation of law, law is always inadequate to ensure social order. Therefore (humanly) responsible action—call it leadership—cannot be guided by the law alone. Thus hiding behind inadequate law is not a responsible act. Actually such behavior is often indicative of a shallow and superficial person who is likely guilty of irresponsibly exercising his/her authority. It is reflective of one who doesn’t understand that profit isn’t enough for progress. That is to say that progress is not adequately served if the prospect of personal gain is the only decision-making criterion in business.
The issue before Congress should not be whether we should regulate the conduct of business on Wall Street: rather it should be whether we regulate this new segment of the gaming industry that Wall Street has created. It is a segment within which taxpayers are responsible for the tab when gamblers lose. Can we really afford to let them play with life in society as they wish?