Who Cares What People Think About Wall Street Ethics?

What does the public think made the dinosaurs to go extinct? Does the public believe that the Second World War could have been avoided? Does the public believe that the charge on an electron is positive, or negative? Does the public believe in ghosts?

Do the answers to those questions about the public tell you anything about how the world really is?

But check out this story, from Reuters:
Wall Street rates poorly for ethics, honesty: poll

Americans hold a dim view of business executives, giving them poor grades for honesty and ethics and blaming them for business failures, according to a survey released on Thursday.

Nearly 60 percent gave the worst grades to Wall Street executives for honesty and ethical practices, according to research conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Seriously, folks: who cares? Does it actually matter what the average person thinks about corporate ethics in general or about Wall Street ethics in particular? What are they going to do, not buy things anymore? Not invest their money on Wall Street anymore? Do you think Wall Street cares what the average person thinks? It’s just not useful information. You could take everything the average person knows about the functioning of Wall Street, plus everything they know about the sources of the recent troubles there, and fit it into a box of matches without first taking all of the matches out.

In particular, it’s worth pointing out that the fact that the public thinks poorly of Wall Street ethics proves something about the public, but it proves nothing about Wall Street. I’m not saying the public is wrong. I’m just saying public opinion isn’t informative, here.

3 comments so far

  1. plasticsyntax on

    Perhaps a better question is to ask, “When the winning class of a meritocracy is viewed as corrupt, what happens to the rest of that society?” Maybe we become more dishonest, shirk more, and in general our society and economy starts to look more and more like Brazil or Russia every day. I sure hope not, I’d rather see another great compression like we did in the 50s and 60s, but I’m not terribly optimistic right now.

  2. Mark Mercer on

    Chris–what does the person in the street think killed the last non-avian dinosaurs? I understand that the theory that it was an asteroid that hit the Yucatan has come in for serious criticism, but it’s still a preferred theory, isn’t it?

  3. Heberto X. Peterson R. on

    Maybe no body cares, but talking about it, can start to create a kind of social conscience about how the most influential people in economy should act. Maybe the public don’t have much option than make an opinion. And at least is a good topic for coffe!!BestHeberto Peterson


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