Saturday, March 29, 2008

Management is broken

"What do the following have in common: sub-prime mortgages; collateralised debt obligations and other instruments by which those mortgages are sliced, diced and sold on; and excessive leverage, whether by banks, private equity or hedge funds? They are all reckless and conscious mis-selling, the product of an amoral, deterministic system that expects and gives individuals the incentive to maximise their gains, while barring them from taking into account the costs their profit-making imposes on society as a whole.

Together, markets and companies have in the past been a formidable driver of economic welfare. Without the dynamic of organisations and markets - the company proposes, the market disposes - no country has, or could, aspire to the levels of wealth achieved by the economies of the West. Indeed, the centrally planned economies broke in the attempt.

However, this is not the result of some immutable, pure, 'free-market' design, as the fundamentalists would have it (for real free markets, try Haiti, Nigeria or early post-Soviet Russia), but of man-made rules that foster creative interplay between the economic actors. So far, the rules have, just about, kept the balance sheet positive. No longer. As a former senior Esso executive, Øystein Dahle, predicted, while 'socialism collapsed because it did not allow prices to tell the economic truth ... capitalism may collapse because it does not allow prices to tell the ecological truth'."

Simon Caulkin on Capitalism

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