CNBC: Saving the World and Wall Street – a discussion with MacAskill and Allen

CNBC interviewOxford graduate student, William MacAskill, wrote a piece in Quartz: To save the world, don’t get a job at a charity; go work on Wall Street. He makes the point that you might be more effective making a ton on money on Wall Street and giving a large chunk of it away rather than becoming just one more person working for a non-profit because charities are labor rich but money poor.Click to turn non annotations with hypothes.isI responded with Don’t come to Wall Street for the money, even if you plan on giving it away, in which I say it is more easily said than done because it is possible to do more harm than all the good you can do if you give it all away.

CNBC called and soon William and I were on the show for one of those 60 second spots with a 30 second commercial in the middle. You can watch it here, although to get a better sense of what we’re trying to say it is better to read the original articles.

 

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To save the world come to Wall Street and save the world from Wall Street

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Do you want to be like these people? (Don’t answer that; we’re afraid of your answer.)

(originally published in Quartz on February 28, 2013)

I am a 60-year-old child of the 60’s who never gave up on the idea that I can save the world—even after three decades on Wall Street.

That is why I enjoyed the piece by William MacAskill, To save the world, don’t get a job at a charity; go work on Wall Street.

The problem is that this is more easily said than done. Most people working on Wall Street can make ends meet while a small few can make vastly more money than they need. The trick is to make sure that the process of making money does no harm.

Click to turn non annotations with hypothes.isQuestion: How much money would all the participants in the mortgage securitization industry have to give to charity to undo the harm they have caused?

Answer: More than they have ever made.

The real opportunity to do good on Wall Street is to reform it from within. But to do the right thing you have to be able to recognize the difference between right and wrong, and then you must be able to say “no” when ordered to do the wrong thing.

Here is my advice if you want to come to Wall Street and do good: Continue reading To save the world come to Wall Street and save the world from Wall Street

Is “giving back” evidence you took too much in the first place?

X-5SMy father told me to judge people not on how much money they have but on how they make it and what they do with it. My dad was a sculptor who believed in truth and beauty; art was about uncovering the truth and creating beauty.

That is also what scientists do; they uncover the truth and find the most elegant way of expressing it. You can think of Occam’s Razor as an aesthetic litmus test for scientific theories.

But what about business?

Although my dad only ever had formal training as a sculptor, he  had a very successful career arc that took him from fine art to commercial art to advertising to marketing to management consulting.

You can attribute his business success to his belief that business is just another art form, and by that he did not mean that making money was an art. He meant that business was about finding the truth (What do people truly need? What is the state of the art?) and creating beauty (How do we best meet people’s true needs?).

Click to turn non annotations with hypothes.is

Running a profitable business simply means that revenues exceed expenses, and that is another way of saying that the art is economically sustainable.

But to manufacture desire where there is no real need; to exploit workers just because you Continue reading Is “giving back” evidence you took too much in the first place?