Monday, February 1, 2010

musings on finance

The smartest college graduates may no longer be sucked into careers in finance, now that the economy has, uh, renormalized and the iffy decisions of banks and hedge funds have become public knowledge.

I'm going to venture out there and guess that people who three years ago would have gotten a job at Goldman Sachs are not right now filling out their Teach for America applications. People who have gone into finance did it knowing that they got paid a whole lot to perform jobs which had a very uncertain benefit for society. People who go into teaching know that they are going into careers which are underpaid to do something with real and actual benefit to society. It will take more than layoffs at banks to turn someone from one kind of person to another. Now it turns out some part of what was done by finance people was actually harmful - to the economy and to individuals. Does any individual who works in finance really feel culpable for being part of that mess? Should they? Did people who worked in, say mortgage backed derivatives display bad judgment, or were they just playing by the rules of a bad game? If they displayed bad judgment, will their ability to get good jobs in finance in the future be harmed? If I am a doctor who specializes in performing some kind of brain surgery for years that turns out to kill the patients 15 years later, should it effect my career? Who knows.

EDIT: I just read this - someone wants to change careers from finance to education. Mea Culpa.