Recently, the acclaimed author of Boomerang and Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis delivered a disquieting speech to the 2012 graduating class at Princeton University, offering up a surprise speech that hadn’t been fully articulated before the ceremony. The muscle and bone of the speech could be summarized something like this: because life is a chance shot and that some get more than others at it through that light-hearted muse called luck, for those who are very lucky (like the graduating class of Princeton), they owe some of the fruits of their lucky harvest to the unlucky.
What does this mean? It means giving something back to the public good. Now of course, this summation itself could be a worthy philosophical seminar just for the practice of history and exploration of human thought and morality, but I think that Lewis was trying to deliver up something a little more practical; just straight talk to the very young who are needed. Surely, the grads have a lot to think about in this precarious economy and will have a lot to prove in light of the reality that many of the fallen heroes and heroines of the recent Wallstreet collapse, were young Ivy League grads who as Lewis spoke had the “winner take all” mentality. Well, there’s a lot more that goes into the alchemy and development of human thought, but in a very basic way, Lewis was trying to get to the root of the garden.
From my vantage point, the winner take all thinking, is no longer subtainable. Well, you might be thinking; the basis of Adam Smith’s capitalist cornerstone, is competition based on the laissez- faire rudiment of unimpeded competition. Yes, competition is good if it creates someone driven enough to invent a new medicine, a new concept for how a service is delivered, a new and better way to feed the hungry. But when should competition be checked? Really. Would have a regulating mechanism (not a computer program with an ingenious logarithm) of core competent persons on the spot, asking the right questions, doing the right math, appling relational experience, have made a difference in the outcome on recent Wallstreet?
Surely, culture is a process and growing a healthier capitialism will take time. Like new trees that are planted and saved, like new ways to teach children what they will need to know in the new global community, like eco-friendly housing that’s affordable for the most, a new economic literacy must be the future. And with these thoughts in mind, Lewis’s message to the new grads makes even more just plain good sense and perhaps the final proposition is; that if you are young and lucky, imagine how lucky you will grow to be if the world is a better place when you’re further up life’s contiguous path and looking back you can see the rewards of those you helped be lucky too.
Follow the link for Michael Lewis’s speech: