Thursday, October 23, 2008

M.B.A.'s and the Meltdown

A letter to Marketplace made an interesting point. This economic meltdown was the result of the actions of businesspeople at a time when more people have M.B.A.'s than at any time in history. The letter-writer was bemoaning the fact that the graduate education should have kept people from engaging in risky behavior and in unethical behavior, yet this did not happen.

I gave a paper a few years ago at a meeting of the Society of Business Ethics on Aristotle and the nature of corporate moral responsibility. The session before mine had a bunch of heavy-hitters in the world of business ethics and considered whether business ethics had a place in M.B.A. programs at all. They generally contended that their colleagues who study applied psychology and sociology considered their work too mushy to be taken seriously. The question was whether to accept this and work outside of the community or try to fight it in some way. Regardless of the answer, it seems to say that those with M.B.A.'s would be given a certain attitude towards ethical questions -- whether they are given coursework in it or not.

Is the education attached to the M.B.A. irrelevant to the goings on in the marketplace? Could it have been a contributing factor?