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Sep 18, 2008

Stupidity and Laziness vs. Ego and Greed

A modest debate: can more corporate problems be credited to stupidity and laziness, or ego and greed?

I vote for stupidity and laziness.  Some of my debate partners in San Francisco vote for ego and greed.

Given the differences in our respective markets, we may both be right.  San Francisco sits at the far end of the corporate behavior curve.  It's one of the first places you'd want to be if (you think) you've got the brains, imagination, and drive to make it big and quickly.  As for the Triangle (and many other "mid-cap" or "low-cap" markets), we don't have nearly the concentration of the corporate ambitious.

I'm sort of OK with that, especially since I have the freedom to spend time in either place.

But back to the debate, if you were to frame it nationally rather than by locale.  Stupidity and laziness vs. ego and greed: who "wins"?

(By the way,  I want to claim Scott Adams for my side, given his explaining theory for nearly everything: "people are idiots''.)

04:35 PM in Destination Durham, Traveling | Permalink

Comments

This is, of course, a sort-of-arbitrary division of reasons.

Here's someone who's thought about stupidity and laziness in another way:

http://www.mcgeesmusings.net/2006/07/19/balancing-diligence-and-laziness/

Posted by: Phil | Sep 18, 2008 4:50:04 PM

Given the differences in our respective markets, we may both be right.>

Yes, I think that's the right answer. Though I have to say that the tech firms in RTP I'm personally familiar with are excellent organizations, and I am hoping to spend more time in RTP and less time in NYC (which is a wildly different kind of market from RTP or SFO, by the by) in the coming years.

Posted by: Barry Campbell | Sep 18, 2008 6:34:37 PM

Thanks, Barry. I hope you will chuckle to know that I was thinking of your recent "false dichotomy" comment when writing my followup.

Posted by: Phil | Sep 18, 2008 7:16:41 PM

I vote for stupidity and laziness.

Posted by: Lisa | Sep 19, 2008 2:26:29 AM

I'd vote for stupidity but it's too much work.

:-)

Posted by: Phil | Sep 19, 2008 2:49:57 AM

Barry wrote: "Though I have to say that the tech firms in RTP I'm personally familiar with are excellent organizations"

Just to add/clarify, I don't mean to imply that the corporate world is *typically* full of troubles. Rather, I'm just curious about what to blame on the *occasions* that the corporate world is bad.

Posted by: Phil | Sep 19, 2008 2:55:38 AM

Ego/greed. People are self-serving. This is my conclusion after many observational studies. ;)

Posted by: Valerie | Sep 19, 2008 5:34:18 AM

Stupidity and laziness appear to be fairly evenly distributed across all human endeavors. There may well be some systematic variability, but it's not like a hugely disproportionate percentage of stupidity and laziness occurs in one sector over others; and besides, for this exercise we are now restricting our analysis to the corporate world (which, again, is not a homogeneous entity, but at least we can conjecture that the basic profit motive applies across the board).

So let's consider the "ethical" corporation: maximize profits, but do so within a system that respects laws and protections (for workers, the public, the environment, etc.), with a philosophy of transparency (i.e. no funny bookkeeping), etc, etc. Even with the best of intentions, stupidity and laziness will occur in such organizations, and the ethical corporation will fuck some stuff up, and that may well cause some problems.

Now let's consider the corporation operated on greed and ego. Lies and obfuscations facilitate outright theft. Investment devices are purposefully made maximally complex and arcane so as to evade existing rules, escape regulatory oversight, and mask the true intentions for their creation. Stupidity and laziness will occur here as well; in some instances, this may thwart the intentions of the greedy, but I propose that the more frequent occurrence is that stupidity and laziness will actually *compound* the problems that are created by greed and ego.

So as I see it, it's the greed and ego that really drive the major problems we have been seeing in the economy. The stupidity just makes it that much worse.

Posted by: Fikri | Sep 19, 2008 5:00:21 PM

People who are greedy and driven by ego are inherently stupid and lazy because they fail to understand interconnectedness -- both transcendentally and practically -- and opt for short-term personal reward over long-term community reward.

Posted by: JC | Sep 23, 2008 10:57:06 AM

People who are greedy and driven by ego are inherently stupid and lazy because they fail to understand interconnectedness -- both transcendentally and practically -- and opt for short-term personal reward over long-term community reward.

Posted by: JC | Sep 23, 2008 10:57:15 AM

Perpetrated by greed and ego, perpetuated by stupidity and laziness. And fear.

No matter what system you create, there are people who will try to do an end run to get around it. Think of what 19-year-olds will go through to counterfeit an ID card just to get a beer in a bar, or how radar detectors were invented specifically to enable people to break speeding laws more safely. Some of us old broads may tut-tut and wag our fingers at such miscreants, but others will idealize their behavior and call them names like "mavericks". Our mythology from Westerns to bikers to rappers idealizes two archetypes: outlaws, or lawmen who go outside the law in order to enforce it. People who play by the rules are soundly looked down on outside of bridge clubs.

So if there are common-sense regulations about how finances should be handled, there are people who will find some legal means to get around those regulations (or flout them entirely), and be praised for their creativity and genius and cockiness. Their ego is satisfied by their cleverness, and the greedy are all too willing to capitalize on their clever ideas to make a killing. The stupid don't notice that there is anything amiss, and the lazy may notice, but can't be bothered to do anything about it. I'd also add a fourth type, which is the fearful: these are the ones who will go along rather than make a stir or insist on safe, ethical, law-abiding behavior...after all, who admires the person that adheres to the 55mph speed limit in the left lane of the freeway?

Posted by: cd | Sep 25, 2008 2:58:14 PM