Wednesday, December 07, 2011

We don't learn. Maybe we can't.

Today's WSJ article about the Olympus scandal (here) proves that we haven't learned anything, really, about avoiding corporate scandals.  Why?  Here are some possibilities:

__ People are inherently evil. 

Nah.  There are good people, and there are evil people.  But most of us fall somewhere in the middle, and it's the situations that we find ourselves in that will push us toward either good behavior or bad behavior.  So I have to reject that gloomy "people are just evil" explanation.

__ Smart people think that they can fix mistakes by covering them up.

Yep.  Ever since Watergate, we've known that the mistakes aren't nearly as bad for us as the cover-ups are, but we keep making the same "let's cover things up" mistake.  Heck, Vegas and other gaming centers are based on the idea that folks will chase their losses until they win again (and they usually don't win again).  But smart people keep thinking that they can outsmart the system, and that they won't get caught.  Will we learn from our mistakes? 

Based on the empirical data, I'm thinking that we won't.  (But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try.)

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