I just read this interesting piece on how the MBA degree is not only useless but practically fostered the mindframe that drove the Wall Street meltdown. There are some interesting points within and some of the quotes are just hilarious but I feel that the author does not go far enough.
While the problems of the mindframe that your can “train a leader” are obvious not only after a short explanation but also through viewing the dismal failure most managers are, a failure which in turn has not relation to their subsequent payment and bonuses, the reasons of why this paradigm came to be is not explored.
And what would you know, I have a theory on that.
You see, we have a society which rewards those who can accumulate wealth better with more wealth. We also have the concept that this wealth can and should be passed to one’s progeny so as not to be squandered. We also know that wealth = power and power can be used to prevent others from challenging one’s own wealth/power.
As wealth accumulated to fewer and fewer hands, those at the top, through inheritage ended up creating dynasties, and the mentality of those who are born within a dynasty is that they deserve to be there. That they deserve these privileges that their ancestors have granted them (AKA Spoiled rich brats). When you add to that the common feeling of people who have “made it”, who do not want to see their progeny having to walk the same path but rather continue where they left them, you get the mentality of nobility: By right of heritage, one deserves their social position.
Sure one could train his children as experts on something but that would mean that they may start low and actually have to take orders from someone else. There also the alternative that the progeny simply lives of the considerable wealth the parents have created but this would lead to a progressive reduction of wealth, especially since a jbless hedonistic child is bound to spend increasingly more and more. No, the wealth a position had to be transferred somehow.
In the past, the founder of a very succesful company could easily tranfer his wealth to his children (or at least some of them) which wasn’t much different from a lord tranferring his feud to his sons. However as privately owned companies were outcompeted from public ones, this path became progressively harder to take as the shareholders don’t necessarily have to be the same as the managers.
So another way had to be found to ensure that the progeny of the movers and shakers of any society would in turn become the movers and shakers of the future. And just in time, the managerial courses came about. I have noted that the rise to prominense of such courses correlates very nicely with the increased incorporation of American business. The less the posibility one has to transfer the accumulated wealth, the more necessary to have a way to jump start one’s career.
And slowly but surely, the managerial class was created. A class which incidentally has a very high entrance cost (as you need to have both the money and the status to be accepted in institutions such as Harvard) which practically means that only those already in the upper levels of society can enter. And as progressively the higher paying positions of companies necessitated one being part of the managerial class, the cumulative dificulty in getting in, became even larger.
So now you’ve basically got a system where if you’re rich and powerful you get to become even more rich and powerful by right of heritage, while the chances of one of the unwashed masses “making it” are as high as the chance a mercenary or a merchant had to become a “sir” or a lord in an Aristocracy.
Like the nobility, the managerial class is not taught how to be productive or ethical like the rest of us, they are tought how to be decisive and arrogant. Like the nobility, the managerial class does not need to suffer the bad results of their actions (golden parachutes and the like) unless they happen to step on the toes of another of the ruling class while they’re at it.
It is funny because this is the culmination of all the bourgeoisie has been striving to achieve ever since the liberal revolutions of the past few centuries. To take the place the aristocracy had in their zenith. They have obviously achieved it, but like the aristocracy before them, they have nowhere to progress, but down.