Money Matters

Corporate Golddiggers

Rarely has an op-ed piece (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/why-i-am-leaving-goldman-sachs.html) generated as much discussion as Greg Smith’s recent explanation of how the corporate culture at Goldman Sachs led him to resign. His article has opened up old wounds on the excesses that contributed to the financial near-meltdown of 2008. The reaction, both pro and con, demonstrates that he has hit a raw nerve.

Nortel Justice System

The mention of Nortel Networks makes many a Canadian cringe. Once the darling of the tech world and the most heavily weighted stock in the Toronto Stock Exchange, today it serves as symbol of failure. The greatest insult to any company is to wonder if they are another Nortel.  The recent sale of its 6,000 patents marked the end of a company that once had a market capitalization of $398 billion dollars.

Sixty Years and Spending

Tragically, natural disasters are a relatively common occurrence. The scene is relatively familiar: pictures of destruction and death, with pale-looking survivors searching eagerly for help. Calls go out for money to help rebuild lives and property. The cyclone in Myanmar has created a second tragedy which, from a moral point of view, surpasses the natural one. The refusal of the country’s “leaders” to accept aid, thereby causing so much death and suffering, is one that taints the image of G-d in which man was created.

The End of the Euro

Portugal, Greece, Italy. Who might be next? As Europe and the world fret over the possible collapse of the euro, finance ministers, economists and analysts debate and discuss what measures are needed to save the world from possible financial ruin. It is hard for me to imagine that any economic solution will have much long-term impact unless and until a fundamental shift in thinking takes place, and the underlying moral issues are addressed.

Lessons from Steve Jobs

The saintly sage Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan (the Chafetz Chaim, 1838-1933) once commented that every technological innovation carries within it a moral message. As one who literally wrote the book on the laws of gossip and slander, he saw the invention of the telephone as teaching—warning, perhaps—that what one says over here is heard over there. He would be kept very busy today with daily moral messages.

The Value of Uncertainty

The stock market hates uncertainty. This helps explain the wild gyrations of the markets, unable to “decide” whether we are headed for a double-dip recession or whether the trillions in corporate profits are a reflection of the good times ahead. Is it the millions of North Americans looking for work or standing in line to buy the latest iPhone that are the true indicator of our collective economic shape? The fact that the news of both groups is true just adds to the confusion. Spending decisions, business investment and hiring are to a large extent dependent on confidence in the future.

Income Disparity

One must be “thankful” when the news coming out of Israel is the high price of cottage cheese.  As is so often the case, it is a relatively minor event that sparks major repercussions, often with unintended consequences. This is true not only in national or international relations but in our personal lives as well. Modern technology enables issues that may have taken decades to surface in the past to do so in weeks, days or even hours. Yet despite the power of modern technology, not every problem can be solved as quickly as it surfaces.

RiM Woes

As we have often noted, economic decisions reflect moral choices. As the world economy slowly recovers from near-catastrophe, another potential disaster looms in the horizon: that of the United States government defaulting on its debt. While families understand that they cannot live beyond their means, governments worldwide seem oblivious to this fact; after all, they can just print money as needed.

Moral Bailouts

The sight of the CEO's of GM, Ford and Chrysler asking the Untied States Congress for 25 Billion dollars in aid as they flew to Washington on their private corporate jets highlighted the moral crisis which continues to wreak so much financial havoc. The never ending stream of recipients of big fat bonuses, whose ingenuity in creating new financial products is at the root of our predicament, begging for handouts while the hard working labourer faces job losses, home foreclosures and higher taxes down the road.

A Tribute to a Mentor

Regardless of their personal piety (or lack thereof), Jewish law affirms that an almost superhuman level of respect be shown to our parents. What is less well known is that, in theory at least, one must display even greater honor to our teachers, “for our parents bring us into this world, and our teachers bring us into the World to Come”.  Jewish law even records a practice that requires students to observe many of the practices of shiva upon the death of their (primary) teacher.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Money Matters