Matthew T. Phillips

Inside Job

I recently watched the popular documentary on the financial crisis, “Inside Job.” I start as a critical viewer of popular documentaries like this one, and what struck me was the fact that the people who are vilified in the movie–for the most part–thought themselves to have acted righteously.

The interviewer was clearly exasperated with financial regulators and investment bankers who just didn’t understand the way their actions look to “normal” people and how disturbing their enormous salaries are to those who have suffered in the financial crisis. With the same intensity, the interviewees were convinced that if the filmmaker and the public could just understand the complexity of the markets better, the bankers and regulators would be vindicated.

As is often the case, ethics appears a matter of focus and perspective. Neither filmmaker nor financier fully understood the wisdom of the other. That doesn’t mean that ‘right’ is in the eye of the beholder, but rather that doing the right thing requires a much richer survey of all the stakeholders than any of us typically manages.