Musings and chronicles on life, work, film, culture, politics, etc.
25 Jun 2012 Leave a Comment
25 Jun 2012 2 Comments
I bristle whenever I hear someone assert that schools or governments should emulate business more, whenever business is put on a pedestal as something it isn’t , i.e. an ideal. So many businesses fail. Many businesses break the law or exploit people and resources. Too many are led by people who strive for an unfair advantage or seek to con as a way to boost revenue and stock prices. Too many disrespect their customers treating them like stooges or ignoring them altogether when service is needed.
As the University of Virginia struggles amidst a transition after the ousting of their president, those who idolize business assert that the school should be “run like a business.” The Chronicle of Higher Education has an opinion piece that highlights the limits of that idea. I particularly liked these paragraphs:
What we need is to learn the discipline of business without the short-term orientation. Markets are amoral. A competitive market will determine a fair price—whether for cocaine or cocoa—but not necessarily the enduring social value. A one-year increase of 25 percent in the price of a house does not reveal the underlying forces causing the price increase, or its real value. Markets do not know the worth of a mature forest three generations hence. Nor can a market accurately determine the lifetime value of thoughtful exposure to the classics or art or music. Enduring acts of civility are not bought and sold. The qualities that professional educators worry about often do not lend themselves to short-term market valuation.
We can learn from business to allocate resources responsibly, have transparent and disciplined budgets, and plan for a more secure financial future. At the same time, we need to avoid the hubris of business “success.” Too many successful business leaders espouse the benefits of a free-market system while accepting that some sellers can be too big to fail and must be protected from market forces. Too many successful business leaders hypocritically accept money from the government while at the same time decrying the intrusion of government in the economy. And what happens when money is at risk? Manhattan prosecutors recently opened an investigation into grades in M.B.A. courses at the City University of New York‘s Baruch College, some of which were apparently falsified for the purpose of maintaining revenue.
W. Keep, “The Worrisome Ascendence of Business in Academe,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 25, 2012