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Journal of Business Ethics Education

Volume 6, 2009

Robert A. Giacalone, Donald T. Wargo
Pages 147-168
DOI: 10.5840/jbee200969

The Roots of the Global Financial Crisis Are in Our Business Schools

In discussing the $1 trillion bailout of the U.S. Financial Institutions, virtually every Member of Congress and almost every government official—including Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and President Obama—has blamed the crisis on the “greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street”. Almost all of the financial executives involved in the crisis, from CEOs to middle managers, are products of our business schools. Additionally, there is a high correlation between the recent unethical behavior of a number of multinational corporations and the number of MBA holders in their top ranks. As a consequence, many critics are convinced that there is something wrong with our business schools. This paper presents the causes and consequences of what ails business school students and graduates today: the toxic teaching of bad management theories. These theories—grounded in the assumptions of economics—include determinism and materialism, the cult of profit maximization and a pessimistic view of human nature as totally self-interested. By teaching these theories, business schools are inculcating values of materialism and greed that create a life-long pursuit of money and status. This makes it all too easy for business managers to choose expediency and short-term profits over ethical behavior. Further, these materialistic values create higher levels of depression, anxiety and psychological disorders as well as make our students less cooperative and more anti-social as individuals long after they leave academia.