Young People of Wall Street, Your Character Is Doomed

Michael Lewis says the working environment will surely corrupt them
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2014 4:55 PM CDT
Young People of Wall Street, Your Character Is Doomed
A sign for Wall Street on the side of building near the New York Stock Exchange.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Respected financial writer Michael Lewis is worried about the souls of Ivy League grads who continue to flock to Wall Street. They might arrive with ambitions to change the world for the better, but rest assured they'll be veterans playing by the corrupt old rules before long, he writes at Bloomberg View. "People like to think they have a 'character,' and that this character of theirs will endure, no matter the situation," he writes. Think again. "People are vulnerable to the incentives of their environment, and often the best a person can do, if he wants to behave in a certain manner, is to choose carefully the environment that will go to work on his character."

For those who choose the environment of Wall Street, it's a hopeless battle. To survive, for example, they'll need to learn how to pretend to know more than they actually do, the better to sell Wall Street's various schemes. When they see flaws in the system—"say, gameable ratings companies, or riggable stock exchanges, or manipulable benchmarks"—they'll learn to exploit them instead of fixing them. "The intense pressure to conform, to not make waves, has got to be the most depressing part of all, for a genuinely ambitious young person," writes Lewis. That idealistic youth may indeed set out to change the world, but it's the world that's going to change him. "So watch yourself," he concludes. "Because no one else will." Click for the full column. (More Wall Street stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.