The convergence of doing well and doing good
Letter to the Editor | Monday, April 4, 2016
Professor Ackermann’s lecture Tuesday evening concluded a series on personal finance, in which the celebrated educator deftly guided students through a secure investment plan. The Mendoza Student Leadership Association graciously organized and sponsored the series, working with Professor Ackermann to provide informational presentations targeted to graduating seniors. Throughout the series, the corporate finance faculty member reflected on what he hopes ND students’ good investment habits will allow in the future: the devotion of their time to “worthwhile causes” in an effort to do good and the realization of “immense satisfaction” in the process.
While Professor Ackermann’s intentions were clearly well-intentioned, his didactic lectures did not include any advice on the ethical implications of investment responsibility. While he spoke quite briefly, the trained specialist should have nonetheless taken a few minutes to explain investment responsibility, because our ability to do “good” in the world through our finances hinges enormously on our recognition of this responsibility, not just our future service or charity.
Through macroeconomics courses, economics students and business students like myself come to consider money as another medium of democracy. That is, each dollar we invest and spend represents a vote toward a company’s success and continued operations, and consequently, each investor and consumer contributes to business activity each time they invest or purchase. Every dollar held, then, accompanies a responsibility for the determination of a global future, which includes our environment and social futures, not just the economic.
When we invest our money casually — with limited recognition of this responsibility, which may be the case in Ackermann’s recommendation of mutual stock indices — we miss an immensely significant opportunity to affect the kind of future we ourselves hope to see in the world. Sometimes it may feel like executives on Wall Street have all the power, and it is disheartening when they take advantage of that power to a negative effect, but we give them that power. Similar to the government, which owns nothing and can only spend tax dollars, Wall Street only owns that which we give it.
Classmates, faculty and staff, I challenge you with this thought: If you would watch a debate to discern a political candidate’s character before voting, shouldn’t you also learn about a company’s character before investing?
And classmates, if you want to affect positive growth and change in the world, major in business. Or better yet, “ask more of business” by acting upon your responsibility as an investor. You have the power to affect the future now, so that, when you retire, the world may already be a better place.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.