John Allen Paulos:
While corporate venality and fraud certainly played a role in some of these precipitous declines, the collapses of the various dot-coms, banks, foundations and financial institutions were not primarily the fault of con artists and high-society lowlifes. The responsibility extends far wider.
From the archive, Niall Ferguson:
This hunt for scapegoats is futile. To understand the downfall of Planet Finance, you need to take several steps back and locate this crisis in the long run of financial history. Only then will you see that we have all played a part.
We're all losers now. There's no pleasure to it.
Back to Paulos:
A quite different illustration of our short-sightedness comes courtesy of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Bottle Imp." The story tells of a genie in a bottle able and willing to satisfy your every romantic whim and financial desire. You're offered the opportunity to buy this bottle and its amazing denizen at a price of your choice. There is a serious limitation, however.
When you've finished with the bottle, you have to sell it to someone else at a price strictly less than what you paid for it. If you don't sell it to someone for a lower price, you will lose everything and will suffer excruciating and unrelenting torment. What would you pay for such a bottle?
From the archive, Freeman Dyson:
It's very important that we adapt to the world on the long-time scale as well as the short-time scale. Ethics are the art of doing that. You must have principles that you're willing to die for.
Also, Stewart Brand:
In some cultures you're supposed to be responsible out to the seventh generation -- that's about 200 years. But it goes right against self-interest.