With apologies to Hannah Arendt. From an interview by Bill Moyers of Wendell Potter, a former healthcare executive:
…that was my problem. I had been in the industry and I’d risen up in the ranks. And I had a great job. And I had a terrific office in a high-rise building in Philadelphia. I was insulated. I didn’t really see what was going on. I saw the data. I knew that 47 million people were uninsured, but I didn’t put faces with that number.
…certainly, I knew people, and I talked to people who were uninsured. But when you’re in the executive offices, when you’re getting prepared for a call with an analyst, in the financial medium, what you think about are the numbers. You don’t think about individual people. You think about the numbers, and whether or not you’re going to meet Wall Street’s expectations. That’s what you think about, at that level. And it helps to think that way. That’s why you– that enables you to stay there, if you don’t really think that you’re talking about and dealing with real human beings.
Related to this (well, sorta), a lot of the financial crisis can be laid at the feet of people who took jobs that enabled them to behave like sociopaths. Until we reduce the incentives to take such jobs (and high marginal tax rates that force people to think long-term as opposed to
makingextracting a quick bundle and getting out would be a good start), we’re not going to solve many of our current problems–even though, to return to healthcare, most of us know what has to be done.