Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charlie Munger has spoken up several times about the percentage of the country's best and brightest going into finance. Here's a flavor of his recent comments:
Why should we want to encourage our brightest minds to do what amounts to code-breaking and electronic trading? I think the whole system is stark-raving mad. Why should we want 25% of our graduating engineers going into finance? ... I don't see any social contribution.
A big percentage of Cal-Tech grads are going into finance. I regard this as a regretfully bad outcome. They'll make a lot of money by clobbering customers who aren't as smart as them.
Last month I asked Joseph Stiglitz, a Noble Prize-winning economist at Columbia Business School, who isn't shy about his negative options toward Wall Street, what he thought. Here's what he had to say (transcript follows):
Joseph Stiglitz: I think Charlie Munger is absolutely right. Finance is very important. We need people, smart people, to run our financial system, but as a teacher, I've seen over and over, year after year, too large a percentage of our best students went into finance. It wasn't, as we would have said in finance, it wasn't a balanced portfolio. You want some of your talented people to go into teaching, some into research, some into real business, some into finance. And we got a totally distorted economy, and the result of that is not an economy that works as well as if it had been more balanced.