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.
Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool recommends Berkshire Hathaway. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.