I want to start out by thanking Naomi and June, who organized this symposium, and all the contributors. I also want to thank the blog itself and those who run it for giving us this opportunity. There is something deeply thrilling about having one’s ideas taken very seriously — and to have them taken seriously by people of this caliber is an almost indescribable honor.
One of my motivations for writing the book was to respond to people who think that the “greed is good” variety of self-interest is either descriptively accurate, normatively desirable (“rational”), or both. The book is my way of shouting “No. It’s not. And saying that it is is part of the problem.” Getting caught up an arms-race competition for more — more money, more status, more “points” –- is, for many (I think probably, for most) people who engage in it, not a recipe for happiness or satisfaction. My own view- again, I don’t want to attribute this to my co-author– is that the extent to which what people want, and what they think is acceptable and unacceptable behavior — is more malleable than is commonly appreciated, that attempts to influence preferences and behavior are pervasive, and that making such attempts expressly, to try to get people to be more mindful of the societal effects of their behavior, is a good thing.
Another one of my motivations was to see what happened when we proposed that some–even many– bankers might in fact want to get out of the arms race, making a concrete suggestion as to how they could do so. Would we be denounced as naïve dreamers?
The reaction, on this blog and generally, has been very heartening. Maybe we are naïve dreamers but we are apparently fairly persuasive or at least endearing in our naivete. Would many banks want to become covenant banks? Here, I think I can speak for my co-author when I say that we very much look forward to trying to persuade bankers, regulators, judges, shareholders, creditors, policymakers, and others in a position to move covenant banking forward to do so, and commentators generally, including readers of this symposium, to take the idea seriously, propose ways to make it better, and join with us in trying to make bankers, and banking, more responsible.