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Alan M. Webber

Alan M. Webber

Alan Webber, a founding editor of Fast Company magazine, is an award-winning editor, author, and columnist. His most recent book is Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Yourself.

Our Own Boogie Man

Here's the question: How many women investors pulled out of the market during the enormous bubble build-up because they thought the share price gains were unsustainable? How many turned their backs on the intoxicating wealth that seemed to be accumulating in their portfolios because they knew -- they just knew! -- that the whole greed, growth, gimme era was all smoke and mirrors?

In other words, how much of this economic disaster was "done to us" and how much was "done by us?" I suppose if you take the attitude that we were all done in by a bunch of over-competitive, testosterone-drunk Wall Street bankers who inflicted huge financial gains on an unwitting and unwilling public -- Well, if that's what you think happened, then you probably haven't learned anything from the Crash of '29 or the dotcom bubble, or this recent run-up to disaster.

We'd all be a lot better off if we stopped looking for a few culprits to hang from the nearest lamp post and spent more time examining our own individual and social attitudes toward wealth, work, and the old-fashioned virtues of earning what you buy rather than just putting it all on a plastic charge card. Remember good old "middle class values"? Somehow, while people all over the world aspire to attaining the status of the middle class, in America middle class is a put down -- especially when, with a few injections of plastic passing through a charge register, we can all live like the insanely rich -- at least until the bills come due.

I have no doubt that we'll come through the economic collapse; after the decks have all been cleared and the mess has been scrubbed clean, the American economy and then the world economy will gradually begin to grind again. That's not the question. The question is, will we have learned anything from this disaster? And will we learn anything of truly lasting value? If all we learn is that we were collectively taken to the cleaners by a few bad boys on Wall Street, then the chance to have a deeper look at American values, American culture, and the American way of life will have been lost. And it will have been lost equally for men and women.

By Alan M. Webber

 |  March 10, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Category:  Women in Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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