K.C. Cole on Marketplace: "Competition doesn't always cut it"
Posted June 9, 2009
Journalism professor K.C. Cole (pictured) had an audio commentary published in American Public Media’s Marketplace on June 5 about the dangers of too much greed — and the virtues of cooperation — in the business world.
"Whether we like to admit it or not, much of the financial mess we're in was caused by the credo that greed helps everyone," Cole said. "That looking out for "number one" is practically our patriotic duty."
She said a branch of mathematics called "game theory" has found that cooperative strategies seem to prevail in computer matches designed to reveal what makes a winner. Surprisingly, the top dog turns out to be not the most consistently ruthless, but the one who reciprocates in kind.
Math really does prove the golden rule, she said. "To be successful, do unto others what you would have others do unto you. The condition is: "Or else!" If you're "nice" and the competition retaliates, then you have to retaliate right back; if you don't, you're a sucker. But forgiveness is part of the equation too."
She said that competition does keep us on our toes.
"But when competition means obliterating everyone, then the predator, in effect, eats all its prey," she said. "If Wall Street speculators suck up so much money that businesses die and no one can sell or buy products or pay taxes everybody loses. Just do the math."
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