Human beings are hard-wired for fairness. That’s the way we’re designed. Scientists have found that when we’re treated fairly, our brains are rewarded with the equivalent of mental chocolate. And if it comes down to a choice between what’s fair and what’s efficient, we’ll tend to choose fairness.
Smart commentators like the Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein have pointed out that the AIG bonuses are a red herring. They’re a distraction from the real issue, which is why and how we’re spending trillions to rescue banks. But for some reason, the thought of those stupid AIG execs getting a bonus – which is supposed to be a reward for good work – sets us off like a bomb.
But maybe there’s good reason why we’re hard-wired for fairness (and presumbably hard-wired to frown on unethical behavior). Wall Street didn’t play fair, and in the end they screwed themselves and they screwed us.