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Maybe investment-bank culture needs to change.
Working at a law firm for a few years convinced me to avoid a career in law because all the lawyers I met seemed miserable. Then I worked at an investment bank. Turns out divorce lawyers are the singing, dancing Lollipop Guild compared to junior bankers.
That was 22 years ago, but none of the advances in work-life-balance technology since then seem to have reached banking culture. First-year Goldman Sachs bankers last week wrote a letter begging the firm to stop using them as one-person Amazon fulfillment centers or at least cut their weekly hours back to a leisurely 80.
Shockingly, the plight of Goldman bankers didn’t arouse much sympathy, especially from former Goldman employees, including Bloomberg Opinion’s own Matt Levine. But Marcus Ashworth and Elisa Martinuzzi invite us to wonder if, in fact, this is really any way for a bank to do business. If you need 100 hours of work out of one banker, wouldn’t everybody be better off if you just hired two bankers to work 50 hours? Yes, hazing is part of the culture, but couldn’t that involve something more humane? Streaking down Wall Street? Challenge-style eating contests?
And a culture that requires such superhuman feats may be due for updating. It seems like a useful filtering process, but maybe not if it convinces those physicists who once went to Wall Street to instead go to Silicon Valley, where they at least have better nap rooms. Maybe that’s why Goldman CEO David Solomon has vowed to protect the sanctity of junior bankers’ Saturdays. But is that really enough? Read the whole thing.
Americans Rediscover Unions
One thing no junior banker will ever do, at least under our society’s current economic arrangement, is form a union to demand better conditions. After all, their fortunes tend to improve dramatically after the early days. That isn’t true for many non-banking people who toil at similarly grueling jobs but for much less compensation. For a while in this country, labor unions alleviated this problem. But they started falling out of favor years before Ronald Reagan finished them off, writes Joe Nocera. Correlation is not causation, but it’s no coincidence income inequality rose steadily as unions fell. Now, workers at Amazon fulfillment centers and elsewhere are starting to get organized, and President Joe Biden is arguably the most pro-union president in generations. If there were ever a time for workers of America to unite, this is it.
Vaccine Passports for All
Almost exactly a year ago, this newsletter told readers to be patient with the Covid pandemic, warning the fight could take many weeks. We had no idea that meant 52 weeks (and counting). Normal life is still out of reach, at least for those people who still care about the pandemic. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy just froze reopening plans as new cases have spiked despite steady vaccinations. One thing that could encourage more people to get shots and bring normality closer to reality for more people is a vaccine passport, writes Bloomberg’s editorial board. Other countries are working on them, but President Biden has hesitated. There are more upsides to them than downsides, which can be managed. They can be especially helpful for high-risk people whose lives have been disrupted the most, writes Faye Flam.
Even Europe is working on vaccine passports, despite being far behind the U.S. in actual vaccinations. Its problem has been over-caution about the potential risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine, writes John Authers. New trial data confirm Astra’s shot is as impressively effective as others on the market. Europe’s hesitancy has unnecessarily wasted time and lives.
Europe hasn’t helped matters by tussling with the U.K. over vaccine supplies. The cautionary tale here is Brazil, writes Lionel Laurent, which has gone its own way and is paying a horrific price as a result.
Further Vaccine Nationalism Reading: America’s superior vaccination pace and economic support give it a chance to boost its exports. — Noah Smith
Bar closures last year didn’t stop Americans from guzzling liquor, writes Justin Fox. Now comes the hangover.
Big Oil needs emerging markets to supply future demand. But climate change hits these countries hardest, possibly inspiring them to ditch oil faster, writes Liam Denning.