I’m writing this by the fire in Raether hall, looking out through the woods towards Vermont. Hanover has been majestic this December – a light dump of snow at the start, and persistent crisp, clear skies to ensure the white festive carpet has remained intact. Glorious!
My day has been pretty glorious, too. In our penultimate Ethics in Action class, our guest speaker was Dean Matt Slaughter. Yesterday morning, he was on CNBC’s Squawk Box. This morning, he was discussing with a class of 18 or so Tuck students how the US tax code should be adapted to deal with the enormous national debt. He asked us to tell him what ethical frameworks we thought should guide policy, then propose precise policies (sources of revenue to be included, rates, and exceptions) that would move us forward. “Take positions. Be precise. Quantify outcomes.” Any generalizations or sweeping statements were crushed. Boundaries of thought were pushed, biases challenged.
After class, Dean Slaughter hosted a lunch with seven students to discuss geopolitical developments in the past week. Talk about a privilege! There were three Americans, an Indian, a Russian, a Japanese student and a Brit (me). We spent most of the time discussing the ‘Merkozy’ proposal in Europe and the UK’s decision to veto it, and also discussed the Indian U-turn over opening retail to foreign direct investment, the riots in Moscow, and the climate change ‘agreement’ in Durban. This intimate, well-informed and intelligent debate was enthralling – none of us wanted it to end, but Dean Slaughter had to leave for meetings in Washington, D.C.
My day highlights two big benefits of being at business school at Tuck. First, most people in the world spend most of their time doing – producing or consuming goods with a focus on the immediate and the personal. The opportunity to consider, in an enlightening way and surrounded by great minds, the major issues in our world, is rare and we are enormously fortunate. And being given the chance to sit in a room with six smart classmates and a professor like Matt Slaughter – well, good luck finding that elsewhere.
Next stop: reading a case for my Innovation Execution class with Professor Chris Trimble tomorrow. It’s been another big academic highlight of Tuck – a class of 15 students and a rock star professor? Yes, please. We’re trying out a new format whereby we can each post our thoughts on a web board as we’re reading the case before class to get the debate started. In theory, this will save time going over details of the case and enable us to dive into the most interesting parts of the case quicker. Sounds good to me!
Footnote: Let me clarify something that confuses some people. (This came up today.) The UK’s full title is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain encompasses Scotland, England and Wales. The UK’s flag is the Union Jack, though each country within the UK also has its own flag (England’s is a red “St George’s” cross on a white background – Scotland’s is a white “St Andrew’s” cross on a blue background – the UK is a combination of each, with another layer of red thrown in on top to represent the others). London is the capital of both England and the UK and Westminster is the parliament for the whole country (though there are devolved parliaments and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; and some decisions taken at Westminster affect England alone, or England and Wales alone, giving rise to the West Lothian question). In short, the terms “England”, “UK” and “Britain” are not interchangeable. In fact, two of the last three Prime Ministers (Brown and Blair) were born and schooled in Scotland.