SKIN IN THE GAME?
"We accept that people who boast are boastful and turn people off. How about companies? Why aren't we turned off by companies that advertise how great they are? We have three layers of violations:
First layer, the mild violation: companies are shamelessly self-promotional, and it only harms them. Second layer, the more serious violation: companies trying to represent themselves in the most favorable light possible, hiding the defects of their products – still harmless, as we tend to expect it and rely on the opinion of users. Third layer, the even more serious violation: companies trying to misrepresent the product they sell by playing with our cognitive biases, our unconscious associations, and that's sneaky. The latter is done by, say, showing a poetic picture of a sunset with a cowboy smoking and forcing an association between great romantic moments and some given product that, logically, has no possible connection to it. You seek a romantic moment and you get cancer.
It seems that the corporate system pushes companies progressively into the third layer. At the core of the problem with capitalism lies the problem of units that are different from individuals. A corporation does not have natural ethics; it just obeys the balance sheet. The problem is that its sole missions is the satisfaction of some metric imposed by security analysts, themselves (very) prone to charlatanism.
A (publicly listed) corporation does not feel shame. We humans are restrained by some physical, natural inhibition.
A corporation does not feel pity.
A corporation does not have a sense of honor – while, alas, marketing documents mention "pride."
A corporation does not have generosity. Only self-serving actions are acceptable. Just imagine what would happen to a corporation that decided to unilaterally cancel its receivables – just to be nice. Yet societies function thanks to random acts of generosity between people, even sometimes strangers.
All of these defects are the result of the absence of skin in the game, cultural or biological – an asymmetry that harms others for their benefit.
Now, such systems should tend to implode. And they do. As they say, you can't fool too many people for too long a period of time. But the problem of implosion is that it does not matter to the managers – because of the agency problem, their allegiance is to their own personal cash flow. They will not be harmed by subsequent failures; they will keep their bonuses, as there is currently no such thing as negative manager compensation.
In sum, corporations are so fragile, long-term, that they eventually collapse under the weight of the agency problem, while managers milk them for bonuses and ditch the bones to taxpayers. They would collapse sooner if not for the lobby machines: they start hijacking the state to help them inject sugary drinks into your esophagus. In the United States large corporations control some members of Congress. All this does is delay the corporation's funeral at our expense. (There seems to be a survival advantage to small or medium-sized owner-operated or family-owned companies.)
Finally, if you ever have to choose between a mobster's promise and a civil servant's, go with the mobster. Any time. Institutions do not have a sense of honor, individuals do."
Nassim Nicholas Taleb