Here are two questions about the bonuses that I did not discuss in my blog yesterday:
1. Could the bonuses be compensating for the risks of a career in finance?
2. Shouldn't Goldman want to limit the bonuses paid its employees?
1. Consider actors' careers. A handful of actors have huge incomes. Most actors have such meager incomes that they abandon acting as a career. The lucky handful are like lottery winners. The only way you can motivate people to buy a lottery ticket is to have a big jackpot for the winner of the lottery. Similarly, the only way you can motivate people to attempt a career in acting is to provide a jackpot for the tiny handful of aspirants who succeed.
Could finance be the same? It is, after all, a risky business. The question is what happens to employees of Goldman Sachs or other financial firms if they engineer or approve a very risky deal, and the deal is a flop. Are they exiled from the industry? Do they end up as waiters? If so, the huge incomes of successful financiers would be justified as compensation for the risk of failure. My impression is that the failed traders, deal makers, etc., do not end up as waiters, or in other relatively impecunious jobs (I say "relatively" because waiters in elite restaurants are well paid by ordinary standards). Their training and experience equip them for a variety of good jobs in the financial industry. They can look forward to a soft landing, and therefore it is unlikely that the high incomes of the most successful financiers are compensation for the risk of failure.