All civilized people point to the 'golden rule' as a primary in this regard. This is true, as well, in economics in so far as ethics may apply. Trouble is that some want to use a metaphor more from what we think of nature and its dwarinistic ways.
So, there is the issue of caveat emptor. In financial affairs, one might think that some counselor is looking out for one's interest, however, in many cases, this is not the case. The financial guy is more into selling something that will line his or her pocket, not in really considering the client's interest.
Then, we have the Madoff type (thanks, WSJ). As said earlier, we need to update the label for this type of thing as Ponzi was so long ago (we now have Made-off).
On 10/2/2009, the USA Today reports that there are many schemes being uncovered all the time. That somewhat points to having something like Fisher's view about smelling a rat to be taught on a regular basis. That is, the nose is a talent to hone.
Other notions that apply here are accountability and being aware. On the former, whatever role one has ought to have some type of review from time to time. Just being prepared to give an accounting can be a good discipline in any endeavor. Trouble is, under what circumstance can such a report be warranted? Some business methods have gravitated toward yearly reviews for employee evaluation. Also, in terms of work, the efforts to determine earned value have some appeal. Yet, these are not easy problems; even doing assessment of fair value is not without problems.
In term of the latter (being aware), we have to consider how the counseling role evolves. The fact of the matter is that there are more things that we do not know than that we know, the hubris of the know-it-all aside. That is, no one is expert at everything. Using the medical experience as an example, all one has to do is try to talk to some doctor about anything that is outside of his or her specialty interest or training.
So, given the existence of things like innumeracy, one can see why the financial adviser community as grown to be so large. Let's forget, for the moment, the whole thing of whether financial engineering (despite MIT's involvement) is even a valid field and consider the need with a few questions that we'll consider in more details.
Does the need for the financial expert really exist? How do we know that the flim-flam of casino capitalism isn't the main culprit? If that is the case, ought not the brains (yeah, best-and-brightest) be looking at more robust ways and means?
Can all this be put in framework that allows the normal person to make reasonable decisions about financial affairs? Is it by necessity that the underlying instability is exploited by those who have been allowed to game the system?
Note: Just because we have the difficulties involved with determining value is no reason for those who can (like anyone close enough to the market's workings to extract regular pocket fillings -- hey, work under a vow of poverty people, that is, anyone dealing with other people's money) to exploit the situational issues arising from complexity and undecidability.
05/11/2012 -- Rick getting grief from quoting Marx.
03/16/2011 -- On the rise of the professional politician (will there ever be the citizen polico? that is, those who do not salivate when a buck is passed beneath the nose) toward robber barony. The M & Ms are apropos. As well, need to bring in Schervish's viewpoint.
01/06/2010 -- Poor Ben, getting grief and criticism.
01/03/2010 -- More news on Goldman Sachs as the uber example of 'not on the behalf' comes to fore regularly. It'll need to be a separate subject at some point. Thanks to McClatchy: Nov 1, 2009 & Jan 3, 2010 (update). Goldman has to respond, of course.
12/29/2009 -- Time calls Ben an uber-Nerd.
12/28/2009 -- Ben was named the Time Person of the Year. Nice. We can't call him 'King' as we saw with Alan's 'cult of personality' reign.
12/15/2009 -- Requiem for the dollar (WSJ) and responses.
12/09/2009 -- The Street loves Ben who loves 'em back: The Street utterly loves the Fed's largess, earning massive profits from trading unstable currencies, the carry trade (borrow short-term dollars near zero, buy longer-term assets abroad), and the high-margin process of transferring America's capital abroad.
11/08/2009 -- The gigantic chimera needs proper attention.
11/06/2009 -- There ain't no train, just like there ain't no free lunch (TANSTAAFL).
10/16/2009 -- 201K <-- 401K --> 25601K, this denotes the current financial gaming.
10/06/2009 -- Ah, yes, on the behalf of. It is clear that Alan and Ben act on our behalf, though one has to wonder what 'our' means as it sure is not the little guy. Finance, people, can be (probably ought to be) run as a non-profit affair. AND, the CEO (or whatever the titles at the top) would not make $1M and more! That is absurd. We have people who put their lives on the line for this country and its ideals for pittance. As said before, we really need a national service (Remarks 09/03/09) experience for the young'uns, especially for those of the privileged classes.