I (Alain Martin) am deeply saddened to learn about
the passing of Professor Bruce Scott on March 21, 2020,
a distinguished member of PDI Advisory Board since 2015, and
Harvard Business School's Paul Whiton Cherington Professor
of Business Administration, Emeritus.
While teaching graduate courses in management science,
I came across Professor Scott's seminal work in France, noticing
the pragmatism to bridge the growing gap between political economy
and both traditional economics and econometrics. When I subsequently attended
his HBS class in 1997, little did I know that
would seed a friendship lasting nearly a quarter century.
I was immediately fascinated
by Professor Scott's rigorous comparative insights
between the post-WWII "golden years"
of prosperity and hope, where both the U.S. and Western Europe experienced
rising equality, versus the eighties and subsequent time
when income distribution and universal
equity worsened in America; yet remained stable in most of continental Europe.
While warning us that his research, was a work-in-progress into
the dynamics between stakeholders (including powerful
lobbies), regressive taxation and divestment
in public goods (education, health, infrastucture), Professor Scott
supported his perspective by demonstrating how
the return of the free-market laissez-faire "ideology" ferociously reversed
the social-safety safeguards that gradually reduced
inequities since FDR's New Deal.
Professor Bruce Scott was esteemed for his unwavering integrity. He was not only
humble and approachable; but an altruistic-nurturing educator,
tough but fair and caring.
To celebrate Harvard Business School's 100th
I invited Professor Scott, long before the 2008 financial crisis,
to share his findings on governance
and deliver a full day on "Overhauling
Capitalism and Strengthening the Essence of Democracy",
a title I borrowed from my 1998 Report to the UNESCO's Director General.
The conference participants came from several countries.
They included Harvard alumnis, policy makers, diplomats and
corporate leaders. Professor Scott appreciated the synergistic dialogue
which continued during a 2010's follow-up session,
as acknowledged in his latest book
Its Origins and Evolution as System of Governance
A historic masterpiece narrating the zigzaging progress
made since Tocqueville's time, culminating with the
foundations for contextual etiologic options to what
ills our democracies today,
this book deserves the widest readership and should rank
on equal footings with those of outstanding trailblazers
like Esther Duflo and Thomas Piketty. It should be read
by all students, especially those studying law, education,
health, business and government, as well as heads of government,
policy-makers, educators, journalists, entrepreneurs and
banking and finance executives. Alas, Professor Scott's
could not engage in grueling book-signing tours and
other marketing activities, due health issues and continuous
dedication to his students and research. Hopefully,
the publisher and the retailers will contribute to
Professor Scott's ideals and the common good by
reasonably pricing the book, now unfortunately trending
toward a three-digit price.
Beyond his profound knowledge on governance and democracy,
Professor Scott's curiosity, intellectual rigor,
enduring integrity and brutal honesty made his search for
the truth overiding the need for compromise. To those who
disliked his skepticism, may I reiterate his doubt was
neither Pontius Pilate's hypocritical cynicism nor a fence-sitting
Pyrrhonism, and much less the pathological skepticism of
Shakespeare's Othello. On complex issues, Bruce was a healthy
cartesian skepticist, taking the time to think about constructive
pathways toward gems of truth; his purpose was steered by a moral
compass that gave a sound meaning to his efforts.1
George Cabot Lodge observed,
"Bruce was unique as a Harvard Business
School Professor. When he found that reality got in the way of favored
theory, he supported reality in no uncertain terms, causing traditional
economists to brand him a heretic, a title he relished.
He was a wonderful man and a great friend and mentor to me.
He will be sorely missed."
The life and dignity of every person were at the core of Professor Scott's unwavering commitment to social equity and other universal values.
He was a giant like Dr. Bryan Stevenson and Professor Paul Farmer who think that
"[T]he idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong
with the world". To all, I owe more than words can express.
Please share this hyperlink
on Professor Bruce Scott's life,
including the following factual and insightful
excerpt by Scott's daughter Laurie (MBA 1989) from
HBS Press release
"Drawing on his reserves of character, courage,
decency, and intellectual honesty, my father made
a major contribution to our society.
His writings and teaching changed thinking.
He believed that for firms, there should be
stakeholder capitalism, not shareholder capitalism.
He believed universities should teach about the common good,
and that schools of government should
teach 'government of the people,
by the people and for the people.'
Schools of law should teach legal responsibilities
to societies as well as clients; schools of business
should teach students to earn a decent profit in a decent way.
With Professor Scott's death, we have lost a beloved friend, an
altruitic mentor, whose authenticity and values
have been precious to us.
In honor of the caregivers who forever risk their lives and the
countless and innocent COVID-19 victims, survivors must thrive to avert
the stovepiped thinking and legacy of the infrastructures of the past.
With Farmer's, Scott's and Stevenson's foresighted lessons of solidarity,
let us work together to continually progress toward more just,
caring and collaborative societies supported by four synergistic
vital pillars; namely public health, the ecology, public education
and the economy, in harmony with the visible hand of democratic
institutions and civil societies.
Please contact me if you wish to participate in a memorial dialogue
about Bruce Scott's solidarity lessons for future generations to be
tentatively held this summer.
1. For more on this typology of doubts, consult the excellent TedEx
presentation (in French) by Professor Yann Martin: "
la conversion d'un philosophe : Yann-Hervé Martin