Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wall Street and Societal Value

Sir Charles,

A good exercise I find is to think about life when disaster strikes and who we really rely on -- when was the last time after a hurricane or earthquake or tornado someone said quick, call the investment bankers, call currency arbitrage, call the M&A guys, call the IPO specialists, or even call the lawyers.  No, in such moments people turn to those with essential skills -- doctors, nurses, EMTs, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, operating engineers, fire fighters, and police.

Society needs teachers, scientists, engineers, iron workers, farmers, medical technicians, garbage collectors, and janitors.  It doesn't need hedge fund managers -- indeed it developed and flourished rather nicely for a couple of thousand years before anyone concocted a need for a hedge fund manager.  If all of the hedge fund managers and bond traders and equity specialists disappeared from the earth tomorrow, we, as a society, would scarcely notice.  One less guy in a Mercedes coup talking obliviously on a cell phone to cut you off.  But take away the electricians, the plumbers, and the HVAC techs and life as we know it would be profoundly changed -- and not for the better....

In a just world these clowns would be sentenced to spend a week doing lawn care, followed by a week picking up garbage, followed by a week laying cinder block in 95 degree heat, followed by a week as an LPN in a nursing home, followed by week as an abatement worker ripping out asbestos, followed by a week at a day care center, and so on and so on.  Maybe at a certain point not too long into it, they would realize that their Wall Street jobs were just an unearned lottery ticket in a society with weird priorities and they'd just shut the fuck up and quietly enjoy their unearned riches and leave the rest of us mercifully alone.   

Not much I can or need to add to this.

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