Friday, March 16, 2012

Pirate Capitalism

Ah, David Horsey to the rescue. After a being visited with a rare bout of insomnia last night, I was in no shape to do any reading, much less any blogging. I went back to bed for a few hours, got a little sleep, and discovered Horsey's latest post in the Los Angeles Times. Horsey moved away from his usual presidential race assignment and picked a current news theme: the fall-out from Greg Smith's revelatory opinion piece on the ethos of Goldman Sachs.

The good news is that $2.15 billion of Goldman Sachs’ market value was wiped out by a disillusioned executive’s very public parting shot at the investment bank’s greed and selfish cynicism.

The bad news is it will probably be a temporary loss and will do little to change the ethical climate at Goldman Sachs or in the larger world of Wall Street. Pirates are a hard bunch to reform. ...

Smith’s revelations are no big surprise to critics of the big banks and financial firms. What is significant is that the criticism comes from an insider who was part of the greed machine.

There are already those who are saying: So what? Isn’t making money the whole purpose of capitalism?

Yes, it is. But there is more than one way to make money. ...

Why yes, yes there is. One can rob banks or steal the copper wiring in vacant homes. One can sell drugs. One can burgle homes. Or, in an atmosphere of unfettered, unregulated capitalism, one can steal money from the very clients who are depending on companies for sensible and sound investments. Goldman Sachs (and, for that matter, MF Global) deal in the last way.

Newt Gingrich called it vulture capitalism as he took a swipe at Mitt Romney and Romney's tour with Bain Capital. Horsey adds a more human touch by calling it "pirate capitalism." For me, both terms work.

It is vulture capitalism that drove the country to the edge of financial disaster in 2008. Back then, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was disgusted by it all. He insisted that the core purpose of business is to serve customers and the community, not merely make fortunes for Wall Street players who trade in exotic financial schemes that build nothing and create no jobs. [Emphasis added]

Wise choice in friends, Mr. Horsey.



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