Sunday, March 27, 2011


I'm fighting some kind of flu bug today so I'm not going to hold forth at length but I did want to catch one thought before it escapes me--this about the great 22-year-old Barbarians at the Gate which I just now got round to reading. Specifically: a quick search discloses that the word "fair" occurs 26 times in this text. A couple are off point but most of them are bankers complaining about "fairness" or its opposite. "It just wasn't fair," Roberts recalled quietly. ... "I thought you were going to be fair. That wasn't fair at all." ... "[T]o hand the assignment to Drexel wouldn't be fair."

And so forth. As you may be able to surmise, "not fair" or its equivalent usually means "I'm not getting as much as I want." These philosophers never seem to trouble to continue what principle of fairness they are appealing to here; but in fact I suspect that "principle" has very little to do with it and they are appealing, rather, to the principle of fairness they invoked when they lost a schoolyard game of glassies.

But people! This is money we're talking about here! Moreover, it's a zero sum game! You're grownups! You are world-class masters of the culture of greed! What could you possibly care about fairness?  Or as my mother might have said: life isn't fair--deal with it!

A related insight: I'm struck over and over again at the extraordinary grumpiness of these zillionaires as they scratch and claw to add an extra zero to their swag. They're touchy, they're cranky, they're always ready to sense a slight.  These are among the richest people in the world and they go around ready to blow off like Christopher Moltisanti. People you've got everything! Or at least everything you said you wanted! Life is short! Smell the roses!

No? I thought not. Ah, well...

Afterthought: while putting this together, I idled over to my aggregator and read Glenn Greenwald's bravura account of the Koch Brothers and what he so aptly calls "billionaire self-pity." Up at that level, must be somethig in the water.   

1 comment:

New York Crank said...

I have long maintained that the United States needs an Excess Wealth Tax and a 90% bracket for annual incomes over, say, $5,000,000. (Exceptions could be made for short-term megabuck earners like athletes and lottery winners through income averaging.)

Rewarded greed is what drives greed. If there's no way you can keep the money, the greedy chase after bucks isn't worth it and you find some other way to abuse the poor, weak and powerless.

Stifle the reward. Tax the S.O.B.'s!

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank