Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

From a very good article in today's Times about the recent U.S. financial woes:
Benjamin M. Friedman, author of “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth,” recalled that when he worked at Morgan Stanley in the early 1970s, the firm’s annual reports were filled with photographs of factories and other tangible businesses. More recently, Wall Street’s annual reports tend to highlight not the businesses that firms were advising so much as finance for the sake of finance, showing upward-sloping graphs and photographs of traders.
I have thought for many years now that the financial industry has lost sight of it's original purpose—to capitalize businesses (capitalism)—and has become obsessed with making money in any way they can. Being more than a little cynical about this industry, I don't think they've learned anything from this past week except not to be the last one left standing when this game of musical chairs they've created suddenly stops.

It's reminds me of the way one of my favorite professors, Oscar Brockett, described Aristotle's assertion that the purpose of drama is to teach and to please. Because this was the '80s, Dr. Brockett applied this adage to the show Miami Vice and said that, in his opinion, what we learned from the series was that when you engage in criminal activity, don't get caught—until they were arrested, the lawbreakers on that show were all young, attractive and extremely wealthy.

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