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Apr. 24 2010 - 2:43 pm | 4,381 views | 3 recommendations | 115 comments

Will Goldman Sachs Prove Greed is God?

So Goldman Sachs, the world’s greatest and smuggest investment bank, has been sued for fraud by the American Securities and Exchange Commission. Legally, the case hangs on a technicality.

Morally, however, the Goldman Sachs case may turn into a final referendum on the greed-is-good ethos that conquered America sometime in the 80s – and in the years since has aped other horrifying American trends such as boybands and reality shows in spreading across the western world like a venereal disease.

via Will Goldman Sachs prove greed is God? | Business | The Guardian.

This is a comment on Goldman and the Objectivist movement I wrote for the Sunday Guardian. For those wondering about some of the odd formatting and spelling, please remember that this is a British paper! I’ve already had letters pestering me about not knowing how to spell “Collateralized.”

Extra points to those readers who can identify from which spot the term “hairy-backed” was removed by the Guardian UK editors.


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  1. collapse expand

    Between “cheap” and “swindlers.” Only Matt writes fantastically musical, original phrases like “cheap, hairy-backed swindlers”!!!

  2. collapse expand

    “It’s an important moment in the history of modern global capitalism: whether or not to move forward into a world of greed without limits.”

    This is the problem. The rich people in this nation have been busy telling themselves that stealing all of the money from everyone below them on the socio-economic ladder is somehow compatable with our system of government. There is no such thing as a Lassiez-faire democracy in the world, or in history. There will always be more poor people than rich, so wealth will always be redistributed at some point in a democratic society, when the poor people excersize THEIR self interest at the polls.

    America is right now about as close as history has ever come to a lassiez faire democracy, and it requires the mass-brainwashing of an entire segment of society to believe in fairy tales sold by crooks. And even now, that system is starting to break down.

    Maximum wealth concentration will only lead to revolution – either at the polls or in the streets, unless the rich use government power to establish a police state to protect their wealth, then it leads to fascism.

  3. collapse expand

    I don’t think ‘much of America’ is going to side with Goldman at all. ‘Much of America’ hates Goldman and his ilk. In fact, even Tea Partiers hate the thought of Wall Street Banks getting off while everyone else gets screwed, though they blame the government more than the bank because of their misguided hatred of Obama.

    I think you think too little of America.

  4. collapse expand

    Matt, huge fan, really appreciate what you do. Just wondering if you might respond to this new Zakaria piece on Goldman in the Washington Post?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/25/AR2010042502986.html

  5. collapse expand

    Sometime towards the end of my teenage years, I ventured to read The Fountainhead. Little did I know then that my evaluation was sure to anger acquaintances to the left, right and otherwise of the political spectrum. I thought it was okay. Not great, not horrifying, just okay. Then, I thought it was a novel.

    I was old enough to see that the love triangle was tired, but not yet old enough to be tired of it. There were a few amusing observations about society. More importantly, the theme of the genius whose original ideas are rejected by the small minded conformists around him is like crack for any adolescent so much as a season ahead of his peers. Some months later, I picked up Atlas Shrugged. Bored, I never finished it. Now I know I got lucky. It was a close call. I could have been hooked on the hard stuff.

    Later, in college, forced to sit through six hours of Stan Brakhage in a film class whose purpose seem to be to discourage anyone from thinking a film course was easy, I remembered an observation from The Fountainhead. There is an art critic who enjoys avant-garde art, not because he likes the art itself, but because it makes him feel superior to those who don’t understand it.

    It’s an amusing observation and one that feels dead on at times. Yet it’s not sufficient for a theory of art. It won’t help you produce art either, not any more than reminding yourself not to be a pretentious ass will.

    When I found out sometime later that there were adults who thought Ayn Rand was anything other than a sporadically interesting, second rate novelist I was quite surprised. It seemed to me that, like her thoughts on avant-garde art, there wasn’t enough substance to occupy the capacious interior of the word philosophy.

    This very lack of substance may be one reason her ideas have taken hold. What serious thinker, in the latter part of the twentieth century, would have thought it to be be in the least bit productive to argue against this Nietzsche manque whose ideas are their own reductio ad absurdum.

    Recently someone told me of a town in New Jersey which voted down their school budget. Now a school may need to be closed. The voters are surprised. Lately, I’ve started to have vicious thoughts that, in an inverted version of It’s a Wonderful Life, the Randians are allowed to see the future that will take place if they live.

    My final comment is about love Ayn Rand style. Not long ago, I met a man for a drink. He explained that sex was a perfect illustration of Rand’s ideas. Each in seeking his own pleasure pleases the other and all is well. Sometimes it would be nice if the cute ones wouldn’t talk so much. I wonder if his wife feels that way too.

  6. collapse expand

    Matt,
    I agree with your characterizations of Goldman and of Rand…however, as a Jew, I am concerned by the amount of malicious glee and invective you direct towards these…Jews. Do you you’d feel the same way if your targets were…non-Jews? Again, I am in agreement with you condemnation of, in particular, Ayn Rand…though Blankfein to me seems more of a symptom than the problem itself.

  7. collapse expand

    Matt,

    Have you written elsewhere about the Senate’s hearings with Goldman?

    Here is what I think Senator Levin missed.

    Shorting an asset is not a neutral action. When pressed on the subject of shorting something they had just sold, Goldman’s defense was that valuations and hedge positions vary day-to-day. As Goldman explained, they could purchase or sell the same asset on Monday at one price, on Tuesday at a different price, and on Wednesday at a third price. This description of Goldman’s behavior in the market fails to account for the impact of shorting. That is, Goldman’s shorting an asset pulls the asset’s price down. You documented elsewhere how short-selling (and naked short-selling) impacted Bear-Stearns. When Goldman claims the right to short assets it has sold, it is claiming the right to damage those assets.

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