Siliconcowboy's Blog

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America’s Obsession with Excess is Suicide

In a healthy capitalist society, the drive for wealth, comfort and pleasure is acceptable and even encouraged. But experience tells us that “too much of a good thing” is harmful to individuals and to corporations.

This point may be grossly understated.  So let’s look at it closely.

Our constitutional guarantees of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” generally protect us, individually and collectively, from laws that would curb our desire for more. So we are free to pursue our passions as methodically or recklessly as we choose. Only when we infringe on the rights of others do we find ourselves in trouble, from a legal standpoint.

Yet for every passion there is a spectrum of interest, and always at the far end of each spectrum are those whose obsession leads them to otherwise unimaginable thoughts and actions. The desire for a thing, once achieved or attained, morphs into a grotesque addiction. A person who might earlier in life have been genuinely helpful and caring, now becomes indifferent and dismissive – perhaps even violently so. People who once mattered in this person’s inner circle are replaced with unscrupulous advisors and henchmen. Small dreams are replaced with grandiose realities and a distorted sense of self-importance.

There are plenty of people who will fuel this transformation in the hope of a free ride to riches and fame. Such people will drop their principles in favor of a goal, lose their friends in favor of a master, cause untold damage in the hope of personal reward.

And so the excess continues.

In the last thirty years, the economic system in the United States and elsewhere has been relentlessly attacked by a variety of collective interests generally driven by wealthy people obsessed with more. Regulation of capital markets, real estate, health care, and energy – all projected to be major growth areas in the US –  was relentlessly assailed by smart and obsessed minds. Anti-trust laws were weakened. Loopholes were created.

Corporate executives found themselves driven by the elite of the obsessed – the monied banks that placed themselves in the middle of what was once a healthy relationship between investors and public companies. The representatives of these banks – driven, ethically challenged money managers and analysts with historical knowledge of acquisition strategies in the energy sector throughout the 20th century, began accelerating the consolidation of entire industries.

Driven mostly by these large banks, public companies began shifting their business strategies from end-to-end product development, manufacturing and distribution, to a service-based focus on “core competencies,” outsourcing all other functions to third parties and eventually, overseas. While on paper this strategy appeared to benefit the corporations, in fact it was just a way to get companies to generate large amounts of cash which could then be used in an acquisition scheme designed to siphon that money off as thousands of companies merged with competitors or simply died away.

Why didn’t captains of industry see this happening? Well, they did. They were party to the hoax. It’s the rest of us who didn’t notice, because our interest was in consumer trends, not capital markets. The deregulation of financial markets and most notably, the decision to allow large investment banks to institute their own IPOs, was orchestrated largely behind closed doors, pushed by lobbyists and fueled by occasional manipulations in the communications, energy, real estate and finance markets.

As a result, this nation has been led incontrovertibly down the path to widespread abuses of financial power followed by hoarding of capital on a scale that really can’t be comprehended.

Anything done to excess is dangerous. If it involves money, it is almost sure to be disastrous.

The mortgage industry meltdown was the tip of the iceberg.  The precipitous financial crisis in Europe is just another iceberg.

Unless we can bring this obsession under control, there’s going to be a complete polar melt-down. Icebergs everywhere. What does that mean?

It means no curtailment, tax, tax cut, cutback, bailout, cash infusion or austerity program will help.

The walls will come tumbling down.

We have to acknowledge that the driver of this great disaster is the obsession with more.

Some may argue that, at the back of all of this are investors – e.g., you and me. But that’s not true.  The average person has very little, if any control over what happens in the capital markets.

But money managers do. And every transaction they make brings them…more.

Every strategic play they make brings their business unit…more.

And every dollar of profit their bank makes is rewarded by obscene bonuses.

The pipeline ends in the banks and they’re taking enormous profits, creating untold damages, and answering to no one.

It’s often said that the economy will only improve when jobs return and everyday people begin consuming more.

This ignores the fact that we’ve been doing that for thirty years, unknowingly fueling a monster that has rewarded us with inadequate pay, joblessness, impoverishment, declining health, and enormous stress. Most of us are, after decades of hard work, financially in the hole – to the same banks that are siphoning money from corporate America.

That’s right, we don’t have any goddam money. Your obsession has depleted us.

But we will survive, we will get back on our feet.

Listen, don’t fucking pat us on the back when we are standing again.

You’ve done nothing to help.

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This entry was posted on June 7, 2012 by in Social Responsibility.
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