Friday, September 19, 2008

Category Dumb

Once the gale-force winds of Hurricane Greenspan have quieted down and the task begins to survey the wreckage, the men of best quality will want to know: what went wrong?

Since systems of power don't naturally tend towards useful introspection, one should expect many rounds of useless exhortation.

John McCain, whose ride to the White House on a plate of pig-lips and moose-patties has begun to look premature, may well have christened the narrative destined for widest circulation: that Wall Street traders fell prey to the wrong "values," transmogrifying a Christly-inspired consumerism into a debased "casino economy." Purged of this secular slant toward the balance-sheet -- through a course of rigorous Vietnamese internment, perhaps? -- Wall Street will be ready to receive the "change," or possibly the "reform," so desperately required.

Well, this is all par for the Republican course. But now elements of the market clergy are singing a similar tune. The Financial Times culls a management professor at Wharton who notes that leadership and big-picture thinking are lacking in the financial markets -- i.e., qualities that are outside the scope of what the job demands, and more likely than not stand in direct conflict with "success" in that industry. The problem is not how success is defined, but that individual traders and their leadership did not adequately second-guess their entire profession, fall behind, and inevitably risk their livelihood for the betterment of human society. Yes, now there is a realistic prescription for preventing systemic failure in the future.

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