(A reprint of a previous column)
I search for people talking and writing about ethics and reform. Since we are discussing business ethics, a good place for me to hunt for these kinds of writers is on the business pages of large circulation newspapers. It’s not much fun. Fortunately not all business writers live in a cartoon like version of our world where noble business men are limited by government regulation from making us all rich and happy, where the chief problem with the stock market is pessimism, and where stupid home buyers ruined the economy, but many perhaps most do.
Look, I believe in free enterprise. I think a business man should be able to make a profit. But a lot of what got us into the current mess had more to do with gambling with other people’s money that it did with investing. Further, I have a strong prejudice in favor of actually making stuff and investing in this nation’s future instead of moving money around as if that was “God’s work.” And if you think, that after seeing how derivatives work, watching the colossal failure of the rating agencies, the incredible passivity of the SEC and other government regulators, and the inability of the government, various huge corporations and the business publications to predict, prevent or ameliorate the current crisis, that I am going to blame individual home buyers for this mess, you just aren’t getting me.
If we just remain optimistic the recovery will continue is a regular thought for many business pages. Jim Gallagher writing in St. Louis Today says that the principal danger from the Greek bail out and the crisis for the Euro is that investors fearing bad things will happen will behave irrationally and damage the market by selling. He provides reams of data to support his thesis. But in spite of all of his data, I have doubts. The European Common Market is a larger economy than the United States and many of their members are more question marks or problems than we like to acknowledge. I think fear is appropriate.
It’s all that home buying that brought us into this mess is an almost constant refrain. I can’t help but notice it was the collapse of a part of the derivatives market (a 600 trillion dollar gambling casino masquerading as an investment) that destroyed much of America’s economy. I also feel obligated to point out that those nasty, demented, foolish home buyers never seem to have figured out they could package their mortgages as securities, get them triple A status from compliant rating agencies, and then sell all over the world as if they were good investments relieving lenders of any responsibility for their decisions.
They say regulation is a bad idea. There is too much now. Golly Gee, looking over the ruins of the world economy and the thirty million American unemployed, you might think somebody did something wrong. But no, if anything bad happened it was not the fault of the huge investment banks (who got into a little trouble requiring trillions of dollars of bailout money), it was the fault of over regulation. Here’s Thomas Oliver from Atlanta Business News.
Well, so much for my pain. I have found in my searches many authors who inform, enlighten and motivate me.That makes it worthwhile.