28 April 2010

Running scams

So...

If you saw Wall Street and wanted to become a investment and finance guy... I am reminded of the story that Palin read Animal Farm and viewed the pigs as the heroes.

This explains a lot of how finance has become a sort of scummy profession if the people in its den looked approvingly on the people who wanted to scam off a few billion dollars from the system without regard to the penalty on the markets themselves, the institutions they worked for or traded with, and the investors whose money was involved. Here's the tricky part: it wasn't illegal. I'm in the camp that doesn't quite buy that Goldman Sachs did something that was illegal either. Almost certainly there was an ethical question however.

There's a line in Rounders that is closer to how the ethics of business might work better (not ideally, but better): "You can shear a sheep many times, but you can only skin it once." There's another line that seems to describe how they actually work: "If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker." Ideally you want business to be not zero-sum games, but positive sum trades. People purchase something they want, you provide it for something you want (usually money). Maybe you would work it so they give up more than they thought they would, but they still get something in return. In practice, a lot of high finance seems to be more of the zero-sum angle where everybody is trying not to be the sucker in the room. And they're too busy skinning the sheep to worry about the wool they could get over the long haul. If you can get in and get the money, fuck the long term is the way to play the game right now.

I'm not sure how that attitude gets regulated or restricted, even by the market.
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