Tuesday, September 30, 2008

From Wall Street Bailout to Main Street Rescue: Can you Smell the Egoism?



This morning on The Today Show, I felt like that show's cast of characters were trying to sell me something, and that something smells a lot like a $700.00 Billion dollar Wall Street Bailout. 


I am not buying.


Why?  Do I know what is best for the market?  The US market?  The Global market?  No.  I honestly do not know if the plan will bring glory, or will do anything more than offer a Band-Aid fix to a failing system of "in god (god=market) we trust" economics.


I believe the problem comes down to ethics, to language, and to trust.


Ethically, people screwed up.  As much as capitalists like to spout their Bentham like belief that Capitalism and the Free Market is the epitome of utilitarian ethics where the market will act for the good of the many (in the long run), the truth is much different.  What competition and a drive for quick profit will nurture is a form of egoism where the politics and ethics of "me, me, me" prevail over "we, we, we."  When we consider the reality of the sub-prime market lending, no matter how much people want to spin this snow job, sub-prime dealings were promoted not for the good of the average and not so average homebuyer, but for a few very powerful people and organizations seeking a lot of money. 


And here is where Ethics meet Linguistics.


These sub-prime mortgages (like many other facets of market economics) were based upon speculation as to their stability and their worth. After being bundled with several other sub-prime mortgages and bought and sold like a _______ (insert metaphor here but try to remember I am a feminist), it is almost impossible to know who now owns what debt.  Again, this was all done on speculation.


According to the Investor's dictionary, Speculation is the "The act of knowingly investing funds in a venture carrying higher-than-average risks in the hope of making above-average profits. Speculators expect to make a profit because of price changes."


When we SPECULATE we must GUESS as to the likelihood that our risky buying behavior will turn a profit quickly down the road.  When we GUESS we ASSUME that our hunches are correct even though we do not have verification or proof.  When you ASSUME, as my Mom used to remind me, you tend to make an ASS out of U and ME, because to ASSUME is to employ of form of egoism where you are not considering the best outcome for everyone (utilitarianism), but what is good for you at the moment.  If you were employing ethical utilitarianism, you would avoid assumptions because to be a good utilitarian, you must calculate all the possible outcomes of an act in order to determine which act will promote the most good for the most people. 


Here is where ethics meet language, which meets trust.


Make no mistake, we are bailing out Wall Street, and we might (but I am not sold on this fact) help "Main Street" with this bail out, but I rather doubt it will "rescue" Main Street.  Why?  Main Street needs a lot more than a simply financial bail out of Wall Street's excesses.  Yes the $700 billion will offer the market a bounce, but for how long and for how high?  To venture a guess in this will be to continue the speculation and the assumptions.  But Main Street was in trouble before Wall Street and the credit establishments started showing signs of danger.  Not only has there been a real housing crisis, but a pay crisis in relation to the real medium of living costs, to health care, and, yes, credit.  Throwing money at these problems via the vessel of Wall Street will not fix these problems.  Indeed, how can we trust an administration that goes from the language of "bail out" to "rescue" on a turn of a dime?


"Ay, there's," as Shakespeare wrote, "the rub." Many Americans, at least many that I know from both the democratic and republican persuasions, feel distrust towards both the administration and congress because of ethics, misuse of language, and the crying wolf syndrome.  How can any of us trust a group of politicians who have lied to us repentantly, reacted without thought, and applied a Machiavellian approach towards public relations?  Why should we trust our government on this bail-out (aka 'rescue') plan?  From where I am sitting, it smells like a lot of egoism to me.


"If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never." - Soren Kierkegaard, (1813-1855).


  1. You moved back here!

    Well, two weeks in, and how's the bailout working for you? Myself, I cant decide if we're totally screwed, or just screwed in the usual manner.

  2. Dave,

    Excellent to see you! Yep I moved back and I am trying to get my feet wet again. How you doing? Well? I do hope :)

    Well, I still hold no hope for the bailout but figure that until elections at least, we might even out a bit. I don't trust that lot in Washington anymore than I trust my dog around Turkey! Hum. :)

  3. So nice to see you back. I hope this means that other lost lambs (but not sheep) will be returning also.


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