Saturday, November 14, 2009

Grace, or Mammon

British bankers are keen to redeem capitalism in the wake of the recession. Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs says he's "doing God's work", and others such as Barclays CEO John Varley are publicly spiritualizing money. Matt Taibbi tweaks out:
Goldman Sachs international adviser Brian Griffiths explains it this way: that Christ’s famous injunction to love others as one would love oneself actually means that one should love oneself as one would love oneself. This seemingly baffling outburst by a Goldman executive in what appears to have been a prepared speech — someone actually wrote this, and thought about it, before saying it out loud — gets even weirder when one tries to figure out what could possibly have motivated this person, and by extension his employer Goldman Sachs, to make such statements in such a place as St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Griffiths and Blankfein aren't talking as crazily as Taibbi seems to think. You may disagree with it, but this is all just a retransmission of the Calvinist spiritual view of money, later adopted by the Puritans and others. We associate Goldman et al with greed and ostentation, and those were reviled by Calvin and his predecessor Luther. But generating wealth as a fulfillment of God's purposes is the "Protestant ethic" to which Max Weber referred, and from which modern capitalism eventually emerged.

You may find this theology offensive, and I have no dog in that fight, but it isn't exotic Mammonism. It's as old as the Reformation.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Father Coughlin at His Pulpit

Vaccines are always a lightning rod for populist lunacy, but here's a non-science fiction take:

NEW YORK — Some of New York's biggest companies, including Wall Street giants Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, received doses of swine flu vaccine for at-risk employees, drawing criticism that the hard-to-find vaccine is going first to the privileged.


"Vaccines should go to people who need them most, not people who happen to work on Wall Street," Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut said Thursday.

"Wall Street banks have already taken so much from us. They've taken trillions of our tax dollars. They've taken away people's homes who are struggling to pay the bills," union official John VanDeventer wrote on the Web site of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union. "But they should not be allowed to take away our health and well-being."

Dodd and the union official are making hay out of this. Vaccines going to Wall Street firms doesn't translate to vaccines being taken away from more eligible people to give to executives. Everyday schmoes at these companies -- admin services people, IT drones, mail room employees -- will receive the vaccines, and they are no more or less deserving than a guy in Local 32BJ. The vaccine shipments are vanishingly small, and they're going to these companies -- as well as non-Wall Street companies, and "Hospitals, universities and the Federal Reserve Bank" -- because they have medical staff. Finally, they are given first, and often only, to high-risk employees, like pregnant women and old people.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Audacity of Schlock

This is the second installment in what is now a series. Andrew Sullivan's bloodhound nose for the richest schmaltz teams with his neoplastic non-interventionism to deliver this, like a dead, shredded mouse, at our feet.

Touching and revolting, all at the same time!


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