Last week, a journalist, Matt Taibbi, wrote an article entitled “Will Goldman Sachs prove greed is God?” The current Gold Man’s Sacks scandal is beginning to reveal an ingrained pattern of regular business practice that is fueled by the belief that Greed Is Good, and Thou Shalt Make A Buck At All Costs.
However, as we have already seen by GS’s response to the SEC fraud charges, the company truly does not believe that it has done anything wrong. As the article points out:
Now here’s the really weird thing. Confronted with the evidence of public outrage over these deals, the leaders of Goldman will often appear to be genuinely confused, scratching their heads and staring quizzically into the camera like they don’t know what you’re upset about. It’s not an act. There have been a lot of greedy financiers and banks in history, but what makes Goldman stand out is its truly bizarre cultist/religious belief in the rightness of what it does.
Lloyd Blankfein has found an interesting way to justify this stance. He actually believes that Jesus Christ endorses it. To quote Mr. Taibbi:
The point was driven home in England last year, when Goldman’s international adviser, sounding exactly like a character in Atlas Shrugged, told an audience at St Paul’s Cathedral that “The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest”. A few weeks later, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein told the Times that he was doing “God’s work”.
Well, I am not a college graduate and had never heard of “Atlas Shrugged” nor of its author, a woman named Ayn Rand. So I looked her up in Wikipedia. A few pertinent points are highlighted below. Especially noteworthy is the special friendship she had with up-and-comers in the financial world, including future Fed Godfather, Alan Greenspan. You may draw your own conclusions:
Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged”, published 1957
Book synopsis: As indicated by its working title The Strike, the book explores a dystopian United States where leading innovators, ranging from industrialists to artists, refuse to be exploited by society. The protagonist, Dagny Taggart, sees society collapse around her as the government increasingly asserts control over all industry, while society’s most productive citizens, led by the mysterious John Galt, progressively disappear. Galt describes the strike as “stopping the motor of the world” by withdrawing the “minds” that drive society’s growth and productivity; with their strike these creative minds hope to demonstrate that the economy and society would collapse without the profit motive and the efforts of the rational and productive.
(Sounds like the basis of Too-Big-To-Fail to me.)
From the Ayn Rand page at Wikipedia:
After the publication of The Fountainhead, Rand received numerous letters from readers, some of whom it had profoundly influenced. In 1951 Rand moved from Los Angeles to New York City, where she gathered a group of these admirers around her. This group (jokingly designated “The Collective”) included future Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, a young psychology student named Nathan Blumenthal (later Nathaniel Branden) and his wife Barbara, and Barbara’s cousin Leonard Peikoff. At first the group was an informal gathering of friends who met with Rand on weekends at her apartment to discuss philosophy. Later she began allowing them to read the drafts of her new novel, Atlas Shrugged, as the manuscript pages were written.
Rand died of heart failure on March 6, 1982 at her home in New York City, and was interred in the Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York. Rand’s funeral was attended by some of her prominent followers, including Alan Greenspan. A six-foot floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign was placed near her casket. In her will, Rand named Leonard Peikoff the heir to her estate. With her endorsement of his 1976 lecture series, she had recognized his work as being the best exposition of her philosophy.
Rand saw her views as constituting an integrated philosophical system, which she called “Objectivism.” Its essence is “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
Rejecting faith as antithetical to reason, Rand embraced philosophical realism and opposed all forms of mysticism or supernaturalism, including organized religion. Rand also argued for rational egoism (rational self-interest), as the only proper guiding moral principle. The individual “must exist for his own sake,” she wrote in 1962, “neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself.”
Ronald E. Merrill and David Ramsay Steele point out a difference between her early and later views on the subject of sacrificing others. For example, the first edition of We the Living contained language which has been interpreted as advocating ruthless elitism: “What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?”
One wonders if Lloyd Blankfein also recites that mantra of “ruthless elitism” as he trots off to work every day. And how did he manage to overlook Ayn Rand’s recommendation that one should not be sacrificing others to himself? The investors of Goldman Sachs’ ABACUS Fund have become painfully aware of what it feels like to be offered as a sacrifice. It may be overly altruistic of us to ask Goldman Sachs to “love thy neighbor.” But surely it is not too much to ask that they “love thy own client!”
In light of the misery that has now been brought to literally billions of people by the errant beliefs of Alan Greenspan, Lloyd Blankfein, and other like-minded ruthless elitists, one might also ask if Ayn Rand’s “only proper guiding principle” of “self-interest” is truly the best way to find happiness. That gameplan doesn’t seem to be working out too well for most of mankind, even if it does seem to reap tremendous profits for a fractional reserve of people.
Perhaps Mr. Blankfein and his subordinates should revisit the teachings of Christ by examining his direction for finding happiness as contained in the fifth chapter of the Bible book of Matthew. And they would do well to make this examination soon becasue the very next chapter of Matthew shows how the followers of Christ’s teachings would also be requesting that the current system of government be replaced by a government ruled, not by unbridled greed, but by that very same Christ whose rulership will be the epitome of love for one’s neighbor rather than destruction of one’s neighbor. I doubt if that new government will have a job position open for anyone who believes that one’s neighbor is to be treated as mud under one’s foot.