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Let Us Now Praise Famous Men?

January 11, 2010

Confessions-of-an-economic-hit-man Interesting piece by John Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man) in today's Huffington Post. In it, Perkins argues that Americans have been seduced by the news-infotainment media complex into accepting, even glorifying, the excessive wealth, lavish lifestyles, and unscrupulous business practices of far too many CEOs.

"For years," writes Perkins, "we have empowered these people (almost exclusively men) to create a system that is scandalously wasteful, overtly reckless, and -- we see now -- ultimately self-destructive."

Why do we let these "modern robber barons," as Perkins calls them, get away with such bad behavior? Because, he writes,

they contribute money to philanthropy and the arts. We pay tribute to a person who has accumulated billions of dollars and in doing so has caused others to lose their jobs, closed the doors of small businesses, or ravaged the environment, and then donates a small percentage of his fortune to correcting those problems or to the arts.

Perkins isn't impressed.

We must understand that [they] would have served the world far better by making fewer profits while increasing employment, supporting small businesses, and insisting that [their] executives practice good environmental stewardship.

You don't have to be a history major to know that Perkins has identified one of the perennial tensions in capitalism. But what, if anything, can we do about it?

Perkins' answer is that we have to insist on change. "We have," he writes, "a new opportunity to wake up to our role and to stop glorifying jets, yachts, mansions and modern day robber barons, and get back to the real work of creating sustainable resources and new jobs that will lessen our reliance on predatory capitalism."

Well...okay. That's what 2008 was about, in part. But as we've seen throughout this economic crisis, change is hard, leadership is critical, and when confronted with a choice between business as usual and the unknown, it's the familiar that usually wins out.

I hope this time is different. But I wouldn't bet on it.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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Posted by DJ  |   January 12, 2010 at 11:17 AM

"We have," he writes, "a new opportunity to wake up to our role and to stop glorifying jets, yachts, mansions"

You know who really glorifies those things? The guys who build, sell and service jets, yachts and mansions.

"We must understand that [they] would have served the world far better by making fewer profits while increasing employment,supporting small businesses, and insisting that [their] executives practice good environmental stewardship."

And when you buy jets, yachts and mansions, you do add to employment and support smaller businesses. I don't understand what Perkins has against the guy who owns a Yacht dealership, or the salespeople he employs, or the people who build the Yacht for the dealer. Maybe it's because they're working instead of asking for a handout from the richer guy?

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