Friday, October 16, 2009

Bring The Aristocracy Back To Wall Street?

I was rereading that NYTimes article that I linked to the other day and thought of it in terms of meritocracy:
Don’t get me wrong: the guys from the lower third of the class who went to Wall Street had a lot of nice qualities. Most of them were pleasant enough. They made a good impression. And now we realize that by the standards that came later, they weren’t really greedy. They just wanted a nice house in Greenwich and maybe a sailboat. A lot of them were from families that had always been on Wall Street, so they were accustomed to nice houses in Greenwich. They didn’t feel the need to leverage the entire business so they could make the sort of money that easily supports the second oceangoing yacht.

He's arguing in favor of a type of aristocracy. Some sort of virtue, if it can be called that, is passed down from generation to generation in the family. According to this theory, the problem arose when the meritocrats arrived. Since they always need to be first and best, they push themselves and all of us off the cliff.

Because of the deformation in their souls meritocrats require objective criteria for comparing themselves to others. When everybody has a nice house in Greenwich no objective criteria exists. Eventually you end up with the second oceangoing yacht.

If the choice is between Wall Street as a hereditary aristocracy and one of meritocrats striving to better one another through accumulation of wealth and conspicuously consuming, then I'll take the hereditary aristocracy any day of the week and twice on Sundays.


Withywindle said...

You're supposed to marry the meritocrats to the daughters of old aristocrats, providing a pleasing combination of the virtues of both classes.

alan_howe said...

Also, you are sounding a bit too much like me. Better turn a bit to the right before it is too late. Ha.

FLG said...


Support for a hereditary aristocracy is leftish?

Anonymous said...

Bear in mind that when the tattered remnants of the WASP Ascendancy controlled much of Wall Street, they didn't make all that much money by contemporary standards.

(Even three generations before, when J.P. Morgan seemed a colossus, he died with only $60 million.)

Withywindle -- That hasn't happened for nearly fifty years.

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