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Rajat Gupta and McKinsey’s Dented Reputation

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A new story by Suzanna Andrews for BusinessWeek on Rajat Gupta, the former McKinsey managing director alleged to have fed tips to convicted insider trader Raj Rajaratnam, is mainly about Rajat, but it does have a damning tidbit about McKinsey:

McKinsey had a culture of superiority, says one longtime client, who declined to be identified, adding that consultants at the firm really seemed to think they were better than anyone else in the business world. This CEO is still shocked recalling an incident in the late 1980s, when a McKinsey team offered to provide him with a road map of what his competitors were doing. When asked how they could produce such information, he was told that McKinsey also worked with his competitors, but he could trust McKinsey to know what was confidential information and what was to be kept private. He says arrogance permeated the firm.

Felix Salmon deems this revelation to be of what a “presumably-representative McKinsey team would do in the course of normal business.” Having been at the firm at around that time (the mid 1980s), the reality was more complicated, but in the end points to the same troubling conclusion: a lack of adequate (one might say any) meaningful controls on client work.

I was more aggressive in doing competitor research in my day than pretty much anyone else there. I’d call them up and get interviews. I never lied. I made it clear I was working for McKinsey and would say I was working for another firm in their field (a polite way of saying they were a competitor). I’d then give some accurate factoids about the client to make them seem a non-threat (“ranked below number 25 in the Eurobond league table” when doing a Eurobond study). I’d also say (again true) that I was not asking for sensitive information (I was looking for market intelligence that top firms would have but second tier players wouldn’t), that most interviewees found these chats useful because it would give them a sense of how other players were thinking about the market, and that if I asked anything they thought was out of line, I recognized it might wind up being a two minute meeting.

They’d always say yes, except for Salomon and Normura, which were sensibly disciplined about wasting time with outsiders. I never could understand why they’d talk to me but they always did. And they’d typically say more than they should.

So I’m a bit of a loss as to why you’d root around within the firm; it was riskier and unnecessary, and I don’t know of any teams in my day that did that (particularly since you could also justify charging more for doing fieldwork to get answers).

But I saw enough ethical lapses of other sorts (some recounted in this post) that I’m sure the account from Andrews is accurate. And that relates to something that bothered me from my very first day at the firm: the utter lack of quality control. It was assumed that directors (the tenured partners) would uphold standards, much like law firm partners.

But the practice of law is a more structured and predictable activity than consulting, where each study (at least at McKinsey) is very much customized (it’s understood that it you put two different teams on the same client problem, they would not be expected to go about doing the study the same way and would also not be expected to come up with similar recommendations, although they hopefully would not be wildly divergent). But the only mechanism I was aware of, which was to bring concerns to the head of the firm, was so rarely employed as to make it virtually useless (I do know of one manager who went to Ron Daniel to complain about bad work on a particular study, namely a completely indefensible valuation, which she also though was putting the firm at legal risk. Daniel did come down on the partner in question, but I am pretty certain the woman who brought the matter up suffered as well).

So various partners could indeed come close to or go over the margin, and who might know? Only the team members, and if they were loyal to the partner, or not terribly concerned about ethics, it could be very easy for misconduct to occur. And Felix’s headline (“How Rajat Gupta corrupted McKinsey“) misses the second big point: that it wasn’t Rajat that led the firm down a slippery slope of being more focused on director compensation than doing good work. The causality runs the other way: his election was the visible manifestation of the fact that a significant number of partners wanting to go in that direction.

I was the working oar on a 1986 study that to me represented the end of McKinsey. The firm was in a bit of a panic; it was no longer getting the cream of the crop from business schools and losing mid-career people to investment (I doubled my pay going to Sumitomo, which was third-world banking by Wall Street standards). The three directors on the study, which was on what the firm should do to respond to the investment banking threat, were the top candidates to be the new head of the firm (the sparring among them was highly amusing). They clearly did not understand investment banking, so I wrote them a primer about the industry and discussed its economics.

It was very clear on some level that they had already decided what the answer would be, even if they could never implement it. McKinsey people had always been somewhat jealous of Wall Street pay, but their hours were so much worse and partners had to keep so much of their earnings in the firm that they two careers for the most part appealed to different types of people. Now that financial firm compensation was pulling so decisively ahead of McKinsey rewards, the firm decided it had to compete head to head. It could never to that, but it would seek the best approximation it could, which was to make being a director as lucrative as possible while also expanding the firm’s reach (note McKinsey could conceivably have chosen to become small and super-elite, but at my remove, that option did not seem to get serious consideration).

I’d only get snippets of intelligence over the years, but the lack of McKinsey soul-searching over some of its worst lapses are still stunning. McKinsey was the moving force behind the biggest value destroying deal of all time, the Time Warner-AOL merger. McKinsey was deeply involved in Enron, and seemed to be relieved that it wasn’t sued or pilloried in the press. Why were there no post mortems and new measures implemented when a lot of senior people seemed to recognize it had barely dodged a bullet? And even more important, why wasn’t there real remorse?

The unnamed executive Andrews quotes also accuses the firm of arrogance. That’s striking because the rest of the piece discusses how unassuming Gupta was, and the partner I worked most closely with was also very low key. From the inside, the firm was insecure by design. It hired people who were academically successful but were unsure of how smart they were, and suspected they had gotten ahead by being hard worked rather than particularly clever (yes I can name some noteworthy exceptions of people who were confident intellectually with justification, and some who were confident with no justification, but we are discussing norms). And consulting is a very ambiguous undertaking. Except in obvious cases like deal recommendations, it isn’t clear whether you had any impact on client performance. And the reality is most clients don’t get better, which means you as consultant have to be cynical or deluded. So what looks like arrogance is in many cases a cover for deep seated doubt.

The sad part is that I have heard from several former partners that the firm is in deep denial and is not dealing in a serious way with the underlying issues. Ironically, because the Guinness scandal at Bain involved a partner working for a major client, that firm hit the wall harder, making it obvious that major change was needed if the firm was to salvage its reputation. Here, we have three senior people (one dead) involved, each knowing of the others’ participation. That certainly suggests a culture tolerant of corruption.

Felix’s headline is thus a badly needed wake up call.

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45 comments

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Complacency about corruption is not a productive attitude for anyone but the corrupt.

      1. illusionist

        Well rather than complacency try cynicism that this will change.

        I suggest that the technological and material advances that mankind has made has outstripped the growth of his/her moral compass and ability to properly handle the enlarged envelop that is their world.

        Most of the specific instances of corruption/failures of judgement are symptomatic of this imbalance.

        I see little evidence that this is being addressed and so remain cynical when I see a lot of Sturm und Drang about specific instances.

        1. DownSouth

          Illusionist,

          You are what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr would term a “moral cynic” or “child of darkness.”

          As he wrote in his essay “The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness”:

          [W]e may well designate the moral cynics, who know no law beyond their will and interest, with a scriptural designation of “children of this world” or “children of darkness.” Those who believe that self-interest should be brought under the discipline of a higher law could then be termed “the children of light.” This is no mere arbitrary device; for evil is always the assertion of some self-interest without regard to the whole, whether the whole be conceived as the immediate community, or the total community of mankind. Or the total order of the world.

          The political implications that inhere in this distinction between the two worldviews—-that of the children of darkness and that of the children of light—-are rather stark. As Niebuhr goes on to explain:

          A consistent pessimism in regard to man’s rational capacity for justice invariably leads to absolutistic political theories; for they prompt the conviction that only preponderant power can coerce the various vitalities of a community into a working harmony.

          1. illusionist

            I am not trying to suggest that I “know no law beyond (my) their will and interest” or that self-interest should not be brought under the discipline of a higher law.

            I am only stating that the higher law (i.e consciousness) has not received focus commensurate with material and technological progress. This does not make me a “child of darkness”

            Till this is addressed adequately there won’t be real solution because only the symptom is being treated not the problem.

            Come over to the dark side….(sorry couldn’t resist that)

          2. Skippy

            Being or Becoming…is a huge anchor around our collective thoughts. Maybe soon we can cut out the incorrect half (wasted effort) of history.

            Skippy…Planck[ing is all the rage down under see:

            http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/81512860/

            Sadly if done incorrectly see:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go_rvHgQ6tw

            Compression is a bitch, lets see how the Hartel-Hawking Universe pans out, although Taub-NUT / Kurskal is fun, abet the mathematical intractability. To think humanity’s malady[s is a direct sum, of the point (singularity), where space and time become one. Pass the rye bread please and we will speak of the observer / observed relationship…eh.

          3. Siggy

            Ah, the Children of Light versus the Children of Darkness and the Judaeo-Christian schism. Gimme a scroll boobie!

            Strikes me that Gupta’s an arrogant fellow who believes that he has a resposibility only unto himself, all others be dammed.

            I’ve been at the effect of the McKinsey’s minions and the experience was disconcerting. Damm near cost me job and the recommendation was to borrow more even though we couldn’t service the current debt load. It’s a bit superflous, but we did borrow and 9 months later dutifully went to the bankruptcy court pleading for a stay to reorganize. Or who can we stiff, Your Honor. I mean we read the book by that Frank fellow who broke the Continental Airlines unions.

            Apart from the debt recommendation, McKinsey did not tell us anything we did not already know. They did not present any aspect of our problem that we had not already considered and most particularly, everything they told us we had, in fact, told them. There was no new perspective or rationale.

            Once in the bankruptcy court we machinated a bit and then exited by way of what was an effective liquidation. That liquidation meant the loss of 6,000 plus jobs and it led to the evaporation of $60,000,000 million in viable assets.

            All things considered it was a proper liquidation, shareholders got screwed, secured lenders got screwed, and bond holders got screwed. And oh yes the union got screwed, but then ERISA picked up a big part of that tab. I guess you could assert that the taxpayer got screwed.

            Now, who’s at fault? In a very fundamental way it was our management that failed to grasp the economic reality of inflation and deregulation that was the principal dynamic.

            Now comes Gupta/McKinsey/GS, fee extractors all. It’s a pandemic of amorality at best.

          4. DownSouth

            illusionist,

            What you said was “Welcome to the real world” and “try cynicism that this will change.” That was your first rattle out of the box, and if that’s not a cynical, pessimistic take on human nature, then please enlighten me as to what is.

            The battle between the children of light and the children of darkness has been an ongoing part of Western culture since its inception. Thus your assertion that “the technological and material advances that mankind has made has outstripped the growth of his/her moral compass and ability to properly handle the enlarged envelop that is their world” reveals an ignorance of the history of this long-running battle.

            When Yves and I both challenged your initial cynical worldview, you then retreated to the position that “I am only stating that the higher law (i.e consciousness) has not received focus commensurate with material and technological progress.” But when you did that, you fell back to the ancient dichotomy between the children of light and the children of darkness. Both worldviews are based on partial truths, thus what manifests itself in this battle between the children of light and the children of darkness is a competition of error vs. error, partial-truth vs. partial-truth.

            The thought tradition of the children of darkness comes down to us from the Greek philosophers and is the ideology of a declining civilization on its death bed. The thought tradition of the children of light comes down to us from the early Romans and is the ideology of a society in its ascendency. As Hannah Arendt explains in Karl Marx and the tradition of Western political thought:

            In the entire tradition of philosophical, and particularly of political thought, there has perhaps been no single factor of such overwhelming importance and influence on everything that was to follow than the fact that Plato and Aristotle wrote in the fourth century, under the full impact of a politically decaying society, and under conditions where philosophy quite consciously either deserted the political realm altogether or claimed to rule it like a tyrant. This fact had first of all the most serious consequences for philosophy itself, which hardly needed Hegel to come to believe that not only philosophical thought, but nearly all thought in general, was the indication of the end of a civilization. Even more serious was the abyss that immediately opened between thought and action, and which never since has been closed. All thinking activity that is not simply the calculation of means to obtain an intended or willed end but is concerned with meaning in the most general sense came to play the role of an “afterthought,” that is, after action had decided and determined reality. Action, on the other hand, became meaningless, the realm of the accidental and haphazard upon which no great deeds any longer shed their immortal light. The great and conflicting Roman experience remained in this respect without lasting influence, because its Christian heir followed Greek philosophy in its spiritual development and Roman practice only in its legal and institutional history. Roman experience, moreover, never brought forth a philosophical conception of its own, but from the beginning interpreted itself in the Greek categories of the fourth century. When action eventually became meaningful again it was because the remembered story of man’s actions was felt to be “in essence incoherent and immoral” (John Adams), so that history’s trostloses Ungefahr (Kant’s “melancholy haphazardness”) needed a “ruse of nature” or some other force working behind the back of acting men to achieve any dignity worthy of philosophical thought.

            I won’t dwell much on the Platonic tradition, since it’s the reigning philosophy as we speak. A radical rationalism can be traced from Plato to Machiavelli, and then to Mandeville and Adam Smith and right on down to the Marxists and neoclassical economists of today. It is perhaps best summed up by Machiavelli when he wrote in The Prince that “men will always prove bad unless necessity compels them to be good” and “a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good.”

            But since we don’t seem to be too familiar with the competing tradition of thought—-that of the early Romans—-these days, let me cite the following from Peter Turchin’s War and Peace and War to give an idea of what it’s all about:

            The early Romans developed a set of values, called mos maiorum (ancestral custom), which governed their private and public lives. Probably the most important value was virtus (virtue), which derived from the word vir (man) and embodied all the qualities of a true man as a member of society. Virtus included the ability to distinguish between good and evil and to act in ways that promoted good, and especially the common good. It also meant the devotion to one’s family and community, and heroism in war. Unlike Greeks, Romans did not stress individual prowess, as exhibited by Homeric heroes or Olympic champions. The ideal hero was one whose courage, wisdom, and self-sacrifice saved his country in time of peril. “Who with the prospect of death, envy, and punishment staring him in the face, does not hesitate to defend the Republic, he truly can be rekoned a vir,” says Cicero. Young men were taught that it was “sweet and glorious to die for one’s country.”

            Other important Roman virtues included piety, faith, gravity, and constancy. Piety (pietas) was a family virtue—-devotion and loyalty by men and women to the family group, willing acceptance of parental authority. It also meant reverence to the gods, expressed through performance of required religious rites and ceremonies, such as the sacrifice of a ram to Janus, or a heifer to Jupiter. Even the infamous gladiatorial fights evolved from an ancient religious ritual involving sacrifice of prisoners to the dead.

            Faith (fides) meant keeping one’s word, paying one’s debts, and fulfilling obligations toward people and gods. Violation of fides was an offense against both community and gods. Gravity (gravitas) meant discipline, absolute self-control—-a dignified, serious, and calm attitude toward both good and bad fortune. Constancy (constantia) was a related virtue of perseverance, doing what was necessary and right, even under the most trying circumstances… Needless to say, Roman determination wins over Gallic brute strength.

            Roman values were part of religiones—-literally, bonds that held the community together. The ancients recognized the importance of religion in strengthening the state… In general, Roman religion extolled the virtues of hard work, discipline, duty, loyalty, and courage. Religion was the glue that cemented the people together and gave the early Roman society an extremely high degree of asabiya. The cohesiveness of the society was so high that until the first century B.C. Romans did not need a police force to keep public order. The internally motivated discipline of early Romans, the formalized and ritualized behaviors of their culture, was enough to maintain public order. Punishment for many transgressions was a public declaration the perpetrator acted dishonorably. According to Tacitus, for example, the only penalty suffered by a prostitute was the shame of having to profess her name before public magistrates.

            One cannot overemphasize the importance of these personal qualities of early Romans to their subsequent rise as an imperial nation. Note how the Roman virtues served to limit individualism (gravity and constancy), strengthened ties within family (piety and community (faith), and sacrifice for the common good (virtus). Romans had not physical or technological advantage over the peoples they conquered…

            What distinguished the Romans from their adversaries was that they…knew in a culturally rooted subconscious way that life could only be ensured by willingness to die. The Roman general and later dictator Sulla told his troops once, “You will be the safer the less you spare yourself.” Cicero proclaimed in one of his speeches, “That which appears most splendid is that done with a great and exalted spirit and in disregard of the concerns of mortal life.”

          5. Anonymous Jones

            Just because someone gets discouraged or frustrated at times and resorts to cynicism does not mean that cynicism is an immutable part of his character. We love to label people around here. Labeling is the tried and true heuristic for disregarding what people have to say. It might make more sense to think about someone’s arguments than to insist on pigeon-holing them and forever ignoring them after the label is permanently affixed because of one action.

            Sometimes a label and future shunning is deserved; sometimes it is not. The springs of conduct are subtle and varied. So should our analysis be.

          6. DownSouth

            Anonymous Jones,

            When the only purpose of a belief system is to provide a blueprint for action (or in your case inaction), any and all aspects of factual reality are fair game.

            And that is what has happened to you. Your comments are increasingly being revealed as not just wrong, but as purpose-driven. And it has become abundantly clear that your purpose is to run interference for the corporate criminals. Anything and everything that behooves the interests of the corporate criminals, you’re all for.

            This comment certainly fits that mold. The children of darkness wish to sow the seeds of hopelessness in full knowledge that, if they are successful, this will lead to capitulation and inaction. Or as Machiavelli put it in The Prince:

            I am not unaware that many men have believed and still believe that the affairs of the world are controlled by fortune and by God in such a way that the prudence of men cannot manage them, and indeed cannot improve them at all. For this reason they are inclined to think that there is no point in sweating much over these matters and that they should submit to chance instead.

          7. skippy

            @DS could it be that metaphysics as old (one tired whipped old nag) as it is, is a poor means (mental cosmos) by which to frame this debate…in this age (more and more individuals able to condense history’s opines {internet}, advances in cosmology {creator T/F}).

            Not that I disagree with the thrust / jist of your statements ie individuals or groups acting out side a common good, short term enrichment at the cost of lives and planet, sociopathic behavior et al, is undesirable.

            Skippy…I prefer the bitter pill, sweet lipped words are sugar coated and bad for ones mental digestion (emotional string pulling). Is metaphysics the never ending novel[?] unable to write its own ending[?] why? Methinks vacuums both, suck…the life out of you, and blow divine winds. Its just up to the operators discretion, although both are *children* of the vacuum.

            Be well DS.

        2. Paul Tioxon

          I am a specific instance of the social order. In aggregate, all of the specifics constitute the whole. Or as the pre Socratics would say, the problem of the one and the many. My one story or anyone at all is important in and of itself, and since we do not live forever, it is the one story that stands for the whole, mentonomy. We don’t have the time or space to read and do it all, and to complain otherwise is an obstructionist tactic from HS debate.

      2. Cindy Elmwood

        “Complacency about corruption is not a productive attitude for anyone but the corrupt.”

        Just wanted to say that this quote is gold. Thank you, Yves.

        One may not be able to have an impact on a particular form of corruption. But to become complacent about corruption in general is to become part of the problem.

    2. ambrit

      Mz Smith;
      Complacency implies knowledge. Now, the average person has little if any knowledge about Financial Matters beyond personal budgetary concerns. So, being social animals, we appoint others to look after our interests in this regard; Regulators. Hence, I suggest that the proper field of action for the average person is to become engaged in the politics that control the Regulatory Regime.
      QED Mz Smith; you are a public utility.

      1. attempter

        being social animals, we appoint others to look after our interests in this regard; Regulators

        Can you explain this non sequitur?

  1. Random Blowhard

    Meh,McKinsey are over paid, over hyped and very over-rated. The coming crisis will destroy them just as it will the Wall Street banks.

    1. illusionist

      Won’t you be rather over paid, over hyped and very over rated than unrecognized and importantly underpaid?

      They may well be effected by the “coming” crisis but you think Joe schmo will not feel it??

      1. Cindy Elmwood

        “Won’t you be rather over paid, over hyped and very over rated than unrecognized and importantly underpaid?”

        In the short term yes, in the long term no.

        1. illusionist

          Cindy;

          It is said that in the long term we are all dead so it stands to reason that the short run preference will be the odds on favorite in this shoot out.

  2. charlie

    Great analysis. The one thing I learned from hanging out with McK consultants is study compensation patterns to understand the real politics of a company.

    A lot of this is just Rajat Gupta as a weak figure. Internally — and also externally. But it goes back to the basic testimony at the trial. Most of what he was doing isn’t that different that standard practice at McK anyway. So did he break the duties?

    Warning message: don’t put McK consultants on your board!

  3. Dean Sayers

    Your ‘memoir’ is very intriguing. I can’t help but thinking just how much more ineptitude and dirty dealing abound among elite cliques which are still tightly sealed. How absurd that some people don’t mistrust these people by default.

    “Except in obvious cases like deal recommendations, it isn’t clear whether you had any impact on client performance. And the reality is most clients don’t get better, which means you as consultant have to be cynical or deluded. So what looks like arrogance is in many cases a cover for deep seated doubt.”

    Perhaps this says something about free-market finance in general. We are so often told that firms are responsive to market conditions, and that is precisely why consultants are hired – but clients don’t seem to change anyways?

  4. craazyman

    Boy, when you’re caught between pyschopathic, utterly mediocre elites on one side and ravenous mob of slovenly, McDonald’s super-sized-fries-inhaling peasant trash on the other . . . where to you go?

    Into your own dream world, I guess.

    I guess that’s why they invented Nirvana.

    But even that is dangerous if it becomes a Pilot Wave. LOL

    Even in the old days, I rarely met anyone in the Wall Street business I would call intelligent or talented. In general, it was a sludge of somewhat intellectually above average but pathetically money-obsessed and prestige-driven egos, bestowed with a narrow and shallow analytical faculty that convinced itself that it itself was intelligence and then belived what it told itself. I was sort of one of those for a while, until the hammer fell like in Camus’ The Fall. Sorry if I sound jaded. LOL. Ecce Homo sed Fred.

  5. jake chase

    When will we finally realize that business school doesn’t teach sh*t, business students don’t know sh*t, and superiority claims by entrenched business elites are entirely bogus? Unfortunately, it takes considerable experience and/or a genuinely superior intelligence to grasp this, and most who have either take the easy way of getting along by going along, or even better, mining a little niche created by our absurd system, since who really wants to be a pariah, skunk at the garden party Ralph Nader type? Haven’t you people who longed for change and elected BHO learned anything yet? As for DownSouth, that boy (or girl) sure can quote some serious sh*t! People, however, will always opt for noninvolvement until their own ox is being gored, which is generally too late.

    1. Faustian B-Schuler

      When will we finally realize that business school doesn’t teach sh*t, business students don’t know sh*t, and superiority claims by entrenched business elites are entirely bogus?

      If you spend 10 minutes with these guys, and they aren’t trying to impress or shovel the Scheiss.
      Wait, that would be a rare 10 minutes. Nevermind.

    2. DownSouth

      jake chase said: “As for DownSouth, that boy (or girl) sure can quote some serious sh*t! People, however, will always opt for noninvolvement until their own ox is being gored, which is generally too late.”

      What we have here is yet one more declaration of surrender to the defeatist distortion of the children of darkness—-the moral cynics. To get an idea of the exaggerated sense of hopelessness it conveys, contrast it to this:

      The nonviolent strategy has been to dramatize the evils of our society in such a way that pressure is brought to bear against those evils by the forces of good in the community and change is produced…

      [….]

      Our position depends upon a lot more than political power… It depends upon our ability to marshal moral power as well. As soon as we lose the moral offensive, we are left with only our ten percent of the power of the nation. This is hardly enough to produce any meaningful changes…

      [….]

      When Negroes marched, so did the nation. The power of the nonviolent march is indeed a mystery. It is always surprising that a few hundred Negroes marching can produce such a reaction across the nation. When marches are carefully organized around well-defined issues, they represent the power which Victor Hugo phrased as the most powerful force in the world, “an idea whose time has come.” When the idea is a sound one, the cause a just one, and the demonstration a righteous one, change will be forthcoming.
      ▬Martin Luther King, Jr. “Nonviolence: The only road to freedom,” Ebony, October, 1966.

      Or to this:

      The basic question is: What really did happen (in the student involvement in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s)? As I see it, for the first time in a very long while a spontaneous political movement arose which not only did not simply carry on propaganda, but acted, and, moreover, acted almost exclusively from moral motives. Together with this moral factor, quite rare in what is usually considered a mere power or interest play, another experience new for our time entered the game of politics: It turned out that acting is fun. This generation discovered what the eighteenth century had called “public happiness,” which means that when man takes part in public life he opens up himself a dimension of human experience that otherwise remains close to him and that in some way constitutes a part of complete “happiness.”
      ▬Hannah Arendt, “Thoughts on Politics and Revolution”

  6. illusionist

    DownSouth you appear to like quotes

    ““You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” F Nietzsche

    “The mind itself is maya (Sanskrit-illusion) at play.”
    - Swami Chinmayananda

    What I was essentially trying to convey -

    “The tragedy of human history is that there is decreasing happiness in the midst of increasing comforts.” — Swami Chinmayananda

    My cynical attitude -

    “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you” Still our boy Freddy Nietzsche

    And therefore;

    “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” Freddy Nietzsche

    1. DownSouth

      illusionist,

      So now you’ve switched to a dialectic, which is the polar opposite of the fundamentalist position which you first expressed with its emphasis on the explicit, complete, final and authoritarian interpretation of “the real world”?

      I don’t think you have a clue as to what you believe. On this thread, and within a period of less than 8 hours, you’ve managed to stake out three very different positions.

      1. illusionist

        “Real world” as opposed to a normative world.

        Please take my seeming transition to dialectic as a tribute to the force of your intellect. I can disagree with you yet grudgingly respect your learning and the fire in your belly for your “cause”.

        I don’t at have an issue with having a diagrammatically opposing thought in my mind as a conceptual exercise.

        Most things are a load of horse shit anyway so what does it matter?

  7. mcgee

    Having become a cynic over the course of the great revealing of greed is the world’s god; I have to admit it has poisoned my soul. I would much rather be part of a movement shedding light into darkness and affecting change but other than bloggers and online comment sections I find the rest of the populace less than interested in understanding or challenging the wrongs perpetuated upon us.

    I have now transitioned from anger to acceptance; an angry acceptance.

    1. illusionist

      I wonder if Messrs Johnny Walker, J& B or the Single Malts can emit a mild soothing light?? Nah – they may flatter to only to deceive.

  8. pjwrites

    Capitalism doesn’t work. The free-market isn’t free. Fraud and corruption run rampant in every facet of society. The problems within our Government are irreparable without effecting great change.

    Are any of those statements false? One would be hard-pressed to claim they were.

    When certain human beings – working in tandem with other human beings in order to accomplish a mutual goal – are viewed as “costs” or “liabilities”, rather than what they are – “assets” with real value, just like that CEO at the top – there is no hope.

    When wealthy, profit-seeking individuals make deals with other wealthy people in powerful positions, in order to circumvent the rights of less wealthy individuals, there is no hope.

    Wages will decline, suffering will commence for the majority, corporate profits will soar (for a time), our criminals elites will be further emboldened, the world will become more and more unbalanced and lawless, and finally, violence, theft, insanity, and murder will be common every day, everywhere – no escape.

    This is our certain future if our laws – and most especially, our Constitution – do not prevail.

  9. Roaring mouse

    My what a load of mental flatulence has been passed in this comment section!
    Following any future global apocalypse, 3 species will certainly remain: (1) cockroaches; (2) consultants; and (3) investment bankers. On survival of the fittest, my money is on the cockroaches. They must be wicked smart!

    1. Skippy

      @mouse..said “On survival of the fittest”…cough is a prime example of metaphysical flatulence. Hubert Spencer does not speak for Darwin and was a highly paid hack consultant for the banking / better class. All poor Darwin did was make an *observation* and the metagang went ape shit with it, feature methinks!

      Skippy…Mon Dieu[!] or is it Non Dieu!

      1. roaring mouse

        Don’t let your bulging brain obscure the obvious, Skippy. 19th century Western civilization had brainiacs like Spencer to structure 19th century social thought. Today, we have Goldman Sachs and McKinsey. Who needs God when you can have Goldman?

        1. Skippy

          I do loath psychologically advanced advertising that takes advantage of humanity’s weaknesses, what ever the stripe.

  10. Namazu

    Rajat’s ascendency to MD came at a time when directors were seeing their classmates getting fabulously rich in banking and tech. Not coincidentally, the period around the millenium was marked by discussions of going public, taking dot-com shares as compensation, adopting the Bain/Bain Capital model, and–most insidiously–increasing partner leverage ratios. I think talk of a culture of corruption is too strong, but there were certainly hints of a culture of greed.

    1. roaring mouse

      In this example, how do you distinguish a culture of corruption from a culture of greed?

  11. hating_phonies_yves

    Yves,

    have read the blog for a while, so I apologize if you’ve addressed this before…but how the hell can you demonize so many firms/people for being driven by greed/money when you worked for the top consulting firm and then say you left for a “third tier” firm because the pay was double? OBVIOUS hypocrisy…. no one is perfect. But while I do feel many of the “liberal” causes you champion, you seem to be like most/all liberal elites who talk about large issues.. and then perfrom highly over-paid work that does NOTHING to make the better world you seek… if I’m way off base PLEASE let me know.. but if not… you forever have lost credibility with me and hopefully (and probably) many of your readers if my analysis is correct

  12. hating_phonies_yves

    UPDATE: found out you really are Susan Webber, work for Aurora and do work for all the financial elites you decry.

    One of the saddest moments possibly in my life (not in the same sense of my relatives dieing) but like in terms of the fact that intellectual people might actually try to change the system? TRULY shocked and disappointed :(

    I am graduating college, have passed up big-time I-Banking job and am doing top-tier consutling since it MAY help with me starting companies and being an entrepreneur who creates companeis who change the world… and working on a start-up.. we’ll see what happens.. and i’m not perfect, but intellectually i struggle to see what can be done to make capitalism, this country, and the middle-class succeed.. and you are a complete shame to the cause

    you have my email. would love a personal email for guidance on this issue. I doubt you will ahve the courage to reply.. but please do if you can

    1. Skippy

      Many here (regulars esp.) have known for years…sigh…I speak in her stead, but, reformer comes to mind. If this is the full extent of your deductive prowess, powers of observation, I fear for your future endeavors.

      Skippy…hell she worked for Goldman Sachs in the loin cloth, club your women days. AAI has always been at the bottom.

    2. psychohistorian

      Grasshopper, please read and learn. You are evidently young and perhaps pure of moral exchange within society for your lifetime so far or something of a delusionist.

      Please rail against the unfairness of society for a few years, or decades and then maybe think of the wisdom of throwing stones at someone who is throwing stones the same direction as you.

      namaste

    3. Random Commenter

      I think you are right to be leery. I’ve always thought that the main attraction of this blog though is the quality of the comments section.

      While still bad, the big banks of the 70s and 80s were relatively tame placed compared to today. And people who worked there are not monolithic and some changed. For example, Michael Hudson worked for Chase and acquired a lot of insider knowledge from it that would go on to make his economics very robust. We still need more systems thinking, which even Michael Hudson is not particularly good at (limiting himself mainly to the world of economics).

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