Bill Black: NYT DealBook Praises Steve Jobs’ Serial Felonies

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By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives

I have been attempting the vain act of trying to embarrass the New York Times’ DealBook feature into dropping its ethics-free reportage of elite financial crimes.  I have had so little success that today’s James Stewart column reached the pinnacle of unintentional self-parody of DealBook’s zealous efforts to remove any concept of ethics from its reportage of elite white-collar crime.  The substance of piece is reporting that Steve Jobs “was a walking antitrust violation.”  Stewart focuses on the cartel Jobs formed with other giant firms to fix (and suppress) employees’ salaries.

But the title of the piece takes the fact that Jobs was a serial felon who caused great harm to employees and preforms a remarkable transformation in which he is praised as “Steve Jobs, a Genius at Pushing Boundaries.”  “Pushing boundaries” is DealBook’s euphemism for Jobs’ crimes that he committed in order to make the already spectacularly wealthy CEO even wealthier – at the direct expense of his employees.  And, this being DealBook, and James Stewart being what Stewart has descended to, we have the inevitable claim that Jobs was a “genius” at crime.  But it turns out that if you consider the facts reported; he wasn’t a genius.  His violations of anti-trust law were obvious crimes.  Instead, his key characteristic was the one we always emphasize is critical about the most fraudulent CEOs – audacity.  Jobs had gotten away with committing so many crimes that he came to believe he was immune from prosecution.

At this stage in the story, Stewart obviously had to explore at least four ethical issues to explain to readers the significance of Jobs’ crimes.  The first issue was the unique danger created by the fact that greed is insatiable.  It did not matter how much a plutocrat Jobs became – he always wanted more and was happy to engage in brazen crimes to make him wealthier.  The second issue is that he was willing to commit crimes that made him wealthier at the direct expense of his employees.  Third, CEOs set the ethical “tone at the top” and when the CEO is a crook he sets a corrupt tone at the top that encourages the employees to commit other crimes and unethical acts that would boost their pay.  Fourth, the CEOs of Apple’s top rivals agreed to commit the same cartel felonies as Jobs.  This created a “Gresham’s” dynamic that helps other ethical firms (or potential entrants) out of the markets.

As you knew, because it was DealBook and because of the title of Stewart’s column, the column exemplifies the DealBook’s deliberate policy of excluding discussions of the ethical and business implications of elite fraud committed with impunity. This is particularly awkward, if logical consistency were a trait DealBook embraced, given the first sentence of Stewart’s column.  “If Steve Jobs were alive today, should he be in jail?”  Answering the question “should” inherently requires a discussion of ethics.  Stewart, however, is simply being coy – his article never discusses or answers the question he describes as “the provocative question being debated in antitrust circles….”  Nor does Stewart ask why that question is being debated “in antitrust circles” rather than in the high tech industry.

But it gets worse, for DealBook states that Jobs “was deeply revered in Silicon Valley.”  The fact that Silicon Valley “deeply revere[s]” a serial felon who targeted workers (globally, see my prior columns on China) and shareholders (he secretly backdated stock options in an effort to make himself even wealthier) should be deeply disturbing, even to Deal Book.  (I joke: if DealBook had appeared as a character in The Wizard of Oz it would have simultaneously represented “no brain, no heart, no ethics, and no courage.”)  Jobs’ CEO counterparts knew about his serial crimes because they were conspiring with him to form the cartel suppressing workers’ wages and because his backdating scam was made public.

We should also stress that Microsoft was found to have violated the antitrust laws (the Bush administration deliberately gutted the remedy for those violations of the law) and that Robert Tillman’s (a prominent white-collar criminologist) empirical work has found that high tech firms were particularly likely to have engaged in accounting and securities fraud.  That requires a hard look at Silicon Valley’s culture.  While Ayn Rand, von Mises, and von Hayek all stressed the evil of elite fraud and the legitimate, and vital role of the government in acting to deter and punish such frauds, the culture of Silicon Valley is increasingly dominated by wealthy libertarians who are far more radical in their hostility to democratic government, their disdain for ethics, and their opposition to the government preventing fraud.  The “Kristallnacht” lunacy is a perfect example of the depraved culture that can emerge when you mix the worst strands of Silicon Valley’s and finance’s contempt for ethics into a single package.

Ethics remains forbidden ground at DealBook.  Here’s my question: do its writers have to be told not to discuss ethics, or are they chosen so well that there’s no need to tell them?  Are Silicon Valley and DealBook so desperate that they cannot find an honest CEO to revere?

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  1. Beppo

    Not at all a surprise coming from the bootlickers of the NYtimes. Good post.

    Which anti-trust penalties were changed under the Bush admin?

    1. YankeeFrank

      He is referring to the microsoft anti-trust case brought under Clinton that was scuttled by W.

  2. doug

    From “Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among Us” by Dr. Robert D. Hare:

    “Psychopaths have a narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the center of the universe, as superior beings who are justified in living according to their own rules. “It’s not that I don’t follow the law,” said one of our subjects. “I follow my own laws. I never violate my own rules.” She then described these rules n terms of “looking out for number one.” (p. 38)

    …psychopaths are not completely unresponsive to the myriad rules and taboos that hold
    society together. After all, they are not automatons, blindly responding to momentary needs, urges, and opportunities. It is just that they are much freer than the rest of us to pick and choose the rules and restrictions they will adhere to…. In sharp contrast, the psychopath carries out his evaluation of a situation—what he will get out of it and what cost—without the usual anxieties, doubts, and concerns about being humiliated, causing pain, sabotaging future plans, in short, the infinite possibilities that people of conscience consider when deliberating possible actions. For those of us who have been successfully socialized, imagining the world as the psychopath experiences it is close to impossible. (p.78)

    1. allcoppedout

      One of the scary things is we aren’t trained to spot and deal with psychopaths. Hare points out that the psychopaths are three times more likely to convince parole boards they can be let go to commit further crime. I’ve watch video of this and social workers doing their thing with clients. There’s a two way suckering you can see. The official side can be seen getting in to a smug help mode and you can then spot the psycho doing his or her thing, feigning intimacy and the desire to bond with the bureaucrat to adopt self-determined routes to better health and respect for others. There are similar vicious circles in our relations with demagogues. I’ve even had stuff from social workers where they thought what they were doing was best practice I might be interested in using in training that was, in fact, ‘how not too’. Courts often have no clue, even inviting mad expert witnesses who convince juries not to believe their eyes. One has no idea which side the psycho will turn up on, or what bit of such might arise in self. Transparency usually deals with a psycho, a bit like direct sunlight and a vampire. And where is transparency at its lowest? Politics and finance.

  3. Carolinian

    And don’t forget Jobs’ penchant for parking in handicapped parking spaces–a petty as well as grand scale lawbreaker.

    In truth our elites are Leona Helmsleys at heart….”getting away with it” a status marker.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The Bull Connors of the world always expose themselves, and Jobs was one. His opportunities and environment allowed him to not appear extreme. The problem is still the “white moderate,” most Obots who have confused superficial attributes with human decency.

      2. nony mouse

        a friend I once had used to say “A**holes Always Advertise!”

        he meant it about copious bumper stickers, but it fits here.

    1. phichibe

      Carolinian, you stole my post. I shared this tidbit on several computer industry insider websites in the week after Jobs died and found almost no one tried to defend him. Ironically, when I posted the same info on a musician website when the Apple fanboys there got too cringe-inducingly lacrimose over the demise of St. Steven, I was attacked for besmirching an icon (pun intended). The truth is that Jobs was a thug and a bully, and he was so known in the Valley by the late 80s, at least. The most nauseating encomium to Jobs was Walter Isaacson’s comparison of him to Thomas Edison, based on the number of patents and patent applications on which Jobs’ name appeared (over 300 IIRC). While Edison is reputed to have claimed credit for a few inventions based on the work of his underlings, EVERYTHING Jobs was credited with was realized by others; a patent is not awarded for an idea but for a realization that is non-obvious, etc. Jobs may have had ideas for what he wanted but that in no way entitled him to share the invention credit. In fact, (Sir) Jonny Ives (Apple’s design/look and feel guru) was sufficiently incensed by Jobs’ egomania and theft of credit that he openly discussed it in several post-mortems (literally) that came after ol’ Steve’s ashes were scattered over whatever piece of expensive real-estate he chose for the honor.

      And I haven’t even mentioned the daughter whose paternity he denied for years and who lived on AFDC (before Clinton gutted it, obviously) before Steve bowed to the DNA tests. Or his bribing his way to the top of the liver transplant lists. The list is really endless. Pick up a copy of Robert Cringely’s book Accidental Empires to get more details. A true douche.


      1. LifelongLib

        Edison was in part responsible for driving the movie industry to California by his practice of sending thugs around the East Coast to make sure every movie camera (one of the inventions he stole) had a license from him. The comparison to Jobs (and certain other computer moguls) is more apt than maybe was intended.

  4. dearieme

    Black’s piece is completely persuasive. But it also shows the worthlessness of a State that won’t prosecute and punish such crimes.

    “And don’t forget Jobs’ penchant for parking in handicapped parking spaces”: decades ago I read an article by a psychologist who argued that all such petty criminals should be investigated – there was a high chance that they’d perpetrated more serious crimes too. But actual real police forces, as distinct from the heroes of fiction, would abuse that power too.

    1. allcoppedout

      You won’t find much defence of actual real police forces from me, other than that the rest of the legal system is worse. Most of the crooks nicked are sad rather than bad, but we don’t seem to be able to do anything about the “respectable” offenders. Courtrooms themselves are highly irrational places that can be relied on to produce little truth and plenty of fees. Psychopaths create an environment for their own success and the amazing thing is the extent of the damage they are prepared to do to others to get what they want. I seriously think people like Jobs have done something like selling whiskey and guns to tribes beyond our city gates, Democracy is all but gone.

  5. allcoppedout

    Jobs was a piece of work all right. I suspect all US companies of any size of competing on hidden subsidies and destroying quality and security of work life. I don’t mean that in an anti-American way – we are all at it if we get the chance. What really tips a company into a highly successful market position? Michael Porter’s BS? Having Mommy on the board you need to adopt your product? A key contract with the CIA? Jobs was in equal parts insightful, vicious, and delusional. It is difficult to know how we end up with leaders like this. The lack of ethics starts way down the road. Moving manufacturing offshore and expanding financial services, tax dodging and looting are a combination of piracy and treason. My deep guess is that leadership is per se unethical unless substantially controlled. the problem may well be us pathetic followers,

    1. Thor's Hammer

      Now if you are a Democrat you’d be arguing “but Bill Gates was an even more ruthless thief, so we should be proud of our membership in the Apple nation.” Sound familiar?

  6. Ulysses

    The kleptocrats know no shame. The more they “push the boundaries,” the less they are satisfied with the fruits of their crimes and begin to lust after new looting opportunities.

    We will not succeed in shaming the kleptocrats into reform. Yet, like all bullies, the kleptocrats are also cowards. We need to make them fear our wrath!!

  7. worker-owner

    Bill nails it. You need to interview Woz (co-founder) or Andy (the guy who did the original Mac OS and then ask yourself whether Mr. Wonderful (Jobs) bothered to take care of anyone but himself.

  8. Banger

    Guys like Jobs are real heroes to most Americans precisely because they don’t recognize limits and thus can innovate and remove barriers for the rest of us and if he has to bend the rules, so be it. In the same way, Wall Street operatives, functionaries of the national security state and so on believe they can break the rules for the greater good. The U.S. can break the Geneva Conventions on War just because it means well–that’s enough to excuse torture, mass killings of civilians, ignoring international boundaries and U.N. resolutions and so on and so on.

    Contrast the ethic that has emerged starting with the Dirty Harry movies with the ethic of Gunsmoke–Matt Dillon was willing to risk his life to go by the letter of the law to bring men to justice even if he was certain they were guilty–he risked his life for the Law. This idea of being a nation of laws rather than men has largely disappeared in American jurisprudence. We have a law for the Jobs and Gates and Dimons and so on and so on and we have laws for all the class levels of society depending on jurisdiction.

    We see in the U.S. not just the drive towards neofeudalism on the part of the rich who want to supplant the Federal Gov’t as the supreme power of the land but also this urge is reflected by the public’s tolerance of authoritarian practices as long as these practices are done by the “good guys.” So torture is fine for the majority of Americans as long as it is “our” people doing the torturing since, we assume, they live their lives and risk their lives to protect us–the reality is far more complex and disturbing.

    1. Thor's Hammer

      Just spent a week back in liberal maharaja-smoking Washington state. Camped on an island in the northern part of the state where I couldn’t get to sleep until midnight because of all the night raid take-off exercises from Oak Harbor naval airbase. Just to the south the Everett aircraft carrier support home port. And across the bay from idyllic ultra-liberal Port Townsend all the nuclear warheads for the Trident submarines are stored— enough to still destroy the world several times over.

      Whoever said “the business of America is Business” was wrong. The business of America is War. Now that we have rehabilitated the Russian Bear as an enemy after the Bearded Cave Dweller had outlived his usefulness we can look forward to another cycle of prosperity in Americas’ Business.

    1. Vatch

      Good catch. Normally, just about everything that Bill Black says is true and valuable. I wonder what caused this slip up? Lack of sleep, perhaps?

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      She sort of did, but as with anything by Rand*, it was deranged. The whole train issue was the uncreative elite were stealing not just from Galt but the users of the train. None of her tripe made much sense. I think the magical libertarian arguments about how accountability for the wealthy would work are found in her blather. The world was being denied clean and abundant energy because no one was questioning the all powerful bureaucrats.

      *She did recognize Greenspan as a talentless social climber, so I guess everyone has a positive attribute except possibly Greenspan.

    3. Gerard Pierce

      Actually, most of our elites who praise Ayn Rand are successfully able to ignore important parts of what she said. Remember that she was totally against most government, and she called those who made their money from government looters and moochers.

      By definition, Rand Paul is a looter and moocher because of his government paycheck. The same applies to our Randians in business who make their money by bribing our representatives and selling to the government.

      Rand was capable of ignoring her own “philosophy” when the looters and moochers were politically powerful and when she thought she could use them.

      1. rur42

        when the looters and moochers were politically powerful and when she thought she could use them..

        And when she needed gov’t services herself. “Rand also believed that the scientific consensus on the dangers of tobacco was a hoax. By 1974, the two-pack-a-day smoker, then 69, required surgery for lung cancer. And it was at that moment of vulnerability that she succumbed to the lure of collectivism.”,_but_grabbed_social_security_and_medicare_when_she_needed_them

        1. allcoppedout

          I would like to write a best-selling right wing novel whilst pretending to be a Russian mystic. But just imagine the friends you’d get!

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            We don’t have to imagine, we already know! Alan Greenspan was a Rand devotee, so I imagine it was an odious group.

            1. allcoppedout

              I take it you know I would declare the hoax and give the money to a decent charity at some point. I never know how these freaks organise their groups. I sometimes think some kind of Hell Fire Club is involved.

              1. NotTimothyGeithner

                As to how they organize, the GOP operation itself has been pretty tech savvy over the years contrary to the vaunted stories about social media. Talk radio, email lists, drudge,red state, and so on, the GOP operation is always on the lookout for the next Conservative fear/hate monger because they need the fresh emotional ROAR to keep interest. The GOP has been on the ball. They keep better voting lists. Terry MacAuliffe as DNC chair made the switch to modern voter data bases in 2001. The GOP had already rigged electronic voting machines.

                They do a better job organizing their people to. I think Bill Clinton pointed out that Democrats fall in love and don’t really grasp commitment. The GOP gets this and makes sure to tend to their activists. Didn’t some donor buy half of Palin’s book sales despite her being a loser? The GOP needs energized grumps, and casting off Ollie North’s, Hucklebee’s, the 14 year old kid who saw a video of Reagan, and the brunette on Crossfire would make people reconsider producing these absurd diatribes. The GOP supports them and creates an environment to promote this. Boehner would never denounce a Republican voice as too right wing until well after they caused a problem. No Republican would, partially because this is how they function. Palin was an obvious clod, and Kailey Bay Hutchinson sang her praises despite her obvious discomfort back in 08. Democrats will denounce anyone who dares to suggest they could be doing a better job.

                Their college organizing program is better. They monitor their underlings for talent.

                They have been doing this for years. American economics schools are pretty much GOP propaganda outlets, and they had these book clubs in the 1950’s which let them organize in a way to both find future front men and disseminate. If you wanted to search through the archives of the Orange Satan, I’m sure you can find more on this. They have had decent articles despite their descent into madness, or at least, they use to.

                1. allcoppedout

                  We have something a bit like this here, mostly at Oxbridge and our Russell Group universities. Obviously the press is bent too on terms of who manages it.

                  I was thinking more in terms of how criminal networks form. But interesting anyway.

                  1. NotTimothyGeithner

                    Criminal cartels? Supply and demand. The American mob grew because someone had to run booze during prohibition, and the organization’s which morphed into or were consumed by were in some ways quasi-police/government operations, really structure, where large portions of the disaffected lived or couldn’t count on the existing government so they had to make it up.

                    The Russian mob exploded because they provided a service of sorts in the chaos of Yeltsin. The IRA had to commit traditional crimes to continue their other campaign. The gangs of America are tribal fraternities in dead communities.

            2. Ping

              About 5 minutes into this program ‘The Warning’ is footage of Ayn Rand in an anti government rant along with documentation about her relationship to devotee Allen Greenspan who declared he did not intend to regulate against banking/financial market fraud…..that the market would clear the transactions, even the black box opaque rigged ones.

              The whole program is worth watching….the demise of Brooksly Born against the Greenspan, Rubin, Summers Geitner crew. Scroll down to the arrow on the Time Magazine cover

  9. allcoppedout

    I have to say one gets tired of body-on-the-line stuff as a cop. One quickly realises this mostly occurs because bosses have spent the body armour money on champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries. Banger’s right on the change in literature. One of the most famous expositions (i.e. known to two philosophers) of this was this:
    Walzer, Michael, 1973, “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands”, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2 (2): 160–180.

    I only mention the paper to note the date. And, more in keeping with the literature aspect is this:
    Anthony Trollope’s novel, ‘The Way We Live Now’, is a biting critique of the corruption of late Victorian morals. The shallow Lady Carbury, at one point voices her conviction that the praiseworthy deeds of the powerful escape the normal categories of morality. Commenting on the character of the novel’s dominant figure, the grand swindler Melmotte, she says to her journalist friend Mr. Booker:

    “If a thing can be made great and beneficent, a boon to humanity, simply by creating a belief in it, does not a man become a benefactor to his race by creating that belief?”

    “At the expense of veracity?” suggested Mr. Booker.

    “At the expense of anything?” rejoined Lady Carbury with energy. “One cannot measure such men by the ordinary rule.”

    “You would do evil to produce good?” asked Mr. Booker.

    “I do not call it doing evil….You tell me this man may perhaps ruin hundreds, but then again he may create a new world in which millions will be rich and happy.”

    “You are an excellent casuist, Lady Carbury.”

    “I am an enthusiastic lover of beneficent audacity,” said Lady Carbury…

    Plus ca change?

    1. Kokuanani

      “The Way We Live Now,” one of my FAVORITE novels, by my most favorite author, Anthony Trollope. The tv version of it, starring David Suchet as Melmotte, is wonderful, although still not as captivating as the book.

      Thanks for the reference.

  10. Jim Shannon

    Malignant Narcissists have corrupted Our World. They are the entitled CentaMillionaire$ and Billionaire$ who manipulate the 99% for FUN. A GAME of corruption where they are allowed to ignore THE LAW.
    Clearly, the last 6 years has proven this MAXIM – you can’t sue a Billion Dollar$ – something the government has allowed, and permits Corruption to Reign over America!
    Deregulation was and is championed by our Politicians and we now have a Government by and for the benefit of the CentaMillionaire$ and Billionaire$ and they know it!
    When are the 99% going to wake up and do something for themselves to stop the corruption! Never is the answer, as we are divided by their Corruption and Greed!

  11. Working Class Nero

    Around 17% of the NY Times is owned by former Heavywealth Champion of the World (2010-2013) Carlos Slim from Mexico who recently lost his title to former champion Bill Gates. So i really don’t think your eager reporters are going to make a career for themselves there by denouncing Oligarch Privilege when the second richest man in the world is one of your bosses. In fact this reporter went pretty far by even writing about Jobs in the manner he did and I wouldn’t be too surprised if he is punished for it in one way or another.

    1. allcoppedout

      CEO biographies are nearly all hagiography WCN. One understands most writers are pathetic functionaries of the rich like artists. What I don’t get is that these superheroes cannot really exist. First of all, they should organise succession planning to minimise unexpected needs to replace them – suggesting they are not as irreplaceable as the biographers suggest. And then one finds many examples of the actual leader not be the chosen man and maybe even third or fourth choice and still doing the business (Montgomery is an example, plus the guy who ran Midway). I guess someone might have tried some stats on companies that unexpectedly lost CEOs and subsequent success or under-performance. I’d prefer to shoot a few as an experimental sample. And it could be that organisations are so bad to work for thanks to sods like Jobsy, that even firms like Apple hold back real creativity and innovation.

      1. Working Class Nero

        In certain conditions, the choice of a CEO and a military commander makes a huge difference. But these conditions are typically non-zero sum or early in a military conflict. For example at the end of WW2 it really made little difference whether it was Montgomery or Eisenhower or any other nobody since it was a pretty simple attrition situation. In the start of the war though it made all the difference whether a Guderian, de Gaulle, Liddell-Hart was influencing the strategic decisions.

        In business as in war, the key to success is actually the complete opposite of what most people believe. The key to winning a battle is to avoid fighting it. The key to making tons of money is to find a monopolistic advantage and to then exploit it to the hilt. Competition and free market are for suckers who believe the garbage they are taught in MBA schools.

        Peter Thiel puts it best:

        Generally speaking, capitalism and competition are better seen as antonyms than as synonyms. To compete isn’t what you should set out to do. That doesn’t mean you should slack off. To succeed you probably need to work intensely. But you should work on something that others aren’t doing. That is, focus on an area that’s not zero-sum.

        Sometimes, though, you need to compete. Monopoly is the theoretical ideal that you should always pursue. But you won’t always find some non-competitive, cornucopian world. You may well find yourself in competitive, zero-sum situations. You must be prepared to handle that competition.

        The ideal is a general who wins the war by minimizing the number of battles he fights and a CEO who gets rich by avoiding competition with other firms. Carlos Slim and Bill Gates are obvious examples of where in non zero-sum business situations, individual brilliance is everything. Once you get to an attrition war or competitive business situation, the individual qualities of the leader become much less important.

        1. allcoppedout

          Leadership stuff tends to be written in retrospect and often is just puff – like Julius Caesar invading Britain in 53BC when he actually failed to get his lads on the boat. Organisations, as you say, have life-cycles. I doubt leadership is what we think it is at all.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            True. Julius Caesar did win often enough to get to write the history, and the system he replaced wasn’t exactly a noble republic. 99% of people saw improvement under his adopted heir and probably would have seen it earlier if March was more forgiving, maybe not in Gaul. Wasn’t most of t He slaughter in Switzerland anyway?

            Ike’s rapid rise was due to civilians seeing the effects of tanks in Spain and finding out the US Army had turned our tank division over to a crank named Patton. Eisenhower was the next senior officer in an not fit for castoffs. The threat of war weeded out a number of our losers. Admirals tend to be better, but the idiots have opportunities to sink ships which can’t happen to a parade general.

            The Duke of Wellington was a minor commander of sorts with the wrong last name for the time who wound up never losing while the elite of the British Army were obliterated left and right.

  12. Globus Pallidus XI

    Ultimately it’s mostly about demographics. The solution to this corruption is to have a tight labor market – which is why the rich are so desperate for an immigration ‘reform’ that will give the United States a population of over a billion in one or at most two generations (that is not hyperbole). A flooded labor market does not just lower wages, it also gives the rich the social power of a Chinese emperor. These willfully self-blind journalists are, I suspect, mostly self policing.

    Consider a journalist in a tight labor market. The journalist’s skills are valued and in short supply. If the owner of a newspaper or media outlet insists that the journalist print something false or misleading because it is to the advantage of a rich friend, the journalist could simply quit in protest and easily find another job at a competing institution, leaving the offending institution without a valuable talent. Now consider a journalist in a flooded labor market. The journalist is frantic to stay employed, knows that if they get fired they are unlikely to find another job, that losing a job is likely a permanent ticket to poverty, and they have a family to support. Now the owner wants something printed: it gets printed. If not, there is no loss to the institution: talent is in abundant supply, the journalist gets fired and is easily replaced with a more accommodating one of equal ability. With everyone in the same situation, a culture of obeisance to power becomes ingrained and accepted as normal.

    Certainly demand for labor can be increased by not having such a corrupt financial system, and investing in the real economy and not financial speculation, but as Keynes and so many others have pointed out, even under optimal circumstances the ability of flesh and blood human beings to create wealth faster than rapid population growth is limited and no society without an open frontier has ever developed prosperity without first moderating population growth. And unions never make gains unless labor is first in short supply and thus intrinsically valuable.

    Until journalists can stand up to power without losing their job meaning a sentence of lifetime poverty, expect this situation to continue.

    1. Banger

      For reporters to make it big they not only have to lie but do so enthusiastically.

    2. flora

      The quality decline of news reporting at PBS’s The News Hour is a perfect example.

    3. guest

      The solution to this corruption is to have a tight labor market.

      Will not work for most industry and many services. If the labor market is perceived as durably too tight, offshoring ensues.

      1. Podargus

        Offshoring is not inevitable.It can be stopped by regulation.
        The only inevitability in this life is death.

      2. Working Class Nero

        True, which is why the emphasis has to be on protecting borders. Protecting citizens from both in-shoring workers and off-shoring jobs. Unfortunately, in very rough terms the progressive-left understands the danger of off-shoring jobs and the paleo-right understands the danger of in-shoring cheap labor. Liberals and Libertarians don’t understand (or want to understand) either threat. But the partisan boxes that people jam themselves into keeps most from coming up with the fairly obvious conclusion that a sovereign nation needs to regulate BOTH the importation of cheap labor and cheap products.

        1. sd

          why off shore when another state will offer tax incentives or abarements to lure indutry from another state where wages are higher? everywhere you look is a race to the bottom.

  13. Rosario

    The “great innovator” Jobs (and the Institution of Apple for that matter) show the power of marketing and brilliant lawyers. Particularly when adequately bankrolled.

  14. Jake Mudrosti

    The important questions posed in the last paragraph deserve some lasting attention.

    I’ve been seeking answers to similar questions since the summer of 2003. It was then, during a local day hike, that I had a long and increasingly fraught conversation with Dr. Sara Baase, author of an ethics textbook used in many Computer Science departments:

    It was shocking enough to hear her effusive praise for Ayn Rand. But what really stunned me was her effusive praise for the high-tech American invasion of Iraq. She actually claimed that the then-12-year-old Ali Abbas (this boy:–abc-news-topstories.html) served as proof of the pernicious impact of Islamic indoctrination.

    For you see, according to Dr. Baase, his obvious lack of joy at being liberated by the American invasion proved that his religious upbringing had blinded him to the “real” event of 2003: his gift of freedom. Instead, due to his indoctrination, he allowed himself to dwell on irrelevant superficial details such as the loss of his limbs and family members — as reflected in his sad face.

    During a later day hike, Dr. Baase nodded approvingly as her husband explained that his brief Peace Corp stay in Tunisia had taught him how “they” think (yes, he used the word “they” while in fact referring to the Iraqi people). In brief: “they” can only feel happy in life if one condition is met: “they” must sense that they have a dominant, “powerful” leader. Therefore, the American shock-and-awe paradigm was optimally chosen.

    I think this is too crucial to let it drop out of the main discussion. Let it not be forgotten that this is an author of a much-used textbook on ethics in Computer Science.

    More recent discussions with demonstrably ignorant, demonstrably delusional members of an American Association of Physics Teachers Listserv group have added to my understanding of the weighty questions posed in Bill Black’s last paragraph here.
    It’d take a blog-length post to do it justice. Some of my Listserv posts, which had included citations & quotes from primary sources, led some subscribers to reply to my personal email (i.e., off of the Listserv discussion). Of such messages, all agreed that I needed to figuratively zip my mouth shut & get out of town, before I literally harmed Science. (Compare: Larry Summers: “Insiders don’t criticize other insiders”)

    Separately, I found myself mostly stonewalled and eventually ignored when I submitted basic questions to Google/YouTube regarding their heavy promotion of certain demonstrably false “educational” content at “YouTube EDU” — this is a subset of YouTube content that has received heavy corporate-level promotion for use in classrooms and by self-learners.

    As I said, it’d take a blog-length post to do each of these issues some justice.

    1. Cyclist

      It is shocking that the Baase book, a 500 page paperback in its 4th edition, is selling for $90! As if college students didn’t have enough financial worries.

  15. seabos84

    some old stuff … pre 2008 is my only hint.

    “They look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft, and therefore seldom fail to punish it with death; for they allege, that care and vigilance, with a very common understanding, may preserve a man’s goods from thieves, but honesty hath no fence against superior cunning; and since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, where fraud is permitted and connived at, or hath no law to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage.”

    “…I said there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves.”

  16. Vatch

    Going back even farther in time, in Dante’s Inferno, the worst sinners are the fraudulent and the treacherous, who are confined to the eighth and ninth circles of Hell.

    1. Vatch

      This was meant to be a response to seabos84’s comment. Oh well, I guess it also works as a standalone comment.

  17. President Costanza

    Articles like this are why I keep coming back to Naked Capitalism. We, as a society, our conditioned to venerate the corporate class even when they are felons. Just call it the American version of the “Golden Rule” (“he who owns the Gold makes the rules”). Consequently, its nice to read a blog tell the truth about our economic elites.

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