Not the very model of a modern Money Manager

By now you are probably familiar with the fact that I don’t find Dan Rodricks to be particularly bright, insightful, or generally having any grasp of common sense. And while today’s column does not rival his several treatises on involuntary servitude, Rodricks again shows his complete lack of understanding of the theory of money as it relates to corporate bonuses, hoarding, and the fall of Western Civilization:

It’s not just greed that drives this behavior, though greed is certainly part of it……

There’s something else going on. I call it: hoarding up for the apocalypse.

I have been watching the concentration of wealth in this country accelerate during the past 10 years in particular. The gap between middle class and rich has become wider and wider, and the gap between rich and poor has become so vast as to be immeasurable…..

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Knowing that it wasn’t always so, I’ve tried to figure out why so many millionaires of the corporate class do everything within their power to become multimillionaires and even billionaires, piling on layer after layer of wealth, beyond anything most people can imagine as necessary in a lifetime…..

…Hoarding for the apocalypse calls for belief that the end is coming and that wealth will insulate the wealthy from the misery that will befall the rest of us. (The rest of us might harbor apocalyptic fears, from time to time, but we haven’t figured out what to do about them. We’re wage-earners, for the most part, or the owners of small businesses. We haven’t all that much to hoard – not enough to make a difference, anyway – so we keep working to keep the bills paid and the kids fed.)

The apocalyptic rich have hoarded cash and assets – and they continue to accumulate as much as possible – and they’ve built retreats to allay a deep fear that, when the world starts to fall apart, they will be at the top of a mountain, in a secure compound with its own source of energy and potable water (and a decade’s supply of cabernet), isolated from the screaming, rioting masses.

As the world’s population grows, as the recession expands and unemployment worsens, as the globe continues to warm and the oceans rise, as questions about the future of energy and natural resources become graver, as civil unrest becomes a greater concern, the masters of the universe grab all they can. It’s an Idaho panhandle mentality on Wall Street – hoard money and assets, and enough golf balls to ride out the coming cataclysm. There’s social Darwinism at play in this, to be sure – survival of the richest – but it’s the most cynical and self-centered kind, based not on enterprise or capitalism, but on a dark view of the future. Their concept of the greater good is gone, and they certainly display nothing you might call civic-mindedness or patriotism.

Now, if you follow Rodricks’ logic here, the rich on Wall Street are hoarding money and resources to stave off the collapse of civilization (at least that’s what I think Rodricks means; you’ve got to do a good job of suspending belief in logic and reason because this guy is a few peas short of a casserole).

Now I’m no expert on the end of the world, but I have read Lucifer’s Hammer several times. And in that apocalyptic, post-civilization landscape, the last thing that was of any use to anybody was paper currency or money that was accounted to them in a computer system that was no longer functional. And while the accumulation of resources such as non-perishable food, water, guns, and ammo are important to surviving the end of the world, it’s not exactly like there has been a demonstrable run on most of these things. And what increases there have been in the sales of guns and ammo have more to do with concerns over the Obama Administration’s warped view of the Second Amendment more than it does with an impending breakdown in law and order.

What’s equally absurd is Rodricks assertion that these folks are building such compounds, stocking up on supplies and “upgrading their corporate jets.” It seems like Rodricks imagined these so called trends of the rich while on whatever planet he just checked back in from and didn’t bother to supply one iota of even anecdotal evidence to back up his point. It’s not like there are a multitude of hedge fund managers wandering the streets in Brooks Brothers suits buying ammo, 4 tons of beef jerky, and a subscription to Soldier of Fortune.

Truth be told, I think that Rodricks issue here has little to do with bonuses, survivalism or “the concept of the greater good.” I think that the probleme here is actually jealousy. Dan Rodricks is a hack writer for a failing, increasingly irrelevant newspaper. His tv show stunk. He hosts a show on a radio station nobody listens to. And it’s quite apparent that his ideas for nationalized forced servitude, nationalization of industry, and wealth equalization are mocked and not accepted by the preponderance of the middle and working class readership that see through his shtick. Rodricks probably was the guy who made fun of people in high school who worked hard and paid attention to their studies, and those are the guys getting bonuses. Meanwhile, a guy with no demonstrable skills, original ideas, or clue like Rodricks can’t get ahead and it drives him crazy. Rodricks is living a freaking Morrissey song, and it eats him up.

I’m not going to argue that the bonuses Rodricks rails against are a good idea, good policy, or good public relations for the companies that are or were considering offering them to employees. Companies look silly for offering them, and the Government looks silly for companies receiving government funds to allow them. But to extrapolate and accuse “the rich” of hoarding and preparing for an imagined apocalypse is a bridge too far, and proves that the crackpot ideas being put forth by Dan Rodricks are not to snuff even for an increasingly less relevant Baltimore Sun.


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