“Wall Street had been doing business with pieces of paper; and now someone asked for a dollar, and it was discovered that the dollar had been mislaid. It was an experience for which the captain of industry were not entirely prepared; they had forgotten the public. It was like some great convulsion of nature, which made mockery of all the powers of men, and left the beholder dazed and terrified. In Wall Street men stood as if in a valley, and saw far above them the starting of an avalanche; they stood fascinated with horror, and watched it gathering headway; saw the clouds of dust rising up, and heard the roar of it swelling, and realized it was only a matter of time before it swept them to their destruction…
But it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair, The Moneychangers
“You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the grace of the eternal God, I will rout you out.” – Andrew Jackson
It was discovered that in all that blizzard of corruption, and the paper that covered it up, that the very basis of the value of things had been ‘mislaid.’ And then the deluge came.
If you listen to the reasoning of ‘free market’ types, and their paid mouthpieces and demagogues, this kind of thing could not happen, because companies, being rational and focused on the long term, would not allow tainted meat with their name on it to be sold into the markets.
They would not risk the lawsuits, and damage to their reputations. It is a similar argument that holds that financial markets need only light regulations because people will manage their own behaviour for the ultimate good, with almost perfect rational and altruistic self-constraint.
But alas, we know this is not true, as anyone who ever travels on a major highway can tell you. People and their tendencies to greed and careless stupidity require a certain association of people for their common good, to take on not only large tasks with common and broad benefits to the pubic, but also in order for the majority to protect themselves from criminals, cheats, sociopaths, and plain old ignorant selfishness. This is why societies establish police and fire departments, and have health laws, for example. Continue reading