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Thursday
Sep062012

Atlas Schmuck

If there is one word that invalidates Ayn Rand's blubbering worship of individual achievement, it would be "exposure". It is a term used in the investment and finance worlds, describing the vulnerability a portfolio, institution or industry can endure in times of uncertainty. It conveys a relative link between two parties that can chain react adversely throughout entire industries, even economies. It wields no stoic or heroic connotation--unlike the feigned bravery of Ayn Rand's discourse.

How ironic that it is a word used or applied by her most influential, most well-known acolyte: former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

He used the term whenever updating the US government on the state of the economy. Pointedly, he used it when making the case to bail out hedge fund Long Term Capital Markets back in Sept. 1998. Failure to prop it up would have caused the collapse of several sovereign economies. That is interdependence at work.

Day in and day out, the market--that oracle of capitalist virtue--bears this out. Trouble in Iran sends oil futures through the roof, spiking the price of gas; Greek debt turbulance reverberates throughout the bond market.

Think of the mortgage securities meltdown: if those toxic investments had stayed with the originator of the loan, the damage would have  remained localized to a region, even possibly within a few industries.  It wasn't the case, here. They were sold to pension funds, mutual funds  and various other institutional investors who saw their assets circle the drain of the hemorrhaging pools of loans. This explains why lots of individual 401ks took such a devastating hit: because of their exposure to the high-risk mortgage assets.

Take reality at the interpersonal level--there are any number of factors that shape how much success an individual can achieve: personal aptitude, financial status, quality of education, social mobility, economic enviromment are just a few. Because some have achieved much working against the greatest odds, it is deeply naive to argue that all can--and stupid to call lazy, those who can't.

President Obama was right to give the business world a reality check--no, you didn't build that (on your own)--as was candidate for US Senate, Elizabeth Warren, when she spoke of a "social contract" businesses enter when launching and operating. They benefit from an infrastructure and labor pool all citizens and businesses pay into through taxes.

Former President Bill Clinton, speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last night, made the case for cooperation far more succinctly: we're in this together if the whole country is to succeed again.

Leaders like Republican VP nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, should take responsibility for arguing otherwise: you're on your own (words, by the way, never uttered to corporate welfare recipients like oil and defense industries). They have no interest in the whole country succeeding. Like Ayn Rand, they're caught up in the adolescent fantasy of living in a world that bends to the force of their individual wills.

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Reader Comments (1)

Oh, give me a fucking break. This is anti-intellectual crap. Clearly you have no ability of understanding any literature, and you do not understand Ayn Rand or Atlas Shrugged at all.

January 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIsaac

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