The 5% Factor in Finance

I had a conversation with my former financial advisor when the markets were crashing back in ‘08. I asked him to give me an estimate, his best, ostensibly educated guess when the market might turn around or at least stabilize. He assured me it would be soon. The credit default scandal had already been exposed. Real estate foreclosures had been assessed and the projected losses factored in to financial projections. The fact is, he offered with conviction, in any industry one had to account for a certain amount of corruption. Maybe 5% of the people in any given field were evil. The evil had now been weeded out and the markets would bounce back to its mean of 8 to 10% growth or better annually very soon.

Turns out, evil abounds in the financial industry. From Bernie Madoff to AIG to JP Morgan Chase and their corporate cronies with 7, 8 figure bonuses; to banks and mortgage brokers hording stimulus funds, my advisor had to be grossly low on his 5% estimate of evil in finance. 

According to forensic psychologist and author Robert Hare, it is possible, even likely, that the percentage of evil is greater in the financial industry than most any other field. Money attracts greedy people. Those who choose a career pursuing money, instead of building, inventing, engineering, teaching, are generally looking for what they can get from society instead of what they can give to it. In Snakes in Suits, Mr. Hare claims at least 10% of all those in finance are psychopaths.

The 5% (or more) who callously exploit the rest of us is what makes the free-market system they purport a myth. That 5% evil controls 95% of the financial markets of the world. The enormous scale of capital they play with has proven to collapse economies, robbing millions of their life savings, their jobs, their homes.

Most of us put our earnings in the bank or the market and hope our savings will go up. We depend on those in charge of most everyone’s money to know what they’re doing and manage the money we entrust to them wisely. Most of us don’t have the time or inclination for in-depth study and monitoring of the markets. Even if we did, it is rarely possible to get an intimate and transparent view inside most corporations. We rely on our government to monitor the SEC and avoid financial catastrophes. The Bush administration is an example of what happens when they don’t.

A 'free-market' system strives to maintain very few restrictions, touting supply and demand will regulate economics. And though this is a lovely idea, like communism, it doesn’t work in the real world. The economy collapses when demand is only from the [wealthy] 1% of the population that can afford anything. Public companies with no limits on growth, minimal regulations, limited liability and lack of transparency virtually invite exploitation by the small, but none the less formidable percentage of evil. Our 'free-market' invariably becomes controlled by a small minority who represent only their own interests. This corrupts the entire society by shifting the balance of power to a handful of narcissists, if not out and out psychopaths, as Robert Hare claims.

Republicans and conservatives threaten socialism if the government regulates the markets beyond ‘protection of property and against force or fraud.’ But everyone pays the price for the 5% that continually redefine the term ‘fraud.’ The 5% evil at AIG, and more recently JP Morgan Chase that took ridiculous risks for excessive short term yields to line their pockets continue to send shock waves throughout our financial industry and beyond. And the fact is, it IS socialism when taxpayers are forced to bail out banks and brokers who were, and are still indifferent to the suffering they cause—the very definition of 'Psychopath.'

We will never be able to ‘weed out’ evil from humanity. A certain percentage of our population will always be narcissists, care exclusively about their own welfare over the society in which they live. Regulations on our financial industry must be imposed and upheld to keep evil in-check, and limit the damage the 5% factor will surely cause again and again. We are more than willing to put sanctions on countries that support terrorism. If we are truly 'by the people, of the people and for the people' of this nation, we must sanction the evil in our system as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wall Street has blinded Washington as well. Dodd-Frank was supposed to be a control on the financial industry, it is being rendered toothless by a Congress controlled by Wall Street lobbyists. We fought a war over taxation without representation, we are gradually slipping back in to the lack of representation part, where is the anger?