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6 Comments
  1. Jeff Nguyen permalink

    I love unpacking euphemisms as you have done here for the financially illiterate like myself.

  2. An earlier version of this article tried (but failed) to incorporate what Chomksy once said, I paraphrased: “How the system works is not a secret. You find the truth told more often in the business press, because (a) that’s where the helpers learn how its done, and (b) the owners are less worried about that audience getting out of hand.”

  3. “When you’re rich they think you really know” (from Fiddler on the Roof)

    That’s why it’s so important that these people are sidetracked, or find a cozy niche (cancer No. 5)
    …as with somniferous TV-style propaganda*, it’s a chicken-and-the-egg thing.
    What came first? – The Emperor in his new clothes, surrounded by sycophants, or wormtongue-type advisers, as in Lord of the Rings, cajoling, suggesting,…pulling the strings?

    (Entirely different topic, similar problem: Good-looking females are in greater danger of developing bad personalities, because people are less likely to put them in their place. It’s been proven that they get better grades for the same achievement. Less of a problem for handsome men BTW; looks matter less there, see for example Esther vilar’s seminal “The manipulated man”, “Der dressierte Mann”)

    * Where it’s so hard to look away. Tabloid-effect. Bill Hicks (about Cops): “I’m like a guy with a sore tooth…I can’t stop touching it.”
    Part of it might be what Eckhard Tolle calls “Pain Body” – a kind of addiction, maybe to distract from our own living-in-the-moment, where we WANT to read bad news. That’s another topic, not for this post, which is about propagandising the rich. Although there’s a story there too. I was sitting with the adviser I mentioned when he took a call from another client, very worried about some news item. Upon hanging up, he confided in me: “Sometimes I wish they’d skip the news and stick to the cultural section of the newspaper.”

  4. Ferdinand permalink

    (by the author of this article, 2 lazy to log in)
    “If you aren’t trying to save the world before you’re thirty, you have no heart. If you’re still trying to save it after that, you have no head.”
    thats the day I decided to shut down my account, sell everything in my portfolio

    That was a glorious day in the Swiss town where I live. I sat in postcard weather overlooking the river, repeating in my mind the meeting I just had with my Private Banker. The procedure of visiting there was always the same. You come in, and there are two doormen, one of whom holds the fort, while the other accompanies one to the lift and presses the right button. A courtesy, of course, but it also makes sure you don’t see the factory floor (where they print the money – just kidding!)
    First time I was there, one of the upper echelons came to say hi. With an attitude I find hard to describe in flattering terms, he told me “Once you’re in with us, you’re…” [I won’t finish the quote. My memory is blurred, and I don’t want to do the man injustice…to me it sounded a lot like some reptilian version of Marlon Brando in the Godfather “we’ll take care of you” …my personal version of this scene may be tainted because there’s a sad aspect to this whole situation, which shall remain omited from this story for now). No doubt he meant well. Just doing his job, welcoming the new kid client.
    First time I met this man was by chance at the airport. My dad said “He’s very important” but refused to explain why. About as useless and creepy as making us kids recite the secret account number when passing the building. I’m not dim-witted, but definitely shy, and certainly slow. Still, I guess one just somehow picks up the message that there’s stuff you don’t ask or talk about. Maybe this is what this Orwell quote means: “a general tacit agreement that it wouldn’t do to mention that particular fact.” http://www.chomsky.info/talks/20100528.htm
    So much for my first contact with secret bank accounts.
    That day of my last meeting I had a long list of questions. My advisor saw it and immediately launched into an extended rant about something that had been in the news. Probably well-meaning, too – trying to create a bond, perhaps? To me it just came seemed arrogant, and a waste of the time I had planned carefully to bring our meeting about what to do with MY wealth to a productive conclusion. Didn’t even get halfway through the questions on my list. Being such a pushover, the meeting ended much like many others – with me thanking the man, and asking him to “Please proceed.”
    What was different on that day, however, was that after the aforementioned sunny postcard-lunch, I went and took the printout of my investments straight to my alternative bank, where we ran through its database of corporations’ ethical track-record. I always thought my portfolio was wholesome. I had made my point on several occasions. Probably in clumsy, foreign terms (“karma”), but hey: client is king! No arms, no pollution, ladida, peace and happiness.
    One particular single case sticks in my mind. I could mention the name, but I don’t want to single out one corporation. I find that distracting, see many other posts in this blog on corporations, mostly under “Side issues” – it’s a whole system! The phrase that tipped the scales was “Company X is listed here for doubtful labour practices and non-medical animal experiments.” Yes, I’m a bleeding heart: it’s the animals that got me. Just to make a new brand of washing-up liquid, maybe with a different colour or fragrance, the company bringing me a little extra dough was making some poor dogs or whatnot to suffer.
    Adios Swiss private bank, and earli(er) poverty, here I come!
    It got no easier meeting my parents later that day. That’s what I tried to get accross in earlier versions of this post (failed): the level of indoctrination, which in fact INCREASES when you’re higher up the food chain. I kept wanting to cry, but couldn’t do that. Just a no go? Or call it a weakness? Machismo, perhaps? Is there an unwritten law you don’t cry over suffering animals. (Only when it isn’t family money on the line?) Very wierd, the whole thing.
    And of course: expect zero pitty! Hehe…this part I get. Try to explain to some slumdog who’s starving with his eyes burned out. “Well you see in 2010, I made a heroic effort which meant I had ten dollar less, but this one evil corporation could no longer torture animals in my name.” Rich-kid problems.
    I believe in markets that are free to a point, and that someone who has saved money, or earned it legitimately, and shared it with the community by taxes, should have a chance to squeeze a few extra cents out of it by lending it to productive, innnovative business. Even make a buck or two more if he’s visionary and ahead of the pack. But this system promotes just the opposite. Here’s how it works:
    – A “good” investor doesn’t buy stock based on which company he feels is most worth supporting.
    – He makes his decisions based on whether he feels the STOCK will go up.
    – The stock price is based on the decisions that OTHER investors make.
    – So you are in fact not judging companies, their performance and vision, but you’re trying to judge that the MOB will do.
    (The other part is dividends, interest, etc….we’ll skip that for now.)
    What this leads to is a race-to-the-bottom, to lowest-common-denominator. For example, it’s perfectly logical that in this system the money will keep going into tried-and-tested energy systems right until the very last drop of oil.
    Add to which, remember there’s still a lot of leveraged investment, i.e. investments with borrowed money. No matter how they change the rules, short of altering what money is and how it is created…this wont change! It’s the nature of the beast: money created from nothing, just to make more of it – a long shot from the system whereby you’d get recompensated in interest for temporarily relenquishing access to money that already exists, earned and paid for.
    Going in all ethically-minded is dangerously close to losing your money on purpose. Like eating healthy garlic before a date. When you think it through: give your money to a business that treats workers properly: how much CAN you expect back, on top of the original principal?
    (See also post “Beeline to the bottom line”)
    PEACE

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