The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.
-- Gordon Gekko, Wall Street, 1987
The weird thing is that if you follow the link and re-read the famous movie monologue, Gekko's idea of "greed" is actually quaint and rather all-American when you compare it to the kind of BS that takes place in the 2010 real-life version of Wall Street. If you remember the movie, the issues involved corporate raiders, yes, but at least companies that actually made or did productive things -- like manufacturing paper products (yes, how quaint) or flying and maintaining airplanes.
How did we get from there to here (huge h/t Culture of Truth):
For these young Wall Street types, Tourre embodies the culture of the financial world and offers a road map for success. He's the real-life Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street: the cocky alpha male who writes e-mails in which he calls himself the "only potential survivor ... standing in the middle of all of these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades." He's a doppelgänger to Michael Lewis's autobiographical protagonist in Liar's Poker, who sells bad products to unknowing chump investors, and he's becoming a cultural icon to his contemporaries because they empathize with him. One of them could just as easily have been the salesman on the Abacus deal, if only they had been that smart or lucky. "There's a self-serving role in this. If what he did is wrong, then what they do is wrong on a daily basis," says Adam Galinsky, professor of ethics and leadership at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. "It's not wrong to them, because it's the water they swim in."
This fascination with Tourre also spells disaster for transforming or regulating Wall Street. The future Fabulous Fabs of the world will not be deterred by this case, says Wall Street historian Charles Geisst, because this line of work will continue to appeal to those who want to make piles of money or develop financial products in lieu of curing cancer, building bridges, or marketing tangible products.
The thing about the water they swim is that it's up to people like you and me to drain the pool and shut down their reckless party. That's why the Wall Streeters must love all the non-stop fighting between the Tea Partiers and the progressives, because it continues to thwart the bloodless coup in which regular folks of all stripes rise up to take back America from these people who have hijacked it.