It’s a popular thing to say, usually these days in the context of why it is global-warming denialists are so insistent on denying reality—
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
If my pension fund is buying [crap mortgages] from Goldman, and my pension fund loses lots of value, that’s not Goldman’s fault. No one is forcing anyone to buy anything. The only thing Goldman is guilty of is making profits.
That’s from Matt Taibbi, quoting email written in response to his magisterial article on Goldman Sachs and why we’re currently where we are, in what should have been the resurgent golden age, the return to the nines. —“I’m not even going to go there,” says Taibbi of his interlocutor; “the psychology of a human being who would take the time to actually write in a complaint like that is so bizarre that it would take more time than I have today to even begin discussing it.”
Which is not to say I have an answer myself. Oh, there’s something in it of Dickinson’s corollary to Upton’s rede:
Don’t forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor.
But is that enough? In the desire to deny one’s own poverty, is it really so difficult to understand that one’s own salary, the very possibility one might one day be comfortable if not rich, is being stolen by the very system one thinks one is protecting? —Somebody’s got to be rich, and it might as well not be me?
I have no idea. Just go read Taibbi.
If America is circling the drain, Goldman Sachs has found a way to be that drain—an extremely unfortunate loophole in the system of Western democratic capitalism, which never foresaw that in a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.
The bank’s unprecedented reach and power have enabled it to turn all of America into a giant pump-and-dump scam, manipulating whole economic sectors for years at a time, moving the dice game as this or that market collapses, and all the time gorging itself on the unseen costs that are breaking families everywhere—high gas prices, rising consumer-credit rates, half-eaten pension funds, mass layoffs, future taxes to pay off bailouts. All that money that you’re losing, it’s going somewhere, and in both a literal and a figurative sense, Goldman Sachs is where it’s going: The bank is a huge, highly sophisticated engine for converting the useful, deployed wealth of society into the least useful, most wasteful and insoluble substance on Earth—pure profit for rich individuals.