Friday, 7 January 2011


Tor Guimaraes makes a valid argument about the irresponsible, unethical, and at times criminal conduct of the wealthy, especially CEOs of publicly traded companies that benefit from fiscal policy and other government measures such as bailouts. There are very few top executives that have modest salaries and frugal lifestyles. Most executives are spending enormous amounts of money on their personal entertainment at the expense of the company, investors, customers, and taxpayers.

Free market abuses and structural distortions, including everything from market manipulation through various means such as derivatives contracts to fraudulent and corrupt practices such as insider trading, do in fact result in undermining the entire system with far-reaching economic and social problems that linger for years and leave a corroding mark on society.

Why we have arrived at this point and how this is reflected in the broader popular culture is demonstrated by the seemingly innocuous trends in commercial entertainment, itself a vehicle for promoting consumerism. Projecting extreme hedonistic-atomistic "glitz-bling" lifestyle, Lady Gaga is the role model for millions of people around the world and a reflection of contemporary society fascinated by glitzy lifestyle. Similarly, some rappers promoting messages of hedonism in the extreme also reflect, and in a sense, satirize prevalent trends. Are rappers and the Lady Gagas of the world so far off the mainstream, or do they in essence reflect, albeit in a dramatic fashion as they should, what is taking place in varying forms among the business and political elites?

The larger question is whether irresponsible, unethical, or criminal conduct by corporate CEOs is an excuse for political leaders of any stripe in any part of the world using taxpayer money to emulate the "glitz-bling" lifestyle, thus reinforcing it across society. In short, the public has reached a point of tolerating politicians who live and behave like movie stars--demi-gods with a glitz-bling tint--instead of public servants who should be model citizens and not poster children for glam magazines like Obama and Sarkozy for example, or Playboy like Berlusconi--this man just wont quit no matter what the Vatican, political opposition, or his own children say. Given the "glitz-bling" lifestyles of politicians, why not call them and treat like Monarchs and accept their lifestyles, just as the ancient Romans tolerated decadent patricians, as the "righteous pagan" philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero pointed out?

Several years ago, Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski made world headlines by using tens of millions of company funds to stage the most extravagant parties in the world. In 2005 he was convicted and sentenced to prison. Some of his minor indiscretions included $81 million in unauthorized bonuses, a $6,000 shower curtain, a $15,000 dog umbrella, a $190,000 rug, $14.725 million for art works, $20 million investment fee to Frank Walsh, former Tyco director, and millions for wild toga parties with call girls and all the "glitz and bling-bling" befitting the most decadent movie stars enjoying a night at Hef's Playboy Mansion, or a Roman patrician looking to spice up his life a little after the drudgery of daily life at the Senate.

Although Kozlowski looted Tyco of more than $100 million, sentenced 8 to 25 years at the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Marcy, New York, he proclaimed that he was innocent. Maybe he was innocent, and the system is guilty that permitted him to carry on with disdain toward the company, employees, investors, customers, government, and society itself.

Kozlowski was the poster child of crooked CEOs, but many publicly traded companies including those that received bailout govt. money have behaved far worse than Kozlowski. Bank of America (BAC) is facing lawsuits from its own employees, from customers, investors, and it is under constant government pressure to clean its act and stop dishing out lucrative bonuses, stop ripping off employees and customers, as well as taxpayers that paid to keep the company going.
 "University of Chicago Law Faculty Blogger Bernard Harcourt says Bank of America should immediately write the US Treasury a check for $4 Billion--the amount Merrill Lynch (acquired by Bank of America) paid out in year-end 2008 executive bonuses after B of A received $25 Billion in TARP money in Oct. 2008, followed by an additional $20 Billion in Jan. 2009."
Link to University of Chicago Law School--The Faculty Blog:

In short, BAC makes Kozlowski innocence plea appear justified, and although I own Tyco stock but not BAC stock, I would agree that Kozlowski's corrupt practices were minor in comparison with today's crooks (BAC, Goldman Sachs, AIG, etc.) who are not in prison, but instead they are enjoying lucrative salaries as a result of taxpayer bailouts and continuing to manipulate markets with govt. protection. One reason I wrote the recent piece on Gambling and Finance Capitalism, a theme that is common these days, is precisely to point out that "we" (bourgeois society and all of us immersed in its value system and way of life) have a gambling mentality that is an integral part of the system behind which stands government with taxpayer money to bail it out.

But for how long will "glitz-bling culture" go on without the inevitable consequences of societal decline? To add insult to injury, the same crooked "glitz-bling" CEOs and politicians have the audacity to write books and articles and to give speeches for very high fees lecturing people on "Ethical Conduct" in the private and public sectors. What does it say about our society that Kozlowski-type, former Lehman Bros. executives, or BAC executives would be business consultants or would give a business seminar and people would actually pay to attend? The same holds true for politicians, some who are shamelessly hired by universities to lecture college students! What does that say about how "glitz-bling" culture has penetrated university administration?

Citizens expect their politicians running government to protect them and their institutions from Kozlowski, Bank of America, AIG, Goldman-Sachs and other crooks by fixing the broken system--whether it can be fixed to serve the various segments of society in a harmonious and just manner is another story. Instead, political leaders try to emulate the "glitz-bling" lifestyles of the very crooks that drain society's wealth. We live in an age of unprecedented and ubiquitous "glitz & bling" value system and lifestyle that has permeated all of society from the political and business elites to children brainwashed into believing that happiness and fulfillment in life comes from more of and more expensive "glitz & bling" lifestyle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Popular culture, is it a reflection of Dominant culture's desires?

I pose a question to you:
can a true Statesman be distinguished from a politician that appears to have risen on the passions of popular culture today? Dominant culture today?

And, with that in mind, does this not lean heavily toward mob rule?

Could individuals sitting back in a hot steamy tub with their $6,000.00 shower curtain be using the same deductive thinking applied to futures and derivatives in order to influence election outcomes?

Poor gluttonous chaps. Is it any wonder that Christians believe that a Man of Perdition rises?