Tuesday, January 03, 2012
The Decline and Fall of America
I received, as a gift, this exact set of books, Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which I’ve just cracked today.
On page 52 of Volume One; The History of the Empire from A.D. 180 to A.D. 395, Chapter II - Of the Union and internal Prosperity of the Roman Empire, in the Age of the Antonines; Gibbons makes the following observation regarding the decline of the love of letters into a maelstrom of “servile imitations.”
A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste.
Your modern American equivalent of Gibbons’ observation on one aspect resulting in the decline of the Roman Empire is exhibited by the following panel discussion to be hosted by the Los Angeles Press Club, which you can attend, if you so desire, for a mere $52.24, if you’re not already a member.
Link to Los Angeles Press Club announcement via Radley Balko’s Morning Links.
Michael Thomas’ Big Lie
InstaPundit links to a Michael Thomas piece published by Newsweek titled The Big Lie wherein Thomas alleges to bring to readers’ attention the evils of Wall Street and his personal disgust with said evils of Wall Street.
Reynolds’ highlights, in linking to Thomas’ piece, what he delineates as the ““NEW CIVILITY” BULLSHIT” line so recently being batted about after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, culling this quote from Thomas’ piece as evidence of the bullshit in the world of “new civility.”
There will be prosecutions and show trials. There will be violence, mark my words. Houses burnt, property defaced. I just hope that this time the mob targets the right people in Wall Street and in Washington. (How does a right-thinking Christian go about asking Santa for Mitch McConnell’s head under the Christmas tree?)
But the above alleged example of the ““new civility” bullshit” highlighted by Reynolds is not what caught my attention as I read through Thomas’ “The Big Lie.” What caught my attention is the following confession of Thomas’.
It was in May 1961 that a series of circumstances took me from the hushed precincts of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I was working as a curatorial assistant in the European Paintings Department, to Lehman Brothers, to begin what for the next 30 years would be an involvement—I hesitate to call it “a career”—in investment banking. I would promote and execute deals, sit on boards, kiss ass, and lie through my teeth: the whole megillah. In consequence of which, I would wear Savile Row and carry a Hermès briefcase. I had Mme. Claude’s home number in Paris and I frequented the best clubs in a half-dozen cities. But I had a problem: I was unable to develop the anticommunitarian moral opacity that is the key to real success on Wall Street.
I had my doubts from the beginning. A few months after I started to work downtown, I ran into an old friend from college and before, a man later to become one of New York’s most esteemed writers and editors.
“So,” he asked, “how do you like what you’re doing now?”
“I like it quite a lot,” I said…
So here we have an individual, Michael Thomas, soap boxing on the evils of Wall Street, who, by his own admission, spent 30 years on Wall Street in investment banking “lying through his teeth,” and liking it quite a lot. Should individuals believe anything this guy has to say now?