The Occasional Solace of Hate Mail
I often quip that reader mail is one of the things that keeps me blogging. It is, but sometimes not in the way that I would expect. Going Private has in past, and continues to be, an occasional lightening rod for some of the more spoiled of capitalism's children. Insofar as much of my writing centers on the fact that there is no such thing as a unicorn that defecates skittles, the delicate sensibilities of many a market-must-go-up-at-any-cost "capitalist" are torn asunder. This provokes a good deal of amusing (if not particularly illuminating)
hatefan mail, written, doubtless, on a high end PC with 30" flat panel monitor bought on credit. I suppose the consoling feature of letters like these is that they suggest that the enemies of capitalism are mostly a poorly read collection of rabble, confined to intellectual debate on the level of "you are an idiot." If this is true, there may be hope yet. I can only guess that the urge to mail things like this to me is very much like the religious types who promise me "I will pray for you," upon learning that I think their anthropomorphic vision of god is a freshly steaming load of unicorn skittles.
Acting on the theory that these works, and my replies to them (which, fortunately or unfortunately, tend to sink somewhat to the level of the original author), have some entertainment value, I reproduce for you one of the most recent editions to my collection of trite hate mail (and the reply thereto):
Just wanted to say I just read your blog post "Death of Cook" and I found myself feeling a bit emotional afterward.
I admired very much the point -- which I think hasn't been made nearly enough in this debate -- that Friedman's key insight was that freer markets bring power to keep repressive regimes at bay, of from forming in the first place.
But now that entire economic world has collapsed, leaving the Chicago School with as much credibility as the alchemists or the flat earthers or Phil Gramm, it must be so difficult for the devotées such as you to deal with the fact that what you've studied and come to believe in is now just so much intellectual rubble, which no amount of desperately grasping at any government entity you can to try to hurl blame at, as you do with Fannie Mae or the Fed, can make go untrue.
Or as PK puts it, now that you've paid your tuition, you've learned you've invested your education with Bernie Madoff.
It's palpable in your post how bitter you are. I'm genuinely sorry about that, and only hope that as you move on in life, you can find somewhere to utilize your talents in a less futile way than defending the decaying corpse of a dead School.
Dear "Paul" (who signs his emails with "-L"):
Your email is long on glib cliche, very short on fact and totally lacking in analysis. While I am not sure if these effects were intentional (at first I thought your piece a clever bit of satire, until I got halfway in) they do make your writing remarkably unremarkable in the way it absolutely typifies comments of this kind.
While I understand that attacking markets and finance is what all the cool kids are doing today, doing so with something that approaches compelling and reasoned argument is (as you demonstrate here) rather more difficult.
The fantasy that the markets that melted down were anything remotely resembling "free markets" has created a lot of masturbatory material for the new socialists (and worse). It is, however, totally divorced from fact and as a consequence you might have to work to get some of that genetic material out of your hair. (I'm told baby shampoo works wonders). Given that you fail to address these aspects of my missive (odd since I spent a lot of time and "ink" outlining them) I must conclude that you either:
1. Have limited reading comprehension skills (public schools perhaps?);
2. Did not read the piece in any detail (ADD?); or,
3. Have avoided these points because they derail your position (basic cowardice).
None of these bode well for your intellectual prowess. Or maybe you were just too lazy to pen a thoughtful reply. It is, of course, a great conceit to cram useless blather into the inboxes of strangers. It is a bit of time hijacking. Be that as it may, I try to reply to such nonsense where possible. Call it a weakness I have: the inability to pass up the opportunity to discipline other people's insolent children.
If the most fundamental misunderstanding of the issues at hand here were not enough, you attribute to me views which I do not hold, positions I have not defended and associations I do not maintain. This, given the tenor of the rest of your note, doesn't really surprise me.
I am indeed, as it happens, bitter. Bitter to watch the new political class rise to power in a miasma of anti-capitalist rhetoric, to watch the renewed belief that the correct "super men" will fix the problem by adjusting the levers of the economy to suit them (as if this hadn't caused the crisis in the first place) and the cult of personality that accompanies such fantastic and feverish belief. (Already members of the Cabinet are forgiven their felonious transgressions because there is "important work to be done"). In a sense, your prose here is a perfect example of this twisted mindset. You attack a school of which you demonstrably have little or no understanding, and rely on cliche and stereotype to brand those with views divergent from your own. In short, you have no meaningful intellectual insight whatsoever to offer. That you are typical of what lurks out there in the dark, vengeful and misguided malice of public opinion does leave me bitter. Bitter, and revolted.
But, thankfully, there are tools like the NASDAQ index of bailed out companies, credit default swaps, short selling and put options so that those of us paying attention can bet heavily against this new regime (and by this I mean both sides of political system), and, sadly, against the prospects for the United States for the next five years. So far that's proving among the most profitable of endeavors, even matched against the obscenely high remuneration of Private Equity. If you had really been reading my stuff for some time you would have noticed that I saw the train coming back in 2007. Many of us did. At the time I invited readers to bet against the system. I hope some did. You, clearly, were not among them.
Yes, I'm afraid the palpable glee for the misfortune of finance professionals- that jealousy driven joy that literally oozes from your prose like so much thickened bile, is also based on a fantasy: that I join the many bankers and finance professionals who languish in the aftermath of heavy handed government intervention in the real estate market. Some of us, you see, saw it coming. Some of us, you see, do not now live in oversized and now negative equity homes for which we overpaid at the height of the market with easy credit. Some of us didn't surround ourselves with flat-panel displays bought at the expense of large balances on 18.5% APR credit cards. Some of us, in short, were paying attention.
Interestingly, no one had many complaints about Wall Street, or the like, when they could buy $750,000 in house at 6.2% with $60,000 in income. You enjoyed with great enthusiasm the trappings of the bubble on the way up, so it is not surprising that you will point anywhere at all to avoid looking in the mirror now that it is on the way down.
It is good that you seem to enjoy the way of things to come, because you are going to be enjoying them for a long time. Not so for those of us who planned carefully and have carefully collected the wherewithal to leave, if (god forbid) it should come to that.
Yes, it is good that you seem to enjoy the new socialist paradise that awaits you- because you are going to be stuck with it for some time.
Thanks for taking the time to write. Reader mail is what reminds me that the blog is worth writing.