NY Magazine: ‘Enablers’ of High Finance Self-Pity

Describing his previous “ill-starred tenure at New York magazine” as having been “a crash course in the staggering unselfawareness of Manhattan class privilege,” Chris Lehmann (The Awl, 4/21/09) now applies his insight to the magazine’s recent “Rage of the Rich” issue, in which Gabriel Sherman “spells out with admirable, if analytically bankrupt, clarity” what Lehmann sees as “the secret conviction coursing through Wall Street’s caverns”: “Those who select careers in finance play an exceptional role in our society. They distribute capital to where it’s most effective, and by some Ayn Randian logic, the virtue of efficient markets distributing capital to where it is most needed justifies extreme salaries.” Lehmann asks readers to “consider the plain wrongness” of this:

By no measure, was capital distributed “efficiently”–let alone to places “where it was most effective” in the investor-invented calamity known as the mortgage meltdown. What’s more, the question of where capital “is most needed” is inherently a political one. Post-Katrina New Orleans certainly could make do with a whole lot of efficiently delivered private capital, but somehow it was never kicked up, even in the headiest days of the housing bubble. Likewise, the “exceptional role” played by the nation’s princeling capital-herders, as the piece goes on to ploddingly rehearse, consists largely of emailing to their foreign-market counterparts at odd off-work hours; what they’re really up in arms about–with their New York magazine enablers feverishly goading them on–is seeing their social status in free-fall.