Financial matters

2011 11 23

I’m pasting this wall of text on the subject of the financial crisis here, simply because I really enjoyed reading it. I didn’t write it, I’m not attributing it, and I even edited it a bit. Sorry about all that.

I am an independent SysAdmin. Quite frankly, I am increasingly alarmed by the rapidly accelerating degree to which people expect everything they might possibly want from any information system or device to “just simply work”. I mean, the new standard is the-system-does-exactly-what-I-need-at-this-monent-in-one-click. It’s not that I disagree with the desideratum. I don’t. Shit should work that way. Some day it will. It’s just that it’s unrealistic that I, as a simple SysAdmin of heterogenous systems mostly composed of out-of-date hardware and software and working with little to no budget, should be expected to be providing that level of informational bliss.

I have been asking myself where this emergent expectation is coming from and have concluded, roughly, “All over”:

A. Old way of shopping: Plan your menus, check cupboards for needs, list your shopping, shop your list. New way of shopping: pick up ready-made shit, whatever strikes your fancy in the moment, on the way home. Any “planning” is dealt with in real time by clicking the person-you-live-with button on personal phone and talking about the ready-made shit you are looking at.

B. Old way of navigating from A to B: Acquire and master the Thomas Brothers map book for your area, use book to plan route, memorize route with turns. New way: Just go. Nav system tells you turns in real time.

C. Old way of doing almost any occasional task: Research providers of service, using a day’s-long or week’s-long process of going through phone book, asking around with acquaintances, canvassing shops and stores and offices. New way: click google then click web site of service.

So I am here to tell you and [redacted] and God something that is really quite obvious: we live in an environment which is increasingly designed to meet our (determined) needs, and becoming so designed at an accelerating rate. This is the world we live in. Oh wait! This additional bulletin just hit the news desk: The human mind is evolved to understand how it is that the world works by modeling the subject’s interactions with the world and abstracting the apprehensible world from those purposive interactions. It has always been thus. Language and language-dependent thought have made it possible to learn things in a less hands-on way, but by and large most people just live their lives and learn about the world by interacting with it and unconsciously modeling the agentive-aspects of the world from their experiences and the experiences of those friends and acquaintances with whom they converse.

I know you are smart enough to have already seen where most of this is going so, having set the stage, I will cut to the chase, by repeating something I’ve already said: The whole world was telling people to buy houses. The very structure of the agentive world was signaling to people to buy a fucking home, at literally any price. The same world which is increasingly designed at an ever-accelerating rate to meet every (determined) human need more or less automatically, was shaping itself to meet the own-a-home instinct.

Now stay-tuned because here is where I get off the no-one-to-blame train and start condemning the shit out of some people:

Amongst the actors in this sad soap opera are a vast panoply of professionals. Now I don’t know about you (actually I do, at least in this regard, and rather suspect you agree or at least sympathize), but in my book professionals have a standing obligation to serve their customer’s interests, period. This whole Goldman Sachs, Wall Street, take-advantage of your dis-proportionate position for self-gain bullshit is morally bankrupt in my book and if I had the power I can assure you that I would condemn and literally put to death a number of Wall Street banksters.

I could personally make a certain amount of money by selling my customers IT “solutions” which are lucrative to me in terms of implementation time but not so helpful to them or their business. In fact, I do exactly the opposite, constantly steering them toward solutions that are cost-effective for them and mean less money for me. I do this cheerfully, and would not and can not do otherwise. I respect myself; I respect my customers. I neither understand nor condone that mode of “business” which holds that corporate-interest (profit) is above customer-interest. It wouldn’t be hard for all of IT to bamboozle customers into money-wasting boondoggles, as a matter of course. It’s not like the average customer understands what we do anyway. If we wanted to go all Wall Street on our customers we could: gaming each customer to their maximum bleed- point of cash resources, all the while assuring them that this latest blinking shit was going to boost their productivity. It no doubt works like that in some places.

It will always be the case that the profit-motive can conflict with customer- interest. This is why it has to be a standing imperative for any professional to put customer-interest ahead of profit. This must remain a moral point and cannot be a legal one with any precision or practical enforceability. But big business in general and Wall Street in particular have made a religion out of profit uber alles, and this moral and societal evil must be cut out of our social fabric like the cancer it is.

So I draw a very hard line between the “professionals” in this debacle, and the non-professional victim-participants. Yes, it is fair to say that a certain amount of mass delusion and mass immorality affected both the professionals and the non-professionals alike, and this might lead one to think it is unfair to single out only the professionals for punishment.

That is a misguided reading, for the truth is that so far it is largely the non- professional victim-participants who have been punished. They are the ones who’ve lost homes, lost equity, lost capital, lost credit. (If you want to hunt down and punish the people who are strategically walking away I am open to that, to an extent, but I suspect I’d mostly just like to see the laws about “first- time buyers” buttressed so that a “first-time buyer” is someone who hasn’t bought a home in, say, seven years. Right now it’s something like two or three years and that makes too big a window for gaming the system, IMO, and too small a window for those with the prudence to avoid exploiting mass fraud.) The professionals have mostly and quite conveniently blended into the crowd and skulked away, hidden in a crowd no government has the will or resources to confront, hidden by a curtain of law they themselves wove, and protected at the top where the truly capital crimes were committed by the ever-handy corporate shield, that last and best bulwark from individual and moral responsibility which guards the amoral sociopaths who style themselves the new captains of “industry”.

Those people built nothing of value, they’ve sucked the life-blood from an already worn and faltering nation. The leaders amongst them should die for such crimes; the lesser should make restitution.