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The Seven Deadly Sins of Wall Street and Main Street


“Find someone who wants something for nothing then give them nothing for something.”

 Anonymous con artist (from “Hustle” on BBC America)


To paraphrase The Who, my g-g-generation, the baby boomers wanted to shake up the establishment and change the world. They sure have been successful but in a way none would have imagined. Somewhere between the “summer of love” and Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” speech from the movie Wall Street, something went terribly wrong. The “boomer” generation embraced capitalism with a passion unlike their parents and taught their children to do the same.  They became the captains of industry; the future CEO’s who have led our country into its current financial crisis by trying to accumulate centuries of wealth in a few short generations. Children of baby boomers who were never denied anything embraced their upbringing and went on a consumer spending spree to satisfy their need for immediate gratification.


Every successful con artist needs a mark, that willing participant whose greed is stronger than their fear. The worst aspects of human nature, the very roots of the Seven Deadly Sins are now being played out on Wall Street and Main Street. Financial institutions benefiting from the recent bail out by Congress are not monetarily bankrupt they are morally bankrupt.


Goldman Sachs CEO Llyod Blankfein now says that banks have a social purpose and are doing "God's work". Apparently Blankfein feels that mixing God and money is acceptable since US currency does say "In God We Trust". 


God did have another banker back in the 1980's. Because of his business relationships with the Vatican, Roberto Calvi, the head of Italy's Banco Ambrosiano was know as "God's Banker" before the bank failed due to massive fraud. The body of Calvi was eventually found hanging under a bridge in London.


It is often said that “money is the root of all evil” but it seems that both the late Roberto Calvi and GS CEO Blankfein had different interpretations of how God and money should work together. That said it is easy to see how both Wall Street and Main Street were romanced by the Seven Deadly Sins:


Lust - while usually associated with sex, lust is a thought that is obsessive, excessive or a sociological compulsion. The lust of money and material gain compelled investors large and small to create the current world wide economic crisis.


Gluttony - derived from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow, gluttony is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste. Super-sized Wall Street bonuses and homeowners hunger for more home than they could afford seem to meet the standard for gluttony.


Greed / Avarice - greed, like lust and gluttony, are sins of excess usually associated with the accumulation of wealth. Greed breeds trickery, manipulation, bribery, disloyalty and theft. The golden luster of greed blinds people’s common sense quite nicely.


Sloth - laziness is the opposite of hard work and sacrifice. Since many people want something for nothing sloth gave Wall Street plenty of victims (marks) to prey on for easy money.


Wrath - while often associated with hatred, anger and revenge, it can also be directed at oneself. Wrath can blind an individual’s ability to see the truth. The current financial meltdown was fueled by denial and now taxpayers who were fiscally responsible will be picking up the bill.


Envy - is basically keeping up with the Joneses or better yet having even more than they do. Envy drove CEO’s compensation as much as greed and gluttony combined. Obscene financial compensations were just ego fueled numbers that established self worth and bragging rights between corporate executives. Main Streets inhabitants are just as guilty of falling victim to the green-eyed monster. Envy helped drive Main Street to rationalize that if their neighbor had a BMW they should own a Ferrari. If the person living in the home next door had four bathrooms they should have five.


Pride - the source and core of the Seven Deadly Sins and therefore the most dangerous. This excessive self love is so corrupt it even caused Lucifer (if you believe in that kind of thing) to fall from grace and heaven.


Wall Street and Main Street could both use a dose of old-time financial religion learned by our tight fisted depression era and post war ancestors. Fiscal responsibility should be rewarded rather than penalized. Risk taking can result in extreme gains but can also yield the tremendous losses currently being experienced by the global economy.


The real problem being experienced around the world is not so much a financial crisis it is a crisis of confidence. It is time for each and everyone one of us to take a look in the mirror and admit that “we have met the enemy and he is us.”




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