A great and very long article in Newsweek from novelists and new-journalist Tom Wolfe on how the outrageous hero of his 1987 Bonfires of the Vanities “couldn’t get arrested today” for what he did then, not against the slings and arrows being fired around the financial world by quants and hedge fund managers. Of particular interest is the disdain the financial pros have for the rest of the world and the ease with which they ignore the results of their actions.

“The Masters of the Universe had the same sort of terminology for referring to clueless citizens in their world—but who were they? According to Michael Lewis, a onetime salesman for Salomon Brothers, there was a running joke at Salomon that went:

“What’s the second-lowest form of human being?”

“I don’t know, what?”

“An equities dealer in Dallas.” This was the sub-punchline. At the time, the 1980s, the action, the big money, was not in equities, i.e., stocks, but in the bond market and certainly not in Texas.

“So what’s the lowest form of human being?”

“A customer.”

That was Salomon Brothers. At Goldman Sachs they called customers “muppets.” Other investment banks called their customers “guppies,” “suckers,” “marks,” “sheep,” “chumps,” “lambs,” “baby seals”… Words like suckers, marks, and lambs had considerably more bite than hooples. After all, where do lambs go? To the slaughter.”

A great read and a cautionary tale.

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