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I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society (nymag.com)
323 points by siromoney on Feb 18, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 103 comments



So it turns out that the wealthy and powerful are just like the rest of us - they like getting together in private with their friends to have raucous, alcohol-fuelled fun, and tell politically-incorrect jokes to one another.

I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

It's just as well we don't live in a glass house! It would be pretty embarrassing if tech industry people were to spend millions on, say a lavish, LotR-themed wedding. Or if our awards ceremonies attracted protesters.


I have to agree with this. All the article have shown is that even billionaires are people. The fact that they make intolerant jokes or that they speak of the crisis lightly is not that shocking considering the fact that they are in a private context. From what I understood, they are here to relax, and that is actually quite similar to what you could witness in any conventional meeting in a more modest population.

It would have been way more shocking if it had been done in public speech. Not because it would have been known, but because it does not convey the same meaning. In a private context, you can expect people to know you are joking, or that this is a personal opinion you are able not to impose to others. In a public context, you are expected to express yourself clearly and to take position.

In regards to the conclusion of the sting, I can also understand that they would not like that kind of material to be published. Imagine someone threatening to publish recordings of you in shameful situations during a party? From what I read, they were reasonable they seem to have let him go without much trouble (I think they could have called the police and have his phone confiscated without too much hassle).


Agreed they are just people. The difference in this case being that they are being insensitive (even celebrating) about something they did which had negative nation wide (world wide) implications. Which is slightly different than the average person's drunken antics at a party.

For a different (arguably larger) example, if someone is making light of (or celebrating) genocide/slavery/some atrocity (that they or their compatriots caused) and it comes out, that is very different than pictures of Obama/Zuckerberg/Guy down the street being blackout drunk or even doing drugs at a party.


Most of them don't think "they did [something] which had negative nation wide (world wide) implications." Most of them perceive the financial collapse as a structural event caused by nobody in particular, that they couldn't have personally averted, that they didn't intend to happen, that they are getting blamed for. A very good analogy would be Google-ers and Facebook-ers getting together and drunkenly joking about driving up the rents in San Francisco and pushing out poor people. Possibly in bad taste, but not quite as bad as you're making it out to be.


I'm a fan of imperfect analogies to prove a point so I can sympathize. However, your analogy really lets off the bad agents in the financial crisis.

Enough people directly committed acts some would deem fraudulent (sell baskets of bad loans to unsuspecting municipalities, approve bogus mortgage loan docs, etc.) that they can't fall on the crutch of systemic breakdown.

It'd be like if these Googlers and Facebook-ers wrote software that inflated real estate prices, driving out the poor and increasing the value of their equity in their homes, before an inevitable collapse in which some government bailout had to occur to prevent urban blight in San Francisco, thereby creating a safety-net for the rich homeowners.


To extend and correct your analogy: it'd be like if Googlers and Facebookers, and 20 other companies had to create and continuously improve software that unintentionally drove up real estate prices, in order to engage in a highly competitive market.

Their actions, writing the software, aren't necessarily malicious or risky. To their mind they're just doing what everyone else is doing and trying to create the best system.

Then they have an awards ceremony to celebrate the best software. Maybe in poor taste, but they're not even really considering the real estate market. Their game is software, and the financiers game is profit.

Like we don't generally think about the lives of people who make our clothes or computers, because our game is fashion or programming.

It's groupthink that caused the financial crisis (and most other problems), not necessarily malice.


You've clearly not spent enough alcohol fueled time debauching yourself.

Ribald, insensitive, bad humor happens when you put booze and a bunch of middle aged men in a room.


As pointed out... The difference being that, in the largest majority of cases, said middle aged (any aged) people were not involved in the atrocious act they are lampooning.

As George Carlin said "anything can be funny" (even rape). But its going to be incredibly hard for a convicted rapist to come up with a joke, about the rape he committed, that is funny, doesn't offend basically everyone, or make him come off as a total insensitive twat.

Do you see the difference?


Who in this article, specifically, committed which "atrocious act"?


Seriously?


Yes. That's a pretty serious claim, especially paired with a rape analogy. There are plenty of forums on the web where everyone will nod along as "Wall Street 1%'ers" are described as having obviously committed (typically unnamed) atrocities. I don't think HN should be one of them.


They only committed one sin - Greed.

It's a pretty normal human affliction, and in large I agree with you - while the effects were catastrophic - the actual act is not something that should be demonized, the people are not the problem, the system is - fixing the system is the solution, not blaming the people.

I'd go on even further and argue this kind of behavior is normal, and even healthy, and seen in any 'insider' group - I run SciFi conventions (so do nearly all my friends), and we were building a cards against humanity work-alike, many of the jokes were jibes against the attendees or the community within which we operate, no one thought anything of it, because its a cathartic way of dealing with the stresses of our hobby, in their case, its a cathartic way of dealing with the stresses of a very very stressful industry, and ribald and in poor taste it is - but as often is the case, poor taste can be quite funny.


That party was not about middle-aged men meeting in private and getting hammered, then telling jokes.

It was obviously not an ad-hoc evening get-together but an event people had prepared for for a while, including likely sober people working on dance routines and skits in bad taste.


This includes new inductees (neophytes) who were ostensibly preparing and performing said skits to prove their worthiness to be inducted into such a fraternal group.


At a certain point, your fame/wealth/power grants you some responsibilities if you care to honor them. One of them is to be constantly mindful of what you say or do because it has leveraged, far-reaching implications on your community and for a select few, globally.

Take a silly example: If Justin Bieber decides it's okay to drink sizzurp and drag race, millions of impressionable pre-teens may see this as acceptable behavior. Take a relevant example: If John Doerr says that the best startup talent tends to be white, male, nerds who've dropped out of Harvard or Stanford, this can have a negative influence on men and women of color who have startup aspirations (or dropped out of MIT).

Now consider who we're talking about here in this context. Every person here benefited from the lead-up to the financial crash and then benefited from tax-paying dollars in the financial bailout. While it's debatable whether or not Wall Street was let down easy (for some, they will point to no criminal charges, watered-down finance reform, etc.), I think both sides can agree that there exists a loud, populist movement that believes Wall Street is irresponsibly reckless, benefiting from moral hazard. Knowing this, wouldn't you take some precaution to not be shown to be callous and indifferent to today's economic state?

To those who say this was an entirely private affair, I'd argue the opposite. This was a dinner with place-cards and catering at the St. Regis. If they were to have this conversation truly in private (and as a former investment banker, I've participated in these private discussions), then we wouldn't be discussing this on HN.

I believe an organization like this has outsized responsibilities because of the influence they wield. Do you know how hard it is to get men and women of this caliber in a single room? Imagine if they harnessed their passion towards something their community would deem constructive?

I believe in individual rights so certainly, everyone is entitled to their free speech. But no one should be surprised when a backlash occurs.

Edit: To the person who asked how the Justin Bieber example is relevant, I say it has to do with the fame/wealth/power and influence argument. It is not a perfect analogy and I did not intend it to be. I used a silly example to initially diffuse what I think was going to be a serious indictment of bad behavior.


How is getting drunk and high and drag racing on a public street remotely private or equivalent to the story?


Without agreeing or disagreeing, I believe OP is simply making the point that with fame and wealth comes a bit of responsibility.


Yes.

To the post below, it is entirely possible to be extremely wealthy and have no responsibility.

Empirically, however, most people have generated wealth through direct and indirect actions that have benefited and hurt others.

Society has agreed implicitly that those better off should hold some responsibility for those worst off. This is demonstrated via progressive taxation and through societal pressures to give to charity.

You can completely disagree with that statement, which is your prerogative. But in modern society, specifically in the US, this is the status quo.

Furthermore, those in the financial industry have had an outsized impact on the global financial crisis, from which many believe there should be more culpability. Again, you can think differently but I'm just stating facts.


I just question why we feel the need to make them a role model when they do not want to be viewed as a role model and then have the balls to criticize them for not living up to the standards we have placed on role models.


I don't understand why someone with a billion dollars must accept the "responsibility" of being a role model. I aspire to be wealthy. I do not aspire to be a role model. What other people think of me (or my actions) is none of my business.


No it's akin (in a much worst way) to Bill Gates being caught in the nineties privately mocking its users that endure Windows crashes and having to buy the next version that is slightly less buggy.

When you destroy lives (I'm referring to the financiers here, not Gates ;-) you don't make fun of it and expect normal people not to be outraged.


"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." -- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations


Have you ever been to a hacker news meetup? Did the conversation end in conspiracy against the public?

Shameless related plug: By the way, I'll be organizing a Hacker News DC meetup in the near future. Check the meetup group for updates. I'll likely send something out later this week.


You may want to look for some higher quality friends, unless your life goals revolve around being drunk and stupid.


Life goals? So someone going to a party from time to time where they get drunk and stupid is what you'd describe as "life goals"?

Wow. Exaggeration much?


a bit harsh and judgemental


The problem specific to finance is many of these folks had to get bailed out in 2008. If they didn't, their wealth would have gone to 0. (So would many of ours as collateral damage, which is why the bailout did happen.) Just 1 year later they paid themselves enormously offensive amounts of cash. This is why people find the humor so painful. Don't laugh at the sucker who had to bail you out.

The one relevant point, which you kind of get to, is that this was meant to be private conversation amongst friends.


>It would be pretty embarrassing if tech industry people were to spend millions on, say a lavish, LotR-themed wedding.

Not the same as celebrating having people lose their jobs and becoming homeless.


Don't forget the drugs and hookers. Two other things Wall St and Silicon Valley share a deep love of.


So you're saying F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong, the rich aren't different.


The problem isn't with the wealthy. Wealthy and powerful people have been behaving badly behind closed doors since at least the Roman Empire, and probably before then as well. The problem is with us. Why don't we hold them accountable for their misdeeds? Why do we buy into their rhetoric that they are the job creators? Why do we give equal time to their views that they are being persecuted like Jews during Kristallnacht, when the events of the last few years have show that, if anything the opposite is true?

I think articles like this, honestly, are a disservice. They're comfortable. They're easy. They put the blame on the wealthy -- "Oh look, those billionaires and plutocrats are at it again!" -- without asking the real question: what systemic changes can we work towards today to ensure that people like Vikram Pandit, Dick Fuld and Jimmy Cayne can't wreak the same kind of havoc that they did in 2007? What can we do to ensure that people appreciate the impact that obscure financial regulations have on their everyday lives?


It's funny, I think exactly the opposite of this. Something along the lines about how a sham democracy is worse than no democracy at all, because people keep blaming themselves although they are being oppressed by plutocrats in ways not really unlike violent threats in terms of control.

Instead of being starved, the threat is to get fired. Instead of lack of education, people are blasted with advertisement. I think to say that the fault is "within us" is a platitude about as banal as "the answer is somewhere in the middle".


Our founders said that the legitimacy of government comes from the consent of the governed. Vox populi est vox dei. So why do we continue to consent to a government that sets up an economic system that ensures that plutocrats can behave badly and get away with it? I'm talking about cases like Dick Fuld, where he drove his firm into bankruptcy, nearly upended the entire American investment banking system, and still walked away with millions upon millions of dollars. I'm talking about cases like Jon Corzine's, where there was outright fraud -- M. F. Global was mixing its own proprietary money with its customers', which is fraudulent -- and nobody went to jail.

I'm not even talking about solutions. I think talking about solutions is entirely premature at this point. We haven't even identified the problem yet. Why do a significant fraction of Americans vote against their own economic best interests, even when they know that their vote is harming them?


Identifying the problem is actually pretty easy and you mention it in your first sentence in the parent. It has been going on since at least the Romans.

Money begets power, power protects money.

There really doesn't seem to be much you can do about it... If you 'throw the bums out' you get a whole new set of bums. Its a terrible thing but also a possible fact of life.

One thing I would like to see though... Those who get caught actually getting punished... Even if it is just for 'revenge among kings' purposes. The fact that no one really gets in any serious trouble, for doing the sorts of things you mentioned, shows the system is really broken, rather than the things happening (because they will regardless).


There is a common misconception that humans are in control of society. We are not. It is an emergent phenomena. Perhaps we can influence it, but to do so we have to understand what its purpose is. Many would say its purpose is to serve humans. I disagree. There is a wealth of evidence that all systems (from atoms to cells to solar systems to society etc) exist for one simple reason : they enable energy to be converted from states of low entropy to states of high entropy more rapidly than if that system did not exist.

The systems come about and develop by many methods, such as the physical forces in the case of atoms or biological evolution in the case of animals. But in every case they succeed at being better generators of entropy.

If we want to make society work for us then we have to understand how society can generate more entropy - and at the same time create roles for us (its component parts) that we want to live. Free market democracy has succeeded precisely because it does this exceptionally well. It creates a framework in which innovation is embraced and people are encouraged to work and consume (creating a very efficient dynamic for entropy production - literally turning resources into shit.)

If you want a socio-economic system that is less corrupt then you have to work out how to create one that has the benefits of the free market, but without the downsides. That is a hard problem to solve. But I think it is solvable, and so I have spent the last few years working on a new economic platform called Babbling Brook. http://babblingbrook.net

It is not a new economic system in itself. It is a protocol for social networking activity, that is based on an understanding of emergently complex non equilibrium thermodynamics. Which is essentially means it is an open ended platform with built in feedback loops that allow for increasingly complex systems of exchange to emerge.


If only Ayn Rand could see what her 'job creators' were up to these days ... LOL


If you were at all familiar with her works, I think you would realize that the "Bailout King" and his colleagues would be counted among the villains of her novels -- the "looters."


I'm not sure that anything in Ayn Rand's novels actually corresponds to the realities of corporate capitalism. I'll take one illustrative example: the discovery of Rearden Metal. In Atlas Shrugged, Rearden Metal is depicted as the product of the lone genius of Hank Rearden, who defied his own corporate scientists and a made a metal that everyone else considered impossible. At the time, Hank Rearden was not a lone inventor working in his garage. He was already a plutocrat, with multiple millions to his name, and a large corporation backing him.

Can you actually think of a case in the real world where that's happened? Where the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation has personally made a breakthrough discovery in his or her field? Of course not. Billion+ dollar companies are crazy complex machines, and our hypothetical CEO has far too much to be doing to be merely mucking around in the lab like a lowly research scientist. He (and I use the masculine deliberately) has a corporation to run. He has decisions to make!

No, the closest thing I can think of to Hank Rearden is Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne. Genius CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations who, by virtue of their sheer brilliance come up with discoveries that all their trained underlings miss, despite having far less time to devote to the topic at hand. And, for that reason, I find Ayn Rand's scenarios to be deeply irrelevant. Her characters, plot, and morality are more suited to comic books than novels. There is no ambivalence, no ambiguity in any of her characters or her situations, and her books turn into thousand page morality plays that one reads without gaining any insight into how one should actually behave in the real world.

To say that a living person corresponds to a character in an Ayn Rand novel is akin to saying that a living oak tree corresponds to a page in a notebook. You can argue that there are commonalities. But the commonalities between living wood and dead paper do more to obscure than clarify. It is the same with comparisons to Ayn Rand characters. At this point, I'm ready to just throw out Ayn Rand analogies altogether in my rhetoric, for they seem to add more heat to the discussion than light.


I read Atlas Shrugged, completely. Hated every page. The lack of nuance of her characters, all the good/bad/looter/enlightened. It read like a child's fairytale book, in my opinion ...


>Why don't we hold them accountable for their misdeeds?

Because they control public opinion via the media, the politicians via lobbying, and based on the disproportionate sentencing that gets reported (bank laundering cartel money gets nothing, woman gets jailed for not returning a rented movie), I'm inclined to wonder whether they control the justice system too.


By a (former) NY Judge: "an institutional shift toward prosecuting companies rather than individuals. This has yielded some enormous monetary settlements but has, Judge Rakoff writes, “led to some lax and dubious behavior on the part of prosecutors, with deleterious results.”

The fear of prison concentrates the mind in a way the prospect of writing a check on a corporate account does not. “And from a moral standpoint,” Judge Rakoff writes, “punishing a company and its many innocent employees and shareholders for the crimes committed by some unprosecuted individuals seems contrary to elementary notions of moral responsibility.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/17/us/judge-raises-questions-...


It makes sense to do both. Corporate punishments prevent senior people setting the environment such that junior ones break the law and take the fall while the company profits and individual punishments remind people of their own personal responsibility for their own actions and provides the personal fear. Neither replaces the other, both are necessary.


I think articles like this, honestly, are a disservice

The article does not explicitly blame them for the financial crisis. It describes a party and makes judgements on the participants based on the contrast between their role in society and their behaviour in the party.


What can we do? We can expose their crimes. We can refuse to let them meet in secret and make heinous deals that crash nations. We can - indeed - violate their privacy, when they are using it to oppress us.

And thats exactly why we need more articles like this.


Yep, greed is a human constant. The structures that we build around ourselves, though, don't necessarily have to reward it.


It seems to me this doesn't actually contradict parent; it almost just rephrases quanticle succinctly.

(To the extent that I'm actually unsure of your intent.)


So if I follow your logic, rape is to blame on the victims too ?

The (really) wealthy owns the governments, how do you make them accountable ?


Work on holding the government accountable for being (too) corruptible? You know, like in http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/13/business/ukraine-protests-...


Yeah ... how is it working for them ?


It's a hard and long struggle, like most significant things in life. But they're going for it, instead of just complaining that no one opposes the government on their behalf.


I'm tired of hearing the term "the 1%" used for stuff like this. The 1% is 3,000,000 Americans. I've seen income figures for that demographic ranging between $160,000 and $500,000 a year. The lower end is pretty much in reach of any professional working in New York or San Francisco with more than a few years of experience. (This is total compensation, 401k matching, stock, etc.) All this tells you is that the population mostly lives in expensive areas; rent in New York City can be 10x higher than elsewhere in the US.

I'll tell you as someone around that income range in New York... I don't get invited to parties where we discuss how to screw over the working man. I ride my bike to work, spend half the day there, ride my bike around Brooklyn, watch some TV on a 720p LCD that I bought 6 or 7 years ago, and then go to bed in my bedroom that's too small to actually contain a bed. (The mattress fits.)

Admittedly, I've accumulated some savings this way, but still, New York is really fucking expensive, and it's not hard to spend make what sounds like a lot of money on ordinary things like food and shelter in non-premium neighborhoods.


According to this, they also have 10 million in wealth, not only the 160.000 a year. You're probably not in the 1%:

"The 1 percent threshold for net worth in the Fed data was nearly $8.4 million"

Source: economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/measuring-the-top-1-by-wealth-not-income/

www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/business/the-1-percent-paint-a-more-nuanced-portrait-of-the-rich.html


That's a convenient (at least for the young, upper-income HN demographic) but ahistorical definition. The use of "top 1%" in political rhetoric goes back at least to Al Gore's 2000 campaign for president, as a cudgel against George W. Bush's proposed tax cuts. Gore is quite clear in his October 17 debate that he's talking about income when he speaks of the $330,000 (household) earnings cutoff to be in the 1%[1].

It continued to be a common refrain against upper bracket tax reductions for a decade, and it was still being used in that sense by politicians and activists at the time it graduated into the slogans of Occupy Wall Street.

[1] http://www.debates.org/?page=october-17-2000-debate-transcri...


>The lower end is pretty much in reach of any professional working in New York or San Francisco with more than a few years of experience

Only if you define "any professional" as less than 1% of the population. Accept the fact that you are a high income person, and react according to what your morality dictates for high income people.

In a room with 100 random Americans, you are as likely as not to have the highest income in the room.


Everyone who uses that realizes that the term is a mental shortcut. "One percent" rolls easier of the tongue than "one pertrille". Please don't take it personal, nobody's talking about you. :)


Essentially, you don't like the phrase "the 1%" because you're in it?


Comments on these kind of articles on Hacker News are always more defensive than I'd imagine. I think we have a weird mix of people where 50% are "hackers of computers" who'd do this shit for free, and will be doing it until they die and 50% are "hackers of society" who are here because they see an opportunity to make it to "big time" without having to have the right parents/schools etc.

It's strange how most of the time the two groups get along so well!


You're giving the audience here too much credit that they're actually hackers. On most articles like this it just feels like a bunch of doe-eyed, aspirational men who really want to be rich one day, so don't want to spoil the fun for their future selves.

Tangentially, this is what struck me about visiting America. We went to Hearst castle and the reverence which the guides and the people on the tour paid to the ghost and myth of Hearst was unnerving. Explains a lot about how wall st gets away with stuff though.


I get that feeling as well. There seem to be a lot of people responding to these types of articles who have 'stars in their eyes' and think that they'll be able to join the 'old boys club' if they just work hard enough, or get lucky enough (though some also seem to deny that luck has anything to do with success which baffles me).

The reverence for the wealthy in America really is a whole other weird thing. America doesn't have the history (in time span) to really have many historical heros other than those who were wealthy enough to 'do things' so we have to make due with what we've got.

That is not to say that a great deal of any given place's heros of the past were not also wealthy in their time though.


Luck?

Luck is invented to be an excuse for the feeble minded.

There is no luck involved in getting rich. If you want to get rich you have to 1) work hard 2) be smart 3) be unscrupulous.

The 3rd dependency is often misunderstood and the results of it are attributed to "luck".


Yes, Paris Hilton had to put in a lot of hard, astute and unscrupulous work to get those parents of hers.

In a past life, presumably.


Your comment just proves my point - people refuse to face the reality and would rather come up with excuses, exceptions and other self-deceptions, than admit they don't have what it takes.

And for the record, Paris Hilton did not get rich. She was born rich.


Oh, I'm happy to admit I don't have what it takes, according to your little calculus. I'm lazy. I'm smart, but not that smart. And I find it emotionally difficult to climb over other people's bodies to get to the cash money. But that's fine - a life of relative material comfort and intellectual stimulation is quite enough for me.

The point is, there are many people who do 'have what it takes' in those terms who will never, ever be rich. Are you seriously arguing that somebody with a comfortable Orange County upbringing has the same barriers to entry for riches, wealth and glory than somebody who assiduously grafts out a bare existence in some Rio slum?

> And for the record, Paris Hilton did not get rich. She was born rich.

Alas, now you have conceded the principle, and we can negotiate over the price. Paris Hilton was 'born rich'; what about, say, the child of a family wealthy enough to afford a private education? Who got preferential treatment in an Ivy League admissions process because they were born to an alumnus? Whose uncle got them an internship at some bank?


>But that's fine - a life of relative material comfort and intellectual stimulation is quite enough for me.

No arguing there. I never said everyone should aim to be a millionaire. I just find self-deception amusing and sometimes even irritating. Perhaps because I fall for the same self-preservation techniques in different context at times.


So she was born rich. You might even say... she was born lucky.


She was fortunate, not lucky.

Luck is the (favorable) interconnecting of previously unrelated happenings. People use it instead of "chance". The thing is, you can improve your chances with your actions, thus improve your "luck". The majority of people though, conveniently believe that luck is what happens to you, and some people are just "lucky" and things happen for them.

That may be true for a very small number of people (who won the lottery), the rest of the "lucky" bunch were fortunate because of outside factors, or stacked the deck in their favor.


OK, so we've gone from

> Luck is invented to be an excuse for the feeble minded.

> There is no luck involved in getting rich. If you want to get rich you have to 1) work hard 2) be smart 3) be unscrupulous.

...to drawing a fatuous semantic distinction between luck and good fortune, on the basis that luck is pseudo-random, and good fortune is not ... when the whole point that you're ducking is precisely that the advantages of the economic elite are not random at all, but pretty easy to define and empirically measure.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to defend a position that is nutso bonkers.

EDIT: fixed the paraphrase


>Comments on these kind of articles on Hacker News are always more defensive than I'd imagine.

We're all just temporarily embarrassed billionaires.


Not me, I'm a temporarily embarrassed trillionaire. I wouldn't be caught dead with these plebillionaires.



Because we could have 80% of one group, and 60% of another group as well - the two groups are not mutually exclusive.


In many ways we are politically a primitive society. Technology evolves faster than culture. We are still (and this is especially evident on HN) thinking in mid 20th century paradigms, remnants of half dead ideologies and long dead political maneuvering. Just because these ideas have evolved over time does not mean they are not half baked. That doesn't stop people from treating them like a matter of personal identity.

The "Left" believes extreme wealth will inevitably corrupt the political process. It's naive to think that billionaires will not use their money to buy power and more wealth. The "Right" thinks that the state will inevitably corrupt business and/or be corrupted by wealth. It's naive to think that bureaucrats with a rubber stamps that adds a zero to the value of land or a semi legitimate patent into an 8 figure asset asset will not be corrupted by wealth. They call it regulatory capture.

IMO both these views, if we call them views are impoverished. They rely on economic and political narratives that have "capital" & "labour" as their basis. They are based on the idea that trade between Moscow & Vladivostok is different to trade between Moscow & Milan.

We're always looking for ways to address power & money and their role in our world. We're still not there.


> The jokes ranged from unfunny and sexist (Q: “What’s the biggest difference between Hillary Clinton and a catfish?” A: “One has whiskers and stinks, and the other is a fish”) to unfunny and homophobic (Q: “What’s the biggest difference between Barney Frank and a Fenway Frank?” A: “Barney Frank comes in different-size buns”).

We've got jokes about policeman, about blondes, about the French, about mostly everybody... So, if the target of a joke is a woman, it doesn't mean that it's a sexist joke, and a joke about being gay isn't a homophobic joke. If anything, making fun of something means accepting is as normal, as part of everyday life!


I found this the most telling part of the article: The second thing I realized was that Kappa Beta Phi was, in large part, a fear-based organization. Here were executives who had strong ideas about politics, society, and the work of their colleagues, but who would never have the courage to voice those opinions in a public setting.

Based on the few I've met, these sorts of people aren't exactly shrinking violets. Yet they live in fear that the rest of society will learn their opinions and that bad things will come of it.

Back in the tech world, it makes me think of the attacks on Pax Dickinson and Paul Graham. No matter how rich, powerful and competent you are, you live in fear of the opinion makers accusing you of sexism/homophobia/insensitivity/etc.

Definitely makes it clear where the real power lies in our society.


> Definitely makes it clear where the real power lies in our society.

It does? I don't think the logic follows. Just because Wall Streeters are paranoid and sensitive about their public image doesn't mean they are not invincible.

This will hardly be a blip in the news, because of apathy, and because anyone who would be mad about Wall Street guys acting like this is already mad and can't do anything about it anyway. I don't think a few more Rachel Maddow rants are really going to bring the system crashing down.


I think it's only potential power. People have to organise to realize that power into fruition and in the US that's a whole can of worms. This is great proof of concept.


For a fearful society, they certainly had lax security.


To be fair, Pax Dickinson really is a giant, bigoted asshole.


So people who rule Wall Street are sexist and homophobic. I'm surprised... that some of those things seemed actually funny (a parody of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” called “Bailout King" has to be funny).

On a more serious note: congrats on the reporter for having the balls to crash that party. Most things were expected, and properly offensive. But I don't understand the shock at finance themed parody songs.


I'd bet the articles he would have gotten from these people as trusted sources would have been exponentially better than this piece.

This is just a bunch of guys hanging out with the only group of people who understand their pressures. There's no conspiracy here, there's no "great insight" to be had. I'm angry I wasted my time reading the article.


My thoughts exactly. In the excitement of being caught gatecrashing a pretty exclusive party, I get the feeling the author rushed to write what must have felt like an exclusive, bring-the-system-down exposé. Instead, we got a mildly diverting piece that confirms our suspicions about how the rich and powerful behave behind closed doors, and the author blew a career-making opportunity for inside access.

It's a shame, because there's definitely a story to be told about these people involving the 2008 crisis and the enormous drain on the public purse that the bailout caused. That story is surely more juicy than 'the rich think the rest of us are suckers for rescuing them.'


I don't really see the problem with them telling insensitive jokes and acting like idiots in their time off. How they act at work is more important. Pretty stupid article.


We already know their behavior at work is pretty terrible. The article just highlights that, deep down, they're not actually great guys once you get to know them.


Someone told a homophobic joke, that's it? @GSElevator[1] does more hard-hitting reporting.

If we're going to be upvoting TMZ-style articles, they could at least be properly scandalous.

[1] https://twitter.com/GSElevator


Original title, and current headline: 1% Jokes and Plutocrats In Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society


I really hope this guys 1% reference is metaphorical. You can be in the 1% and not be able to afford a weekend stay at the St. Regis.

But you wouldn't expect accuracy from a guy who appears genuinely surprised that financial executives have a club. Guess what? Sometimes, they play golf and tennis together too. Someone alert the SEC...


"You can be in the 1% and not be able to afford a weekend stay at the St. Regis"

I think you're seriously underestimating the wealth of the 1%:

"The 1 percent threshold for net worth in the Fed data was nearly $8.4 million"

So basically, everyone in the 1% has 10 million or more. I doubt a weekend stay at the St. Regis makes a significant dent.

Source: economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/17/measuring-the-top-1-by-wealth-not-income/

www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/business/the-1-percent-paint-a-more-nuanced-portrait-of-the-rich.html


haha - you should probably read the articles you reference:

"Some readers wondered if the 1 percent by wealth weren’t an entirely different group of people from the 1 percent by income. But there is substantial overlap: the Fed data suggests that about half of the top 1 percent of earners are also among the top 1 percent in the net worth category."


So the grandparent poster is not in the 1% of wealth, but might be in the 1% of earners :) .

When I think of the 1%, I think of the former, but I guess many are referencing the latter.

In any case, I am neither :P


The plutocrats are right. Of course they are being persecuted. I guess that's what happens when you have done everything in your power to redistribute wealth from the bottom to the top. But then again, trickle-down economics has worked wonders for society.


I don't think any of the antics of these guys should be a surprise. I mean they are all at the top of the finance ladder, and you don't get there without being a psychopath.


There was a HN thread that suggested that Eric Schmidt be fired after the anti poaching scandal.


I'll just leave this here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bf/Pyramid_o...

This isn't new and it is unlikely to change unless Tyler Durden comes along.


I didn't crash the Wall Street secret society :) the article is adapted from Kevin Roose’s book Young Money


I don't believe the Wall Street bankers of the ' Greatest Generation' would have displayed such crass, even in private. This new breed far less class, far less men, far less respect for the countries citizens.


The rhetoric is competition; the reality a cabal.


Why did he wait two years to publish this article? Did he (attempt to) take advantage of what was revealed before publishing?


Can someone in the wall street secret society plz send me an invite? Email is in my HN profile, kthx.


No invite needed. You can just walk right in! Although they'll probably be checking invites and ids next time.


This reminds me of the Simpsons' Republican party headquarters.


Who controls the British crown? Who keeps the metric system down? We doooo! We doooo!


Megalomaniacs are also sociopaths. Who knew?


Main takeaway: these guys aren't evil in the Sith Lord sense, but they're also completely not up to leadership. Rather than being cosmically evil, they're just a bit dumb, a bit insensitive, and a bit sad. Reality, for them, is emasculating and disempowering, but also humanizing.




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