Wall Street

by Daniel on July 21, 2003

America has become a second rate power. The trade deficit and the fiscal deficit are at mightmare proportions …. sorry, I was just memorising the opening paragraph of Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good”1 speech. Though it did amuse me how his opening remarks had become topical again. “Wall Street” was on Sky TV at the weekend, and it reminded me that I’ve always wanted to do a particular kind of review of this film. I’m not really qualified to carry out a proper critique of it as a piece of work2, and the film probably deserves better treatment than to look through it for hilarious ’80s kitsch3.

But what I would like to do is make the following case; very few of the actions which bring down the whole house of cards on Bud Fox and Gordon Gekko were actually illegal under securities law at the time. In fact, I’d make a case that any sequel to this film would have to start with the premise that Gordon Gekko was acquitted on all charges of securities fraud.

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All for one and one for all

by Chris Bertram on July 21, 2003

Daniel’s post about the morality of snitching got me thinking about an issue that is, I think, related. Namely, the question of solidarity: what is it and how does it impact on our practical reasoning. Take the following dialogue from a recent episode of ER where the nurses have got up a petition against Luka Kovac:

Haleh: It’s nothing personal, Abby. I like Dr. Kovac.
Abby: Really? It’s hard to tell.
Haleh: He’ll be back to work tomorrow. We have to do this every couple years to send a message.
Abby: Do you even know what happened?
Haleh: I don’t care what happened.
Abby: You cared enough to sign the petition.
Haleh: Another nurse asks for my support, I’ll give it, every time.
Abby: Whether she’s right or not.
Haleh: I’ve been doing this job for 17 years, honey, doctors come and go, but nurses make this place run. We don’t get much credit, or much pay, we see a lot of misery, a lot of dying, but we come back every day. I’ve given up on being appreciated, but I sure as hell won’t let any of us be taken for granted.

The way in which the solidaristic consideration impacts on Haleh’s reasoning is just the same as the way in which an authoritative command would. That’s to say that she sets aside her own estimation of the rights and wrongs (and even of the facts) of the particular case and treats someone else as entitled to decide what she ought to do. That person’s decision pre-empts her own estimation of what reason requires. The interesting difference with more standard authority claims (officer commanding soldier, state commanding subject via law) is that authority here is diffuse and any member of the relevant group can exercise it over any and all of the others. Of course, there’s a risk that individuals will exercise their right of command irresponsibly, and so there will often be an interest in routing things through some appropriate body (like a union committee). But that doesn’t seem essential to the nature of the case.

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