Where Gordon Gekko and Pat Buchanan meet
As the prospect of the next recession looms over the country, it’s worth re-examining the meaning of ‘greed is good’.
HOLLYWOOD— Everyone knows the credo of Oliver Stone’s eternal villain. “Greed is good.”
The director’s unsurpassed portrayal of the 1980s maker Wall Street‘s Gordon Gecko is the stuff of legends. To the political pointers, Gekko’s sermon at the board meeting seems to be the most famous and obvious preaching of a kind of anarcho-capitalism.
stone Archvillain (or is it antihero?) is Milton Friedmanism embodied. In other words, the market is justice.
The whole staging of the fictitious financier’s diatribe is less often considered today.
Gekko: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are not here to indulge in fantasy, but in political and economic reality. America, America has become a secondary power. Its trade deficit and budget deficit are nightmarish.”
Then Gekko flirts with industrial policy: “Now, in the days of the free market, when our country was a leading industrial power…”
Gekko goes on to attack bureaucracy in all its forms: “One thing I know is that our paper company lost $110 million last year and I’ll bet half of that was spent on all the paperwork that went between everyone went back and forth to these vice presidents.”
“The new law in American business seems to be: Survival of the Unfittest,” announces Gekko. “Well, in my opinion, you either get it right or you get eliminated.”
And then he concludes with his famous lines, the stuff of modern Shakespeare (at least in terms of contemporary political relevance):
The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. greed works. Greed clears, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all its forms – greed for life, money, love, knowledge – has shaped the upward trend of humanity. And greed – mark my words – will not only save Teldar Paper, but also that other dysfunctional company called USA.
Now for the crib from perhaps the second most famous Wall Street movie of the 80’s, I will call american psychoby Patrick Bateman: “Is that Donald Trump’s car?”
Admittedly, the concept of a paleoconservative Gordon Gekko is a novel. The man is said to be the “libertarian” dream. Add Gekko’s dubious ethnicity (the consensus seems likely to be atheist Jewish from a working-class background). Delve into the tense history between sectors of the “Paleos” and some American Jews and the State of Israel, and the intellectual pairing may be genuinely absurd to some.
But in this era of species-level existential crisis, cryptocurrency meltdowns, and political realignment, it’s worth noting that the coalitions of yore are ultimately indecipherable to anyone who didn’t live through them (and not this author, the 1980s ). The past is a foreign land. And more importantly, money is not real. With the first shock to inflation since before Gekko’s heyday, everyone seems to agree on that.
As most seasoned readers know by now, “deregulation” in the Fukuyaman sense was intended to create an implicit centre-right society: indiscriminate drug use would be discouraged, of course, because it would be harder to show up to the office; raising a big family was impressive and a way to advance in your career; Power in the hands of private companies meant minimal bureaucracy; the “boom” of society, as Gekko put it, would be felt undeniably by the haters and losers as well. The fact that it was a country, “a company” as Gekko called it, with an industrial capacity and code of conduct seemed self-evident to Gekko.
And what is Francis Fukuyama doing these days anyway? Frank is prediction on his blog that Vladimir Putin is a sure goner, unbowed by the years 1992-2022. trust the process.
Potshots aside, this is worth exploring again Nature the 1980s right-wing critique of what is now summarized as “Reaganism”. Gekko’s soliloquy takes place in 1987; While he likely voted for the man and personally enthralled and benefited from Reagan’s optimism and achievements in liberating humanity, Gekko hardly sounds like a perfectly happy supporter of the 40th President, given his rather dour assessment of the country at the time.
Let’s leave that aside comparatively inconspicuous 2010 sequel film – what would Gekko say now? Well, move back Bret Easton Ellis now Bateman’s sidekick Timothy Bryce (in the film version) remarks about Reagan: “He makes himself out to be a harmless old boy.” Another right-wing critic of Reagan’s interpretation of laissez faire? The 45th President.
“But this…is the last chance for these ideas,” Pat Buchanan told Tim Alberta in the early Trump years in power. Basically, Gekko Gordon is a political beast like Pitchfork Pat, who of course was a co-founder of The American Conservative. The film’s man is drawn to the macro philosophy as Buchanan was drawn to the presidency.
One wonders what Buchanan is thinking now. In the film’s second most famous monologue, a more ominous Gekko ends by saying, “Now aren’t you naive enough to think we live in a democracy, my friend?”