Apologize for being slow on this, as I’ve been on the road, but my friend and compadre Eric Salzman over at Monkey Business Blog has alerted me, as he always does, to a demonstration of inspired assholedom in the world of finance. By way of Tyler over at Zero Hedge, he passes along the farewell letter of Jim O’Neill, the former top economist at Goldman, Sachs.
O’Neill last week wrote a long farewell letter (he’s been moved to Goldman Sachs Asset Management, also the presumed new post-Dodd-Frank home of Goldman’s prop traders), using the anniversary of 9/11 as occasion to reflect on his changed professional status.
Was O’Neill moved by the memory of 9/11 to reflect upon the meaningless of wealth and profit compared to life, good health, and family? Did he look back at all that death and suffering and find himself moved to silent reflection?
Nah. What O’Neill did instead was look back at 9/11 and recall that that was the event that led him to make his famous “BRIC” call — a prediction that in the wake of 9/11 the economic influence of the United States would wane and emerging nations like Brazil, Russia, India and China would rise to take its place. O’Neill’s BRIC theory became the cornerstone of Goldman’s economic policy last decade. It worked out well for them. It was, as O’Neill, a Brit, would say — a good show! It was the righteousness of this prediction that O’Neill chose to remember on the anniversary of 9/11:
1. 9/11 and the state of the world. As many of you probably know, the atrocity of that day was one of the key forces that led me to conceive of the BRIC theme. Through its horror, it suggested to me that for globalization and the world economy to thrive, we all needed to accept a world in which different social and political philosophies could sit side by side. Luckily, and despite the staggering challenges we have been through since, by and large, that seems to be the case. Of course, as much as many negatively inclined commentators allude to the poor performance of the major economies and major markets, since 9 years ago, many emerging markets, led by the BRIC nations, have enjoyed spectacular rallies.
Look, I know, it’s pretty easy to look like a jerk talking about 9/11 — anything you might say that’s even one degree off total humility and sympathy is going to look bad, especially if you happen to be a millionaire economist for Goldman, Sachs. But I read O’Neills letter five or six times and every time it comes off the same way: “On the anniversary of 9/11, I look back at the call that made my career!” It’s not like I expect the guy to break down weeping and confess to being an agent of Satan, but… damn if these Goldman guys don’t continually turn out to be even more tone-deaf in reality than we all joke about them being.