Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

More on the Sociology of the Financial Crisis

An article in the NY Times, a typical fluff piece, discussed women in NYC whose boyfriends are investment bankers and such, and how this financial crisis is affecting them. Now, there is this whole troglodyte 1950s scene going on in this article. These women do not appear to have desires beyond getting a big house in the Hamptons, a "rock" for their finger, and so forth, even though we've all seen the movie and know that he ends up divorcing her and marrying his secretary. Having obviously not watched enough TV, they turn to young, hip, rich bankers for thsi fantasy. The girlfriends seem oddly surprised by the attitudes they display. I could go on and blather for a while, but I just want to first observe how very un-modern this modern financial system has been. From the two-earner yuppie couple to back to the trophy housewife - that was something of the trek of the 1990s and 2000s.

The real reason I mention this article is this comment by one of the girlfriends at the end, "“It’s not even about a $200 dinner,” Ms. Petrus told The Times. “It’s that he’s an alpha male, he’s aggressive, he’s a go-getter, he doesn’t take no for an answer, he’s confident, people respect him and that creates the whole mystique of who he is.”

I choked a bit on my latte. Are you shi*ting me? When did bankers become alpha males? Bankers were always in popular lore buttoned-down milquetoast types who wouldn't loan you five bucks for a sandwich unless you proved you already had a ten in your pocket. The kind who would give you a $20 savings bond for your 10th birthday, or weigh bananas at the store before buying them. But of course, alpha male is what happened to the banking industry. A friend in NYC (a lawyer) reported that he used to listen to 25 year olds deriding him for doing "women's work" (preparing the legal paper for their deals). In my world, that talk would get you fired, not get you a bonus.

These same "alpha male" attitudes probably explain the big bonuses we are seeing being paid to wall street folks even as they take taxpayer money to cover for their massive collective screwups.

Attitudes will have to change to recover from this financial crisis, not just institutional rules. We need the return of Mr. Milquetoast. The 25-year-old who wants his porsche and daily dinners at Morton's will have to return to the traditional method: crime.


Raised By Republicans said...

As I read your post, I'm thinking of the ads I've seen on TV about "Real Housewives of Orange County." From what I can gather the show focusses on a group of youngish trophy wives married to millionaire assholes in Orange County, California (I have admittedly never watched the show - I don't think I could keep my food down long enough).

I'm also thinking about good old Mr. Milquetoast. In my imagination he (or she ideally) is a CPA not an MBA. The differences between the two types of people is enormous in my experience. CPAs are trained in a profession based on tangible skills that themselves are rooted in real life laws and regulations. MBAs are trained in interdisciplinary programs that emphasize trendy jargon overs substantive knowledge or skills. Terms like "think outside the box" and "proactive" are favorites among the MBA set and appropriately mean everything and nothing.

These alpha male bankers you describe are probably overwhelmingly trained in MBA programs rather than accounting or finance. They also probably belonged to fraternities and wore their baseball caps backwards in class (a practice scientifically shown to reduce IQ over time).

Mr Milquetoast in contrast was a CPA. He wore wingtip shoes every day and resembled no one more than the father character from Marry Poppins. Thinking inside boxes is comforting to them. They like rules and the predictability they provide. Trophy wives would scare them because the kind of woman who would seek such a relationship would be dangerously unpredictable (of course "dangerously unpredictable" is a redundant expression to Mr Milquetoast).

If we think of the evolution of Homo Milquetoastae, Paleo Milquetoastae would seek the stereotypical mother type as a mate: safe, predictable and capable and willing to enforce comforting rules at home. Neo Milquetoastae would seek professional mates who could contribute to the household income - no free riders allowed.

Of course neither version of Homo Milquetoastae is the ideal post-Feminist male. But we're only looking for good bankers here not good human beings.

Spotted Handfish said...

So an article about thirty women meeting makes you think the whole banking sector works like that? I had thought it was fairly well known that a lot of high-powered financial jobs were alpha male positions: you take more risks, you make more money.

Anonymous said...

I watch plenty of television, and I think these women are setting back the course of feminism a good 50 years because they are not watching the right television. If these vacuous Spice Bunnies actually watched "Mad Men" rather than just looking at tabloids, they would realize that the 1950s stay-at-home housewife was not the happiest girl in the world.

-Seventh Sister, who would write more if the baby hadn't stirred.

The Law Talking Guy said...

SH: taking risks was never that well rewarded in the banking sector 30 years ago. Safety and prudence were the watchwords. The belief that taking risks means making more money is the attitude that is at the heart of our financial crisis. If you remember the story about the tortoise and the hare, the lesson used to be to emulate the tortoise, not the hare. The hare lost.

Dr. Strangelove said...

It is interesting that some bankers have managed to achieve the status of alpha males. In most cultures throughout history, I would imagine the status of "alpha male" has been most commonly associated with physical prowess and charisma rather than the peculiar combination of mental and social skills needed to make financial deals.

I love how Ms. Petrus (quoted by LTG above) describes this new variety of the alpha male: "He’s aggressive, he’s a go-getter, he doesn’t take no for an answer, he’s confident, people respect him and that creates the whole mystique of who he is." No mention of being able to throw a good fist, no mention of being a good leader of other men. It's very individualistic.

Well, I suppose it is not really news that some women find themselves attracted to assholes whether they like it or not.

corporatebully said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Raised By Republicans said...

Hey Everyone,

I deleted the comment from Corporatebully because it was obviously sent as an electronic response to the subject of our thread and it included private phone numbers and emails that certainly were not there with the permission of the people involved.

It was not removed "permantly" so if one of the Citizens feels strongly about reposting it, I think they can.

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