Sunday, September 20, 2009

Then and Now

".... greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms - greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge - has marked the upward surge of mankind, and greed - you mark my words - will not only save Teldar Paper but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA"

So said Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) in 1987 in Wall Street, a movie Stone considered an extension of Scarface.You know something's wrong with the stock market system when its portrayal has any connection to a movie about cocaine dealings, dismemberment with chainsaws and a record number of f-words per minute. Be that as it may however, Wall Street was not only an accolade winner for Stone et al, but remembered as a significant "expose" of the stock market, the sort of thing Madhur Bhandarkar keeps trying to do and failing.

The funny thing though, is that it actually inspired stock market careers. Stone mentions here how people actually wanted to become stock brokers and investors, because of the film and of Douglas' Gekko. You see some idea of its influence in Boiler Room, a film about fraudulent investors who dream of stock broker life and have prepared for it by watching Wall Street over and over again. In some weird way, Gekko's "Greed is good" mantra influenced a generation. A generation which from the look of things came into its own within the last two-three years, and made the investments that sank the market, put the world in a Recession, made life hell for H1B seekers and finally made I-banking and stock-trading similar to what Stone originally envisioned it as - dealing an addictive little powder that makes you self-destructive.

Why all this ramble? Two reasons. Firstly, Stone isn't done with Gekko. He's bringing him back for a sequel set in the present time. The story is covered in the same article above. Gekko is apparently going to try to be a better person now, maybe say "Maybe greed isn't so good after all". What resonance this story will have with the world around us is interesting to think of, specially for someone who loved the original Wall Street - watch it if you haven't already.

The other reason is this story that released around the same time. Seeing as home-owner mortgages aren't so hot to invest in, and seeing that people are locked in a major gridlock over health insurance, Wall Street execs have come up with the perfect solution. They'll buy your health insurance policy, chop it up into securities and bundle em, and sell the bundles on the market. The kicker - the sooner you die, the higher the return on the bundle from your packet. That's right folks, Wall Street now wants to bet on whether you can beat the yerumai, and is putting its money on the yerumai.

"Greed is good". Except of course when it's bad.