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<i>Fortune</i>'s Stanley Bing

Fortune's Stanley Bing

Posted April 27, 2009 | 08:37 PM (EST)

9 Things We'll Probably Forget When This Is All Over


1. Economics is a bunch of bushwah. Now we know it. Economists are obviously not only behind the curve on what has occured, they are in many cases the cause of it. It is not a science. It is not even an art. At best, it's a craft, like pottery. As things improve, we can expect a bunch to begin operating pretty much as usual, though. Why shouldn't they? It's a living.

2. Wherever there's money around, there will be crooks. Many of these crooks are well-dressed. Often they are at the top of whatever game they are bilking. Next time this all happens, people will once again be surprised that the guy who ran the exchange is the person who also managed the Ponzi scheme.

3. The Law is a ass. I believe it was Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist who said it, but recognition of the unique aspect of the legal profession goes back to Shakespeare and beyond. Virtually all of the regulators and legislators who were supposed to be monitoring the finance industry were certainly lawyers, as were the lawmakers who were asleep at the switch until they could be assured of airtime on cable on the subject.

4. In God We Trust. All others pay cash. Every panic in history has been precipitated by the same stupid sequence of events. In Rome, for instance, a huge panic not that dissimilar to ours happened when some rich bankers underwrote a bunch of ships that were sent to the east. The ships foundered. The banks had over-extended themselves. They ran out of cash. People freaked out. In 1837, following another crash a few decades earlier, the banks once again forgot about the whole debt/equity thing and doled out huge amounts of money in western real estate. The market went bust. The banks went boom. The economy went into the tank for 10 years. A few years ago, my own corporation almost went belly up after its Financial Services Division lent a bunch of dough to a sleazy real estate outfit in New Orleans that just didn't pay us back. Now we have this, and everybody asks, "How could all these smart people lend out so much stupid money?" Because that's what they do to MAKE stupid money, Sparky. As soon as nobody is looking they'll do so again.

5. The rich are not like other people. They're not smarter. They're not happier. They just know how the game is played and, for the most part, what to do to stay there. Sometimes everybody forgets that the whole thing is designed to keep the powerful in power and the rich in their McMansions, and the People are sold the idea that everybody can have their Baby Benz. And for a while, everybody sort of gets high on the idea that capitalism is a populist enterprise. It's not. It's for just a few lucky souls and manipulative hedgers and, really, the rest of us should really just buckle down behind our plows and keep our pennies in that coffee can by the window ledge. We'll forget that, of course, as soon as the markets simmer down. Then the Ralph Kramden side of us will once again emerge from the closet where it's been whimpering for the last 18 months, and we'll all be back in the hunt for the next mystery appetizer.

6. The press is the running dog of the system. Of course there are exceptions. But in general the media covers the winners and puts a nice shine on their helmets. What you read is what they get. Now that there are fewer reporters than ever, and more blogspit in the machine, everything will only get worse in this regard. Right now, even at the height of our troubles, the food chain goes from security analyst and quote monkey straight to the wires and blogs and directly to you. And you read it and think whatever occupies your brain pan for the most recent five minutes.

7. Be careful who you insult while they're on their way down. They will either rise up one last time, like Carrie's dirt-encrusted fist from the grave, and pull you down with them, or they will meet you as they are on the way back up and chew your head off now that they can. Those in need of proof on this subject need only consider two short words: John Thain.

8. Nothing lasts forever. Not good times, and not bad times, either. And nobody knows when whatever train we're on will arrive at the next station. Not nobody. Anybody who tells you they do is smoking something. You can either ask for some of what they've got or ignore them entirely, depending on how you're feeling or what day of the week it might happen to be.

9. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Even when nobody else is picking up the check. Later on, when that starts again? Even moreso.