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

Fortune's Stanley Bing

Posted: September 17, 2009 12:30 PM

Risky Business 2: Wall Street In Love

What's Your Reaction?

The news is full of pundits, analysts and even a President opining on the state of the finance business one year after the big plotz. Consensus is that we've all learned nothing. The big banks are getting bigger. Risky instruments are re-appearing. The Street is once again getting on its high horse about over-regulation. Thinking people, quite naturally, are worried. We're not even out of the woods yet and here come the same old players starting to sing the same crazy tune.

The critics just don't get it. Wall Street isn't a rational, thinking creature. Oh sure, it's got charts and graphs and metrics and fetrics. But if you want to know the way things really operate, you have to look at a creature that isn't driven by its brain, but by its heart... and by any other organ that responds to that beat.

In short, Wall Street has all the sentience, maturity and emotional self-control of a teenager...or maybe of a 50-year-old guy with a tiny ponytail and a red BMW Z4.

Last year, before the break-up, he was so excited. Love was in the air, and with it lots of money. Love involves risk, of course. But that's at the core of what's so exciting! No risk? No passion. Particularly for an entity whose emotions are quite immature, who needs daily stimulation to remain engaged, who requires the tang of danger to feel fully alive. Those were great days! Ah, to be rich and in love!

Then... the unthinkable happened. The big breakup. Poor Street's heart was broken and what was worse, his belief that the risk was worth taking ever again was smashed to pieces. Poor guy. He languished for months, afraid to grant credit, terrified of incurring debt, sleeping much of the day away, waiting for night time when it was permissable to drown his sorrows.

And yet, the heart of the crazy, irrational Street is strong. He can't live without that rush of endorphins that comes with the high-wire act! So now he's coming back, ready to love again, to make the plunge, to take those risks, even the stupid ones he knows will lead to his destruction again.

Is this wise? Is this the behavior of a thoughtful, mature person? Certainly not. He's a mad, impetuous fool! He can't live without the thrill of the chase, the agony of anticipation, the ache, the yearning, the oasis of glory and satisfaction in the desert of life! He won't! Step aside, world! Love is in the air! He's apt to do just about anything!

Can't anybody keep an eye on him, for his own good?

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