11/10/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Who's To Blame?

I don't have a lot of time this morning, and I'm getting pretty sick of all attempts to complexify this question, so I'll lay it out for you right here.

Who's to blame for this incredible mess? It's really clear.

No, it's not Wall Street. Wall Street is there to work within whatever rules there are to make people who invest in stocks and other instruments (and pay their broker fees) as much money as possible, with billions left over for Itself.

No, it's not Greedy People. Captialism is all about rewarding the greedy. If Greedy were a crime, they'd have to set aside Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas to hold all the felons.

No, it's not the Banks who pressured the Feds to change the rules, jobbed the system and did whatever they could to build double-digit growth into a machine set up to operate in the low single digits. They were playing by the rules they were allowed to set up for themselves, and, more importantly, by the demented rules of the Street.

And no, it's not the fat cats who profited, or the weasels who sold the same bridge over and over again, or even the realtors who squeezed every last bit of juice out of the blood orange that was offered to them. These are all shallow, self-interested, slightly sleazy, ambitious, avaricious, mendacious forces that are DESIGNED to do what they did: Get away with whatever they could. Make the most money. Figure out rationalizations to make it all sound good. So you can't blame the intellectual courtesans in academia, the press or the research departments of now defunct institutions who helped them do that either, no matter how tempting it is to do so.

It's the guys who were supposed to watch this sorry bunch and prevent them from taking over the funny farm. They're the ones to blame. How simple do I have to make it?

Guy #1's job is to eat as many pies as he can before he dies. Guy #2 is hired to make sure that everybody gets his or her fair share and plays by the apple-pie rules. If Guy #1 and his pals get all the pies, he's just doing his job. It's Guy #2 who isn't.

So I'm looking at Guy #2, who changed all the rules when Guy #1 asked him to. Who didn't enforce the few, tattered rules that remained. Who, over the course of the last couple of decades, never learned the most simple two-letter word in the English language, one that translates pretty well into virtually any global tongue. That word is NO. Who, in a very real sense, simply went missing. Who got gone.

The system is built to reward the fast, the greedy, the sharp, the amoral. In a totally free market, it is they, unencumbered by restraint, who do what's necessary to reach their objectives. That's why we have laws and regulations and people to manage them -- not to destroy freedom, but to make it possible in a world that is not set up to truly establish it.

I blame Guy #2. Isn't it time we took him out behind the barn?