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Corruption

Friedman, the author of The World is Flat, did an op-ed piece in the New York Times last week.

He was asked a question: “Just how corrupt is America?”

The context was the arrest of Madoff on charges of running a Ponzi scheme of roughly $50 billion dollars. And the nonsense that has savaged the market.

I have no sympathy for Madoff. But the fact is, his alleged Ponzi scheme was only slightly more outrageous than the “legal” scheme that Wall Street was running, fueled by cheap credit, low standards and high greed. What do you call giving a worker that makes only $14,000 a year a nothing-down and nothing-to-pay-for-two-years mortgage to buy a $750,000 home, and then bundling that mortgage with 100 others into bonds — which Moody’s or Standard and Poors rate AAA — and then selling them to banks and pension funds the world over? That is what our financial services industry was doing. If that isn’t a pyramid scheme, what is?

Hot, Flat and Crowded

I have been reading Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded. He is a very keen observer of macro trends although most of what he has to say is quite challenging and frightening.

His basic thesis is that the United States has effectively sold the world on Affluenza.

Affluenza is a term used by critics of consumerism, a portmanteau of affluence and influenza. Affluenza can be defined as a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. And from Friedman’s point of view, to adopt the American lifestyle is to adopt Affluenza.

Simply put, there are too many people on planet Earth trying to adopt the American lifestyle and that will ultimately lead to the destruction of the planet as we know it. We simply do not have the resources to support the level of consumption that is coming upon us.

I used to be somewhat neutral on the Green stuff although I thought we were doing our part: energy conservation, reducing consumption, all those things that governments and media have suggested we do to help save the planet.

Reading Friedman’s book has made me painfully aware that the issues are far more compelling and go way beyond switching from incandescent to CFL lighting.