Friday, June 5, 2009

Flavors of Players

To understand the state of play, you need to know the players. Right now, as the economic crisis unfolds in the United States (and, for that matter, globally), there are three flavors of players (Stateside). They are:

1. The Financial Elite.
2. The Political Class.
3. The Technocrats.

The financial elite, formerly known as the Masters of the Universe, are the varied and assorted hedge fund managers, traders, merchant bankers, etc., etc.--the whole of the seven-figure income and eight-figure net worth (formerly) herd bulls/alpha males of the financial services sector, their direct reports, and those who report to those direct reports. They are convinced they've done nothing wrong, that they've been overwhelmed by unforeseeable circumstances that have similarly impacted everyone else within the ambit of their world view, and they are collectively responsible, directly, proximately for the global economic crisis. They are clueless, and the incomprehensible ineptness of their responses to their current situation is slowly sinking in.

2. The Political Class, happy in the good times to take money from the financial elite and rein in the technocrats in exchange for the lucre, which much rather be prattling on about gay marriage, narco terrorism, green energy and any other available hot button that doing the heavy lifting of making decisions about the government's role in the economy. Unfortunately for them, the screw ups of the financial elite compel official notice. The earliest inclination of this group was to punt the problem to the technocrats, but we may well have reached the limits of that strategy. Past that point, these guys will engage, and the results of their engagement will be stunning. Time will tell whether that means good stunning or bad stunning.

3. The Technocrats are suddenly in the uncomfortable situation of getting what they've been wishing for--an opportunity to perform front and center, on stage, with power (or influence, depending on their niche). There are limits to this opportunity, and it's rather opaque at this point, since they pretend to serve their masters in the political class and the public sensibilities (not to mention to the innate conservative stupidity of the political class) require adherence to the convention that the private sector (read, financial elite) is capable of managing its own affairs. That is a convention which the political class is finding daily more laughable. Unfortunately, at the very moment these have been given to shine, they're finding that most of the tools in their kit are, er, inoperative. Though whiny, they are collectively quite bright, and if appropriately engaged with the political class they have the potential to make a positive contribution to the situation.

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