Posts Tagged ‘‘Greed’’

The Tories as the Party of Gordon Gekko: Part 94 – The Boris Johnson Years

November 30, 2013

I’ve commented several times before that the Conservative Party has all the morals of Gordon Gekko. Remember him? He was the monstrous incarnation of ruthless corporate greed played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s 1980s film, Wall Street. This had the now notorious scene in which Gekko makes a speech in front of his fellow financiers praising greed. ‘Greed is right’, he intones, ‘Greed is good. Greed … works’. The film ends with Gecko himself ruthlessly betrayed and discarded by a younger protégé, a man Gekko has been raising up through the corporate ladder according to his own set of amoral principles. Here’s the speech:

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out like this in real life. The global banking system nearly collapsed due to the colossal greed of leading bankers and financiers through a system of toxic debt and a web of complex fraud. This brought down Lehmann Brothers and a whole host of other firms in Britain and America. The system itself has been saved by a massive bail-out by Gordon Brown, amongst others, with the result that Cameron’s coalition has seized on this excuse to curt welfare services even further under the pretext of ending the massive national debt this incurred.

And the bankers and Tory politicians have learned absolutely nothing. Indeed, they have become every more like Gekko. On Have I Got News For You last night they reported a speech made by London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, this week, in which he expressed pretty much the same appreciation for greed as Stone’s fictional anti-hero. Greed, according to Johnson, was a good thing, as it could, in certain circumstances, lead to economic growth. Now greed as the motor of economic growth and material benefits, with private vices becoming public virtues, was first proposed in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century by Bernard Mandeville in his Fable of the Bees. This was so shocking to the Christian culture of the time that he was bitterly attacked for his immorality, and denounced as ‘Man-Devil’. The idea was gradually taken up by other economists, including Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations. Nearly three hundred years later, the idea is now so widely accepted that Johnson thought he could make it without adverse comment to his audience in the City. This is despite the banking collapse, and the recession and rioting, which then followed. One is reminded of the comment about the restored Bourbon monarchy in France after the Revolution: They have forgotten nothing. They have learned nothing.
And they are determined to act more and more like Gordon Gekko with no trace of self-consciousness or irony.

As an aside from this, one of the very few good things to be inspired by Yuppie greed in the 1980s is, in my view, Queen’s I Want It All. The song’s title and chorus seems to me to have been taken from the Yuppie culture of avarice. Unlike Yuppie culture, the song is genuinely bright, optimistic and fun. So to cheer everyone up after this post, and remind us just how great Freddy Mercury was, here it is:

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