The New York Times, this morning, would not accept my comment on Paul Krugman’s column “Panic of the Plutocrats.”
When I submitted there were none. A couple hours later there were 50 comments and they weren’t taking any more, and mine was left out in the cold. That is very unusual. Krugman usually gets hundreds of comments. Perhaps it’s because they were running 50 to 0 in favor of Occupy Wall Street. Here, for the record is what I said.
Usually, people get that defensive only when they know in their hearts are doing something wrong, but can’t bring themselves to admit it. In my novel about the financial crisis, Banana Republican Blues, the following conversation occurs.
All Eddie could think to do was to rationalize it away. “The nature of the game back then,” he began by way of explanation, “was to borrow at minimal short term rates against a higher long term yield, roll the debt over and keep the spread. The more you could borrow the better you did. Everyone was doing it. It was the only game in town.”
“Let me get this straight,” Cheyenne said. “You were borrowing short and lending long? I was taught in grade school that’s the one thing you should never do.”
“Come to think of it, so was I.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. Your clients were paying you exorbitant fees to manage their money for them, and you couldn’t even play the game by its most basic rules?”
He was just about to say, as she paused, that nobody wins the game anymore playing it by the rules. Then it occurred to him everyone loses when nobody plays by the rules. The Tragedy of the Commons becomes The Calamity of the Market. The bugaboo of communism is the oobagub of capitalism. But, before he was able to speak his mind, she finished her thought with a zinger.
“What were you trying to do,” she demanded, “sabotage yourself?”
Self-sabotage is another way a guilty conscience expresses itself, basically by trying to stop us from doing the wrong thing. I experienced incidents of it many times before finding the path on which I belonged and known plenty of others who have done so, as well. It may also explain why casual criminals make so many dumb mistakes.