We are living in a strange world. For centuries, hard work was for most ordinary people the only
way to make money. Of course, the Medici more or less invented the true banking system during the
Italian Renaissance and became not only rich but also very powerful. The end of the Medicis is
history too. However, hard work was the job to do to get out of the social mess and become at least
a member of the lower or middle class.
In the Western world, this hard-work attitude has changed dramatically over the past two to
three decades. Making a lot of money is a new game: gambling on the stock exchange. Banks have
become bigger and bigger and made a fortune by buying and selling shares. With the increasing
income of the people, more money has been available and the banks and private traders have
encouraged people to do the same. Some of the most famous and very rich people of today didn’t make
their fortune with their hands, but using their brains.
“Lean business” and “shareholder value” have become very popular words among the financial
community. If a company is in trouble and the earnings drop, the first thing to do is to lay off
people. Nobody’s really asking, what went wrong? In the days of the true patrons, it was the
opposite: first, a safe working place for the people; personal pride was a leading and driving
force. More or less, the benefits came automatically; it was an environment of trust and
But the true patrons mostly have disappeared. In modern times, CEOs, COOs or managing
directors are leading the listed company working with somebody else’s money. If they win, they get
big bonuses; if they lose, probably a golden parachute is waiting. Or again, more workers are
fired. Who cares for the people? The shareholder value must rise, and the analysts are waiting for
the next quarterly report. No time for reflection — just go.
When I was a boy, my favorite game at home was Monopoly. It was a personal satisfaction to
beat my Dad and a big pleasure for a whole weekend to buy and sell houses and hotels with fake
money. Some time ago, people started to do the same, buying houses. But this time it was the real
world. However, it seems that people and the banks forgot to consider that this time it was real
money. The end of the story is very well-known. The global economic system is jeopardized.
Who’s Supporting Whom?
It’s really a strange world. After wasting billions and billions, the same people are now
crying for help. Around the world, national banks are forced to support the modern Monopoly. And
who’s paying the bill?
My father always said: “Son, just spend your own money, and don’t dream of a dollar if you
can have 50 cents in your hands.” Probably I got the wrong education. But my father also said, you
can always tell the truth if you don’t owe money to somebody else.
January 29, 2008