Thursday, March 12, 2009

Can the "Best and the brightest" save us now.

Judith Warner has a nice editorial in the New York Times about the phrase the "best and the brightest" became equated with the ones who make the most money. In that transformation, there became for some reason a desire to emulate the trappings of money as an affirmation of your talent. So people started buying signaling goods, and leveraging themselves to do it. But the truth is that that signaling did work. And so the efficacy of material goods, tied to wealth signaling talent permeated the culture. All you had to do was possess a good to be blessed with talent. The last paragraph is a bit muddled so let's walk the ladder one more time:

the best and the brightest meant you made a lot of money, if you make a lot of money you buy a lot of nice goods, so if you have a lot of nice goods, you must make a lot of money, and if you make a lot of money, you must be the best and the brightest. But what fails in that analysis is that there are a lot of ways to come into possession of money that does not mean you are smart, winning the lottery for instance.

So the current mess is a mess of false presentation, be it ponzi schemes, false appraisals on houses, bad science. In the end money is money, and stuff is stuff. Don't mix up the two.

Too bad, we ended up trashing the planet to act like we were the best and brightest, but in the end we were just plain dumb.


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