Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ouch ...

... Death of a Phony.


  1. I know nothing of Miller so the author's distaste for Miller might be justified. But since he assumes the right of a certain type of aggresion in his piece it might be fair to judge some of his own words.
    "Even if he did manage to snag poor disturbed and abused Marilyn Monroe as a trophy wife for awhile..."
    I find this, for reasons that should be self-evident, quite a repulsive sentence.

    "When I entered the business world and actually got to know not only some really excellent salesmen (and women) and developed an appreciation for the ways they contribute not just to the bottom line but to their customers' operations, my respect for the sales profession grew and grew. The best sales professionals have a bit of nobility to them, doing what's right for the customer, even if it costs them or their employers in the short run. They build trust and personal bonds and actively help their customers succeed, bringing far more than a shoeshine and a smile. The best sales professionals are all problem-solvers and dedicated to their customers. They deserve the big bucks they earn."

    How heartwarming. Soporifically inane party political broadcast for the noble ideology of capitalism, but deeply heartwarming, I'm sure we'll all agree.

    "I will never forget a conversation with a former colleague of mine at Columbia University who left teaching to take a job in business, where he was in charge of marketing certain big ticket products for a major company whose name you would instantly recognize. He spoke movingly of his deep admiration for the dealers of his company's products, many of whom were self-made millionaires."

    The less said the better & I'm afraid I must leave now as I need to clean up the sweet scent of vomit from beneath my feet.

  2. But just quickly to draw attention to the trophy piece segment of the author's thought excretions... "a major company whose name you would instantly recognize"

    Wow, I am honoured to be in the intellectual vicinity of a major company whose name I would instantly recognise...let me bow my head & bless myself. Such an honour to be in such exalted company, & on a Sunday. I am relieved Mr Lifson did not utter the sacred name of this Company as I feel I might have fainted on the stop through unworthiness.
    I think, to change the tome a little, this is the most shameless lackey piece of writing I have ever had the grace to encounter. Good God.

  3. to change the Tone a little

  4. Quite a hatchet job.

    Just goes to show that you can take the facts of a case and twist them towards any ideological interpretation that you wish.

    To portray Miller as such an unredeemable monster reveals a lot more about the writer of this piece than it does about the real Miller. Who was not a saint, nor a total cad, but like most human beings, a blend of both.

  5. Well, John, since this links to Lifson's own blog, maybe you should tell him directly. Me, I've long thought Miller was a tin-eared writer ("Attention must be paid." My God.)and a pompous ass to boot. And I have known people engaged in capitalist ventures who were actually decent, creative human beings. Moreover, I think it's worth pointing out that, once you get past barter, all human economic activity is capitalist, i.e., it depends upon using a medium of exchange. The Soviet Union was an example of state-controlled capitalism.

  6. As saidt though, Frank, Miller is completely alien territory to me, so I was simply applying a little of the attitude of Lifson's to his won words. I'm certainly not pretending to say everyone who makes money is necessarily part of a shameful stereotype, but the kind of hagiographical stuff Lifson seemed to feel the need to insert in praise of the desire to make money, & tangentially the obsequious attitude to the major money makers & companies whose name we would all recognise...we're not children needing to believe in rose-tinted fairy tales. If money was the measure of life, then perhaps I might share the enthusiasm. Alas, such faith is beyond me.
    I stress the vigour of my response is in response to the tone of the piece rather than an annoyance at someone's ideological faith in the dubious innate holiness of money making, with particular mention to that line quoted about snagging a disturbed wife. Though presumably all this stems from the author's, in my view, somewhat skeewed diea of the good, rather than an intended maliciousness so I'll pass on the prospect of heated hostilities on his blog.

  7. Well, it is certainly true that the value of life cannot be monetized. I took Lifson's remarks about business people as just his way of showing how Miller's depiction of such people rarely rubs elbows with reality. I felt much the same way when I saw David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. I simply couldn't believe that Mamet's supposedly high-caliber salesman could have sold an air conditioner in the Mojave Desert. As for Miller, I had more to say about him
    here, appropriately enough, not long after he died.

  8. I think though Lifson portrays waht could be decribed as a religious faith in money-making. The desire for good & even transcendence is being channelled into a belief in money as the domain where one's worth is actualised.
    Your piece is very good, & to offer a thought or two I'll highlight the following:

    it is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."

    A little similarly to my earlier point I'd agree with the healthiness of the aspiration in itself but have to put the brakes on a little in how this dream can be applied or transmuted into the successful acquisition of money. A fuller life in terms of the healthy actualising of human potentialities is perhaps the intangible true American dream, but ideas can be hijacked & money is essentially an unreal abstract, but with its obvious tangible signs of success(what could be more obvious than numbers as a measure of human success to a simple mind) the nobility of this aspiration can be misled.
    And we could probably argue that people like Donald Trump & those poor deluded Trump wannabees are the damning incarnatino of the falisty of dollar-worship. In your piece you mention Jesus, & his attitude to life was also summed up when he said "Man cannot serve two masters." Truth & what is essentially an unreal abstract are incompatible, & surely the faith in the acquisition of money as an innate good is ultimately making a virtue of greed.

  9. Must check grammar before posting

  10. To add, there's the line from somewhere that intelligence becoming divorced from goodwill & love is likely to become inhuman, & perhaps the leftists you mention can be broadly placed within that category, while goodwill undirected by intelligence is likely to become misguided, & the Lifsons of this world broadly of this category.

  11. "Radix malorum est cupiditas," as Saint Paul said. "Love of money is the root of all evil." That a noble ideal - such as the American Dream as Truslow Adams defined it, can be corrupted goes without saying. Miller would have served us all better if he had argued for fidelity to the dream and focused his criticism on those who have corrupted and thereby betrayed it. As I suggested earlier, though, you seem to draw an inference from Lifson's comments that I do not feel is necessarily warranted. Most people in business are not corrupt or dishonest and most do the best job they can for their customers, if only for the utilitarian reason that to do so is good business. Most such people are decent spouses and parents as well. The Millers of this world would have us believe that they are economic Quislings whose only aim in life is to exploit their fellow human beings. But money in itself is morally neutral and the creation of wealth, in fact, is good.

  12. But if we wish to quote people like Jesus then we are in the vicinity of Reality, ie the philsophical Isness of being, existence... And if we talk of the real, then for example, wealth isn't actually created. All we are talking about is numbers on what used to be pieces of paper. Capitalism is, more or less, a system based on commonly agreed upon hallucination. Crops are grown, fish are caught, boats built, etc; this is all the work of human hands in accord with nature; the introduction of money & some abstract wealth into this life is simply an invisible dimension without any foundation in reality. Capitalism might be a system that works to a reasonable extent but that doesn't mean that wealth has been created.
    That the author of the Miller piece has a religious faith in capitalsim is self-evident from lines like, "He spoke movingly of his deep admiration for the dealers of his company's products, many of whom were self-made millionaires."
    You also had a piece in favour of anarchism where life is lived in terms of tangibles as opposed to a system where products & companies exist for the sole purpose of making money; not because of any actual worth to life.

  13. Also if you go into one of our wonderful mass-manufacturing companies, welcome to the flourescent lit modern equivalent of Blake's dark satanic mills.

  14. I work in a fluorescent-lit environment and, let me tell you, it's infinitely better than the factories my mother and grandmother toiled in. It seems to me, John, that you are investing money with at least as much moral force as you suggest Lifson does. Money is a tool for facilitating transactions pertaining to goods and services.Except for the odd miser, most people do not want to have money for its own sake. They want it so they can afford goods and services. As for anarchism, yes, I do think there are often better ways of organizing society than the top-down approach of government. Regarding economic organization, the best thing for all concerned is for wealth to be as widely distributed as possible. In other words, concentrations of it in government or corporations tends to be counterproductive at best. So the more self-made millionaires around the better.

  15. You may work in an environment with fluorescent lighting, but surely you don't imagine this is an equivalent to the factory workplace I was talking of, & where I have worked. A soulless prison existence would be a reasonable description of the time spent in there, & the only reason most of the workers there could live in some kind of ease with the situation is of a lack of knowledge of a better kind of life.
    And I would argue that this is the kind of undesirable & inevitable outcome arising from money & the whole resluting consumerist system.
    As you say, "Money is a tool for facilitating transactions pertaining to goods and services" & that it is a neutral moreal force. I would argue that it is intrinsically going to end up with man enslaved to systems arising from this tool as opposed to money serving man. Also, it would seem logical that by the rules of its nature more & more will end up in the hands of less & less; those with the desire & means able to bully the littler economic men, which in terms of global wealth is obviously what has happened.

  16. Perhaps I should have said "given the nature of man, & particularly certain types of men, it is intrinsically going to end up with man enslaved to systems arising from this tool as opposed to money serving man."