John Kenneth Galbraith famously described financial genius as "a rising market." This was on display in the expansionary era of the 1950s and 1960s. New bank credits funded growing businesses. Investment bankers injected their own capital into initial share offerings of "public" companies, allowing businesses to grow by taking in shareholders as partners. Finance flourished.
Some people were outraged last week by a report that a member of the kitchen staff of bailed-out Wall Street firm AIG had received a $7,700 bonus.
Surely that was far less outrageous than the million-dollar bonuses paid to others at AIG who actually carried out the firm's financial business.
After all, the kitchen helper produced something that at least could be eaten. Apart from perhaps overcooking the Chateaubriand or leaving spots on the champagne glasses, what harm could the kitchen helper have done -- compared to driving the world economy over a cliff?
It looked like it was business as usual for President Barack Obama on the first day of his Martha's Vineyard vacation, as he spent five hours golfing with Robert Wolf, president of UBS Investment Bank and chairman and CEO of UBS Group Americas. Wolf, an early financial backer of Obama's presidential campaign, raised $250,000 for him back in 2006, and in February was appointed by the president to the White House's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Economic recovery for whom?
Yet I've heard barely a whisper of mea culpa from members of this corporate crowd.
On the contrary, they seem to see the economic meltdown as an opportunity to finally do in their old foes in the labour movement.
After years of demonizing unions and undermining workers' rights, they're now taking advantage of the unpopularity of the auto bail-outs to try to take away gains that the Canadian Auto Workers spent decades achieving, and that set a standard for the labour movement.
It wouldn't shake up the traders high in the towers watching the protests below while laying bets on the number of arrests -- Bloomberg News quoted a spread of 130 to 140 -- as well as deaths and whether more than 20 people would be hurt in charges by police horses. How do you rattle that kind of complacency? I'll tell you: by having an alternative out there in the real world to their gluttonous, failing, yet still smug capitalist system. Of course they're smug. They're the only option available.
Garth Drabinsky and Myron Gottlieb's company was a symptom in that era of high globalization, the 1990s: theatre as a vehicle for corporate grandiosity. Its first coup was getting the Canadian franchise for The Phantom of the Opera. They produced it from a template.
He's one of the people doing the reinventing. In fact, he's just become co-chair of one of the planet's most high-powered committees to change the world, struck by the modestly named Institute of International Finance, but don't be fooled. Members include most of the globe's largest commercial and investment banks, and they pride themselves on their unmatched international political pull.