The Wolf of Wall Street & Assorted Links

Erin and I saw The Wolf of Wall Street yesterday afternoon. It was a gross display of excess. Three new-wolf-of-wall-street-trailer-leonardo-dicaprio-is-the-wealthiest-stockbroker-in-the-worldstraight hours of profanity, sex, greed, drugs. There are those who say that the film doesn’t go far enough to villainize the Wall Street hucksters or moralize about how greed can breed self-destruction. I thought the bacchanalian nature of every single scene made many moral lessons self-evident. Here are some links:

The Wall Street Journal published a profile of Terence Winter, who adapted Jordan Belfort’s memoir into the film. He gives some of his own perspective:

“You, the viewer, are the sucker. You’re being duped and seduced into laughing along with these guys. And every once in a while you’ll hit a little bump in the road”—as when Belfort mentions an employee’s suicide in passing—”where you go, ‘What did he just say?'”

Not many revisions were needed to make the movie’s ’80s and ’90s-era hubris seem relevant, Mr. Winter says: “That’s the point of the movie: We don’t learn anything. Nothing changes.”

From 1905 to 1937, corporate America relied on a Supreme Court case, Lochner v. New York, to challenge most government regulations as violating a “liberty of contract” implicit in the Due Process Clause. Haley Sweetland Edwards argues in Washington Monthly that Citizens United is the new Lochner.

In the Lochner Era, big industry groups and their allies on the Court wielded the notion of “freedom of contract”—any regulation that abridged it was chucked. Today, the notion of “freedom of speech” is being used virtually the same way, just as Rehnquist worried it might be. Any rule or law that abridges a company’s claims to First Amendment-protected speech is now vulnerable to attack.

I’ve argued that generalists are undervalued in our corporate culture. Philosopher Roman Krznaric critiques the “cult of specialization” that has arisen since the Industrial Revolution.

Moreover, our culture of specialization conflicts with something most of us intuitively recognize, but which career advisers are only beginning to understand: we each have multiple selves. … We have complex, multi-faceted experiences, interests, values and talents…

smoking-pregnant-woman1Prevalence of smoking among pregnant women is still, in 2013, 10%.

These numbers are not just women who smoked a little before they realized they were pregnant — these are women who reported smoking during the last three months of their pregnancies.

I’m personally really not a fan of CEOs wearing hoodies. But a recent study profiled in The New Yorker gives some insight into why this “sartorial tactic succeeds.”

But how is nonconformity interpreted by others? Do we see it as a sign of status? New research, to be published next near in The Journal of Consumer Research, suggests that we do. The authors call the phenomenon the “red sneakers effect,” after one of them taught a class at Harvard Business School in her red Converse.

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Yuletide Reading and Links

1495490_352111591598550_810066280_nChristmas is always a good time to catch up on reading. I’ve gotten to sit down with my Kindle for more time in the last week than I had in the previous three weeks. I’ve been making my way through Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath,  The Wall Street Journal had an awesome $12.00 for 12 weeks Christmas subscription special, I’m starting to make my way through the books I received as gifts, and Buzzfeed has some awesome Home Alone articles. Some interesting passages for today.

 

From David and Goliath:

The psychologist James Grubman uses the wonderful expression “immigrants to wealth” to describe first-generation millionaires—by which he means that they face the same kinds of challenges in relating to their children that immigrants to any new country face.

Zachary Karabell laments the Internet’s hatred of optimism while offering his own defense:

Optimism is simply the certainty that any human progress to date has been a product of our collective ability to understand how things work and to craft solutions. The conviction that the present is a prelude to a bad future negates that collective ability. Yes, we may indeed be at the end of the line, but by angrily dismissing optimistic arguments we are likely to fail more rapidly.

In a TNR cover piece about Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad, a former advisor gives some perspective:

“He’s more clever than all the Western and U.S. politicians, for sure,” Ayman Abdelnour, a close adviser to Assad before he fell out of favor and fled into exile, told me. Abdelnour then recalled—by way of explaining why Assad was so difficult to take down—something the young president would tell his inner circle about their foreign adversaries. “They are here for a few years,” Assad would say. “My father, seven presidents passed through him.”

Chiara de Blasio, incoming first daughter of New York City, released a Christmas Eve video in which she admitted that she is in recovery for alcohol and drug abuse. Texan-turned-New Yorker Jessica Huseman gave her take:

Admitting drug addiction as self-medication for depression is an obstacle not many successfully hurdle — especially not so publicly. But it is a choice that presents a lot of loaded political questions for the family.

New York City joined other cities by extending its smoking ban to include e-cigarettes. Councilman James Gennaro, who co-sponsored the legislation, gave some insight into why:

Just seeing people smoking things that look identical to cigarettes in subway cars, colleges and public libraries will tend to re-normalize the act of smoking and send the wrong message to kids.

Some Public Health professors at Columbia have a different take:

The evidence, while still thin, suggests that many e-cigarette users, hoping to kick the habit, use e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to tobacco. Research also suggests that e-cigarettes may be better at helping to sustain smoking cessation than pharmaceutical products like nicotine patches or gums.

Speaking of smoking cessation, a really good advertisement for it:

How Perceptions Frame Reality

In a thought-provoking TED talk, British ad man Rory Sutherland makes the case that reframing situations will lead to happiness. He uses this example, which I found especially humorous and I’ve paraphrased:

The electronic cigarette has given me untold happiness. It’s more than the nicotine. Ever since they banned smoking in public places, I haven’t enjoyed a party.

When you’re at a party with a drink in your hand you speak endlessly to different people. Sometimes when you’re at a party you want to be alone with your thoughts, alone in the corner staring out the window.

The problem is, when you can’t smoke, if you’re staring out the window on your own, you look like an anti-social friendless idiot. If you’re staring out the window on your own smoking a cigarette, you’re a f**king philosopher.