Sheila Bair is my guidepost, along with Zingales through all of the subprime mess. Bair correctly notes that banking has become outsized in the economy as a percentage of revenue of GDP. I think that's about to change, depending upon a few things.. What people are about to discover, just like with Hollywood, a lot of this banking work isn't that difficult, and the monster companies make it too complicated. Smaller specialty financial organizations will arise.
I have mixed opinions about venture capital. On the one hand, it is so obvious to me that it's rich men dangling dollars over poor men's heads and making them jump like dogs for scooby snacks. On the other hand entrepreneurs never had it so good. And these new businesses are the vitality and dynamism of the economy, drawing out fabulous ideas. On the other hand who in their right mind over 40 wants to work with these lifeless sweaties and their free Odwalla and ping pong tables? (God, I'm going to the Amazon conference this week in Vegas, pray for me.) If I hear somebody say 'disrupt' again I'm going to puke. Then again, shit needs disruption, and at least people are throwing money rather than sitting on it.
But really Im on about culture, and I don't like the impermanence of these fast-lane companies. I much prefer the structure and deep knowledge that comes from evolutionary mastery of subjects, not just making a new winky-blinky. The new standards of software development don't approach industrial craftsmanship.
That's where David Graeber comes in and says that most people have 'bullshit jobs'. And I think he's right. The whole soul-crushing dystopia of corporate life becomes immediately transparent in his analysis. It's why I left Xerox and became a consultant. In many industries only the hired guns and top execs have the real, meaningful work and everything else is Dilbert. But it's not just the top brass that gets away with incompetence, the whole divisions and departments are full of people who are 'empowered' but don't make the call. White collar work is not as brutally competitive as sports, and where it gets brutal is in its politics, over bullshit. Which is why Americans who live that life very much appreciate somebody who cuts through the bullshit.
30 years ago that personality was represented by Sandy Sigiloff and by Lee Iacocca. More recently it was 'Neutron' Jack Welch. Americans instinctively understand that a lot of government bureaucracy is *powerful* bullshit, and they want somebody to go in there and clear out all the deadwood. It's like the old joke. The new Cabinet Sec'y of the Interior is transitioning in. He asks the old boss, "How many people work in this government agency?" The old boss replies, "About half."
America is in the pit of a successful alternative culture war. The 'Protestant work ethic' has been defeated at the polls. People don't save, they buy on credit. People don't value sobriety, they vote to smoke weed. Americans have normalized not only non-conformity, but the bizarre and perverse. I believe alt-America doesn't want to work in a traditionally profitable line of work, and that more importantly, they are losing the culture of doing so. This has gone way beyond casual Friday. And yes I'll sound partisan when I call it 'the culture of entitlement', but yeah. We have lost that way of doing business where you stay in one company for 30 years and you get really really good at something, and it's worth it to put on the hard black shoes every day. We have kids who learn that they can't learn math, so after high school they never try. They learn that history is boring and so they never try to find meaning in it.