Contributing Author Dickson Igwe

The following story is part of a series of articles on the changing face of global capitalism. Gordon Gecko’s demise marks the end of decades of a credit driven, casino culture in the West. His end is also the beginning of an era of austerity, and an avant garde Western culture of thrift.

A new Western economic model has begun, based upon advanced manufacturing, an emerging renewable energy model, and a much more thoughtful and intelligent commerce driven by an increasingly savings oriented consumer culture.

Now, anyone living in the London of the 1980s and early 90s, such as this Pilgrim once did; distinctly understands the culture of cool. 80s cool was a rendition of Jazz at Ronnie Scotts, London’s Premiere Jazz Club, a song and dance at Mayfair’s funky Gulliver’s, and a night of salsa, Spanish guitar, and mambo at the super trendy Coliseum.

Cool was a culture of pop, soul, and rock; hip hop and blues; and the smoothest and sexiest jazz tunes and renditions. This was a ‘groove’ that ushered in a new era of hip.  ‘Hip, hip, hooray’ was a hubristic thrust that characterized the ‘smooth, rapacious, and unscrupulous operator’ GORDON GECKO, portrayed in the 1987 movie, ‘Wall Street,’ and that ended in the box office hit and sequel, released in 2010, ‘Wall Street: money never sleeps.’

In the 1980s and 90s, money never slept: neither was it properly managed. Instead it was a tool of the trickster, fraudster, and gambler, add the greedy and buccaneering investment banker. Money became an inverse of the real thing, blowing up a deceptive bubble fueled by unrestrained credit, and a fantasy of escalating property prices as panacea for prosperity and the good life, of all things bright and beautiful.

The movie Wall Street was more than a twin episode rendition of greed starring Michael Douglas: two films spread over 20 years about a conscious-less, cold blooded and ruthless investment banker: the archetypal wheeler dealer, and predator. It was a lot more, it was a snapshot of an era of excess, deal making, and blind faith in the free market that began in 1980, and that lasted for 30 years, up and until 2007, and the Great Financial Meltdown.

And incredibly, the years 2007-2009, a painful economic period, shortly before the second Wall Street movie was released, saw the near collapse of the Western Banking system: an economic implosion that was manifested in a woeful self regulatory finance model, a precipitous property devaluation and foreclosure pandemic, and a negative stock market adjustment that ushered in, despite trillion dollar tax payer funded economic stimuluses, an era of thrift and austerity that was unexpected, as it was certainly unwelcomed, especially by the financial elite on Wall Street and the City of London, with their multimillion dollar bonuses.

Gordon Gekko: Photo courtesy coolspotters.com

Pre the Great Financial Collapse, a top layer of banking fat cats manipulated the global economy for their mutual benefit, and were aided by governments that thought of giant retail and investment banks as being so critical to modern capitalism, that they were too big to fail: this was both a grotesque iniquity and sad inequity. It allowed the unthinkable: a culture of poker on the banking high street, but a game played with other people’s money.

The early 80s were the beginning of banking deregulation and a free for all dynamic that began an era of hubris on Wall Street and the City of London, and the pilfering of billions of dollars belonging to apathetic and ignorant investors.

Gordon Gecko, the enfant terrible, starring Michael Douglas, was poster boy for easy street. Gecko sang a love song to a commercial type voodoo mathematics, and an economics of Las Vegas and the roulette wheel, that began with a Conservative party victory in 1979, and the debut of Britain’s first female Prime Minister: Lady Margaret Thatcher, also known as the Iron Lady.

Simultaneously, and across the Atlantic, a US President, and an old Californian cowboy and movie star, with great bonhomie, called Ronald Reagan, was Protector of this new economic model of tight control of money as the crucial mechanism for managing the Western economy.

Big Government became a bad word. Instead, government was to be pared to the bone and responsible for defense and internal security alone. Deregulation became the mantra, and the free market was given leeway to run the rest of the West’s economy. This was the era of wholesale privatization of public assets, and war against trade unions in Britain, especially the coal miners.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and their political, social and economic philosophies, were safeguarded by bands of free market oriented economists and thinkers, at some of the most prestigious places of learning on earth.

This was an exclusive, Trans Atlantic club, of wine and cheese patricians who engineered a new thinking that began the buccaneering type economic environment and free for all philosophic backdrop that saw the rise of predators like the fabled Gordon Gecko. Callous and greedy opportunists who possessed the unscrupulousness and ruthlessness of the most hardened of Levantine carpetbaggers.

Eventually, the names Ivan Boesky, Bernie Madoff and Alan Stanford became emblematic of the rip off, the scam, and the bleeding of millions of investors, small, medium and large. This was an economics of the ‘Wild West’ that would prove unsustainable!

To be continued