To the Cleverest Cheater Go the Spoils…

William Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One, and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, explains how while we tend to believe that those rich folks at the top have gotten there through a merit-based selection system that favors brains and hard work, the truth is that many of those “hyper-meritocrats are led by criminal morons” and swindlers. While the mainstream corporate media still embraces the Social Darwinist notion that the winners have a selective advantage that arises from “merit,” i.e., the ability to create wealth, this is a complete myth illustrated by our current suffering from “an orgy of wealth destruction led by the winners. The people who grew wealthiest were often the people most responsible for the largest destruction of wealth in history. That it is an anti-meritocratic system. We do not live in a winner-take-all nation. We increasingly live in a cheater-take-all system.”

Black goes on to explain “Gresham’s dynamic,” i.e., when cheaters prosper, market forces become perverse, in which bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets and professions. Dishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The cost of dishonesty lies not only in the amount by which the purchaser is cheated; the cost also must include the loss incurred from driving legitimate businesses out of existence.

“The Lilliputians look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft. For, they allege, care and vigilance, with a very common understanding, can protect a man’s goods from thieves, but honesty hath no fence against superior cunning. . . where fraud is permitted or connived at or hath no law to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage” (Swift, J. Gulliver’s Travels: 1726). Word.