AIG bonuses in the grand perspective

So AIG is going to give back 50 million of the bonuses.

From Randall Munroe at xkcd:

I know. 165 million is a lot of money, especially spread around a relatively small number of people - who also happened to mess up really bad recently - but this whole story is much more interesting if we go a little deeper than just outrage at those damn financial people.

For example, what's the message? The bonuses were contractual, and were allowed to go forward by the US Government - but the same people will go to great lengths to reduce the bonuses if enough people get outraged?

I'm not blaming the B-man for this (because I secretly lurve him, apparently) as much as I recognize that he miscalculated, politically. That in itself is a little disappointed - that it should even be a political miscalculation to begin with - but I also respect the fact that there are a lot of factors that have led to this AIG thing being blown up into a big deal (but at the same time, I refuse to use the words "mainstream media" - wait, damn).

But what's the moral of the story? If you make a big fuss - and there are a lot of other people making a big fuss - then the rules can bend. On the surface, our moral code (mores?) says that that's a bad thing. On the other hand, it's spectacularily evident that our society has, on some level or another, failed. It's a great big market failure (ha ha, economics pun) and despite the politics, that's starting to become clear. And thus, we - as a people - don't care about no stinkin' contracts.

And all of this just makes me imagine what can happen when we unite as a people in outrage.

But what really outraged people? The money, apparently - certainly we didn't care this much when the latest IPCC report came out, or when entire rivers were flooded with coal slurry. It's something about our taxes being used poorly in an extremely public fashion.

So is telling people the best way to save the environment is to get A. expensive home improvements B. tax hikes and C. more expensive power really gonna fly? Probably not.

The B-man says we need inventiveness, and that's true. The world will benefit, because they're going through it right now. But what the US needs is a little different - we need to swallow this pill whole.

And that might mean less pure technological innovation and more user-friendliness and marketing. It's like the difference between an IBM Thinkpad and one of the new Macbooks - at least in terms of aesthetics, since otherwise it'd be a pretty loaded debate (especially on the Internet!). One is the present, one is the future.

Sustainability is our future. In fact, it's our only future.

Now let's get people to understand that, appreciate that, and most of all - yearn for it.

Dealing with the financial structure and people with too god damn much money is part of that, but let's not get tunnel vision here. There's lots more to do.

(And why aren't we more outraged about subsidies? That's tax payer money too! For coal power! And agribussiness! Oh never mind, too much all at once. I'll save it for another post.)

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