The line between con artists, and financiers, has always been a blurry one. If this sounds crazy, consider that Bernie Madoff – the greatest con man of our era – was the CEO of NASDAQ. Jay Gould and Big Jim Fisk – two of the most famous financiers of the 19th Century – were con artists (who conned Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt into attempting to corner the market for shares in the Erie Railroad, by simply printing more and more stock, so as to make the market uncornerable). So was Daniel Drew (who sold bloated cows to Henry Astor). Enron – hailed as one of the most successful stocks of the late 20th century – was essentially a con. Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, while he was Vice President of the United States – and successfully advocated for a costly, destructive war in Iraq, that would enrich him beyond belief.
So what allows the stock market – an ostensibly public, open venue – to be manipulated so thoroughly? The fact that it is dominated by large players, and tends to benefit the wealthy few at the top at the expense of the larger public. Every boom cycle has historically ended in a bust; and during the bust phase of the cycle, the average American has demonstrably become poorer, while the top 0.1% (notably, those in control of and in bed with banking institutions) get richer.
Second of all, the stock market perpetuates the status quo, giving an incredible advantage to incumbent firms. In this day and age, everyone knows Monsanto, Lonmin, Seaworld, McDonald’s, Texaco, Halliburton, are evil; so why are these players still around? Because they are part of the Fortune 500; they are owned by every investor, rich and poor, who owns an index fund like SPY or QQQ. Furthermore, the stock market, with its functioning like a giant digital casino, effectively separates us from our money to such an incredible extent, that most of us have no idea where our money is actually invested – and thus, what it is actually supporting.