The Fortune Guy Is the One With the Problem

There's a Fortune article on a Goldman guy who quit. ("The Man Who Walked Away from Goldman Sachs," William Cohan, 0208.10.) The Goldman guy was worried about Goldman doing a header like Lehman. The Fortune guy wrote: ""If Goldman's stock went to zero as Lehman Brothers' had ... then Winkelried's decades of hard work would be vaporized in the blip of a Bloomberg screen."

What a horror. Namely, the fact that the Fortune guy could produce that sentence, presumably with no sense of irony.

Suppose my net worth was 100.000% wiped out this morning. I would be unhappy. Very unhappy.

But ...

But if my net worth went to zero, the value of my last several decades of work would be precisely the same, for good or for ill, as it had been before the net worth tanked.

That is, my net worth and the usefulness (if any) of my work are not related except indirectly.

I think finance is absolutely a centerpiece of our economic well-being. Hence I trust that Mr. Winkelried has done work of value to my country and the world in his decades at Goldman Sachs. I assume, in fact, that there should be a multiplier—that is, the economic usefulness of Mr. Winkelried's work is a multiple of his compensation; he's hopefully been a "net contributor" to our collective well-being.

So it's sad that the Fortune guy would only imagine valuing Mr. Winkelried in terms of his net worth—and thence assigning no societal economic value to Mr. Winkelried's decades of 20-hour days.

I know nothing about Mr. Winkelried. But I think the Fortune guy has a whopper of a problem.

(This Post is from the Auckland airport, as I await a flight to Nelson.)