The Unsaid Lesson of the GameStop Short Squeeze

The immediate aftermath of the GameStop Short Squeeze saw a flurry of headlines, screams by panicked rich people, and cheers from populist-minded onlookers. Those panicked screams claimed among them the exasperated and metaphorically teary begging to regulate the industry answered by the angry yelling by the left that such begging was shamelessly hypocritical. If anything, the begging for regulation was less a signal of hypocrisy and more one of financial stupidity because if those beggars were not stupid then it would have been clear to them that they should have waited a few days to see if the market would correct itself. Of course, it did and the share price of GameStop returned to almost normal quickly. It is a lesson in human nature and politics as much as anything else. In the myopic state of human perception. Those regulations that were so dearly wanted would have doubtlessly backfired on the large investors who only thought they would be worth it since it would mitigate a phenomenon that apparently wasn’t a problem. They made a choice, an unrealized one, granted, to lose money based on a shortsighted and hasty understanding of the market which is what I would define as the definition of a bad investor.

That, of course, is assuming that it was all honest on their end. I suspect that some of the motivation for their chants for stopping retail investors were as much culture war as anything else. It’s the same reason they support Donald Trump even though his trade policies and everything else negatively effect their bottom line. They knew that the market would correct itself and regulating would hurt them more than the opposite but that they need to foster a political culture that sees them as the invaluable and exalted class from which American capitalism is driven and whom is responsible for our collective greatness which passing policies on a whim would show.

Donald Trump, himself, did not want more money and despite his business dealings and corruption in office, that was apparent. Despite all of his bribes, kickbacks, and petty acts to earn money, Donald Trump lost enormous money as did almost all of his assets over the course of his presidency. Whatever he gained by forcing dignitaries to stay in his hotels and giving government contracts to himself, he lost many times over by making his brand worse than toxic. He knew that and he didn’t want the money, he wanted the feeling of power derived from forcing someone to bend to him. The large investors wanted society to treat them in a certain way whether or not it was good for them financially.

Yet, both explanations are likely true and I believe the former is more true than the latter as for the reasons the large investors begged. As an Asperger’s nerd, it may seem natural that the popular cliques would eschew me but I’m a political, psych, and social science nerd, not a STEM nerd, and would likely be a greater technical asset than a social liability. If the kids thought more deeply about their choices, they’d probably be wise to keep social analysts on retainer but they don’t think that deeply. If they planned their social strategies and consulted with experts then they would gain far more popularity and in a far more stable manner than by making gut decisions and relying on their intuition. Even some STEM nerds would be an asset to keep on retainer for the popular kids.

Perhaps amazingly, that idea would be alien to them. The American bourgeoisie is like the popular kids in that analogy. They want the most austere libertarian state with almost no regulations and taxes. While Scandinavian-level taxation and regulation would do more harm than good to their revenue, Canada-level would benefit them by improving infrastructure and enhancing worker health and productivity. In the mind of the typical corporate executive, they understand that they get judged for their quarterly earnings and not the growth of the company with a few exceptions like Amazon who would routinely lose money to undercut competition. They can’t bring themselves to accept short-term losses for long-term gains.

The lesson in all of this is that the business culture in our country, and the culture more broadly, lacks the comprehension of object permanence. I say that because object permanence is what babies learn when they leave the world of the moment and enter the world of chronology. For all of their personal fineries, they lack finesse. Instead of looking cool, calm, collected, and even benevolent like Elon Musk and other corporate leaders did by rooting for small investors and know no serious precedent would be set. The bulk of that class did the opposite made themselves look pouty, elitist, and ultimately like bad investors.

Thinking about the clique analogy from earlier, it may be a good strategy to increase kindness, well, at least, liberality, if people were taught that not only was it altruistic to be inclusive and accepting but that it was also in the interest of social capital. That by prejudice and shallow judgments they lose selfish opportunities, too. That is unlikely to happen and the fact that it is unlikely is one of the reasons liberal democracy is faltering since progress can be made if people are willing to sacrifice just for their own long—term welfare. Liberal democracy is in the interest of the enablers of the far-right and alt-right and it will ultimately ruin them if they allow such problems to fester but it will help them in the immediate future through more threadbare government oversight and revenue streams that the far-right gives them. Nothing is sadder or funnier than watching people die of their own stupidity.  

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