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Fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Posted on Oct 21, 2008 in Blog, money | 4 comments

hedge funder, marijuana, crazy profits and good government

Great letter from a hedge fund manager who is quitting. This is what he sent out to his clients.

http://images.nymag.com/images/2/daily/2008/10/20081017_lahde.pdf

I always fantasized about getting absurdly rich and then walking away, but I always figured I’d die early, while I was still in the getting-absurdly-rich-and-also-miserable phase. It’s interesting too that he turns to a plea for common sense sustainability choices and improved government at the end. And the weed. Don’t forget the weed.

4 Comments

  1. Can you say more about why you think this letter is great? This guy seems pretty contemptible to me.

  2. Yeah, he comes off as entirely contemptible. A selfish, driven, ego-maniacal jackass. And yet…

    I also get the feeling that this guy recognizes that he is a product of his times. We have built systems which celebrate his precise profile. So I find him interesting because of his archetypal feel, but also because he seems to understand that his existence owes itself to venality and corruption and incompetence in our highest echelons.

    Toward the end of his letter, I get the feeling that he’s reaching for something else, wishing for something better than what he actually was. It’s all written flippantly, but I see his off-hand comments about how broken/corrupt the government is, how we’ve failed as a meritocracy, and then his concerns about sustainability and energy independence. This guy is smart and also capable, (830% profit for his clients in a single year, I gather) and he’s also somewhat at a loss for where the world should go. He’s the competence, without the spirit of service, but despite that, toward the end of the letter, I see him sort of flailing to point out places that really need to be cleaned up. It’s completely out of his realm of influence, and yet he uses his final letter to his clients as a bully-pulpit for these issues.

    Another thing that jumps out at me is that as a hedge fund manager, it was his job not to improve things but to profit off the way things were. If the sub-prime lending experiment was going to be a debacle, then it was his job to find a way to profit from it, not to try to get it fixed. The ultimate realist, if you will. But as he’s leaving that world, I see him reaching toward questions not of how the world is, but how, perhaps it could be better. And that’s interesting, too. This is utopian territory. Not profitable at all.

    So I see this hedge fund guy basically pleading for the world to close the loopholes that made him so absurdly rich, and when someone who just made out like a bandit thinks the system that made him rich needs to be reformed, I’m interested.

  3. I guess I’d be more impressed if he’d quit before stashing away tens of millions of dollars in profits. (Or, if he decided to use his money for something good.) As is, he’s like a person who, after using a tax loophole to make himself rich, says that the loophole should be closed. Or, like a White House press secretary who criticizes an administration for lying, after having told outrageous lies when he worked for them. It seems like an cheap attempt to make oneself look virtuous, speaking out long after the time that doing so could have made a difference.

  4. Anjula just told me that she agrees with you.

    I tend to think of him as a bank robber. It’s in his nature to steal, so there’s no point in complaining about his lack of ethics. Instead, he’s a great window into a certain world, and he makes some interesting points, and that makes me like him. But then, Tranh from “Yellow Card Man” is my favorite character that I’ve ever created, and he’s not very ethical, either. I wouldn’t hang out socially with either one of them, but damn, they sure are interesting.