The Common Good

What Gamblers Anonymous Can Teach Us About Wall Street

The defenses that Goldman Sachs execs gave to this week's Senate hearings for their actions were full of emotion and denial. They claimed shock that anyone could question their actions. They, the self-claimed Masters of the Universe, were unapologetic in the response. We have heard this attitude again and again from Wall Street, whether it is Merrill Lynch, AIG, or Lehman Brothers execs. It got me wondering.

Many of the Wall Street critics have claimed that Wall Street has become a gambling casino in the last decade or so since the deregulation of the derivatives market. If pushed fully to its logical conclusion, would not then Wall Street breed gambling addiction in its midst?

This description comes from Gamblers Anonymous site:

What are some characteristics of a person who is a compulsive gambler?

  1. INABILITY AND UNWILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT REALITY. Hence the escape into the dream world of gambling.
  2. EMOTIONAL INSECURITY. A compulsive gambler finds he or she is emotionally comfortable only when "in action." It is not uncommon to hear a Gamblers Anonymous member say: "The only place I really felt like I belonged was sitting at the poker table. There I felt secure and comfortable. No great demands were made upon me. I knew I was destroying myself, yet at the same time, I had a certain sense of security."
  3. IMMATURITY. A desire to have all the good things in life without any great effort on their part seems to be the common character pattern of problem gamblers. Many Gamblers Anonymous members accept the fact that they were unwilling to grow up. Subconsciously they felt they could avoid mature responsibility by wagering on the spin of a wheel or the turn of a card, and so the struggle to escape responsibility finally became a subconscious obsession.

This may explain much of Wall Street's failure to understand Main Street's anger over the outrageous bonuses, the extravagance, and the ethical system based only on making money out of air. It explains why they refuse to change even though their actions nearly got us all to hit rock bottom. It explains the refusal to face reality. It also explains why the e-mails released sound so much like immature teenage boys bragging. It seems many on Wall Street live in a gambler's delusional fog.

portrait-ernesto-tinajero1Ernesto Tinajero is a freelance writer in Spokane, Washington, who earned his master's degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. Visit his blog at

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