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Facharbeit: Capitalism and Greed based on "Wall Street"

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1 Introduction

The words „Wall-Streetand “stock market” are part of most people’s general education, but with its complicated operations, the stock market, in detail, is still hidden behind wafts of mist.
And so is the world of the capitalists, who, driven by insatiable greed, try to surpass and “eliminate” everyone who might cross their line of success.
The basis for my assignment, which is analysing greed and capitalism, was the Movie “Wall Street” directed by Oliver Stone, where the young stock broker Bud Fox is getting attached to Gordon Gekkos’ sophistication. Trying to become like him, he did not realize how much damage he caused.
With these fundamentals, I went on to analyse those traders, who deal with other peoples’ money and how they compete against each other in the free market economy.
My attention was mainly fixed on the surrounding of the individual, because I basically consider them as resistant and intelligent enough not to fall for the greed. That is why the influence of the environment of the individual is required to form “the capitalist”.
Furthermore I specified what becomes of a person when he is possessed by greed and capitalism. I
The information, which was necessary for the analysis, was found primarily in biographies and autobiographies; these do not present everything entirely authentic, but gave me good direction about the life of a broker or investment banker. Surprisingly most of the habits and attributes of the capitalists were perfectly matching. World wide!
2 The Movie “Wall Street

2.1 Summary
Oliver Stones drama “Wall Street” presents us Charlie Sheen as stock broker Bud Fox, who is determined to develop himself into a millionaire, whatever it might cost.
Therefore he gets in contact with Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), who is known as a reckless trader and corporate raider, who hardly shows any “emotions” “in Money Hell, where men with concrete souls (...) play games with (...) workers’ paychecks.”
Forced by greed Fox accepted to make money by delivering Gekko insider information, despite they are illegal, about several companies, so Gekko and Fox have knowledge that others don’t. So they are able to predict when it worth buying shares.
But it all comes to an end, when Gekko is trying to acquire Bluestar Airlines, where Buds’ father Carl Fox (Martin Sheen) is the unions’ leader.
Considering that Gekko is only trying to buy it, since he wants the profit from selling its assets, from the hangars “down to the typewriter” , without being aware about the consequences for the employees, Fox is finally finding back to his moral values, deciding to co-operate with Sir Larry Wildman, another broker, to buy Bluestar, rescue the Airline and insulting Gekko.
In the end Fox is arrested by the SEC for “violating the Insider Traders Sanction Act”.
Emphasizing that he is no longer accepting the avaricious behaviour of an arbitrager, he is cooperating with the SEC to harm Gekko.

2.2 Micro-Analysis
The scene I chose for my micro analysis is one of the key scenes and as well as the turning point of the story.
It shows the angry Bud Fox, after realizing that Gekko wants to sell Bluestar Airlines, entering Gekkos’ office in order to encounter him with the selling issue.
I made the decision for this scene, since it has a lot of information in it, and a mass of emotion from the actors.
Besides, there are good connections to my task about the problems of capitalism, as well as the greed for money at any cost.
Chapter: 12 3:49
Duration: 3:50 minutes

Time: 1:30:34 – 1:34:20
The Scene begins with Gekko talking to some of his business partners. With Fox entering the room the camera moves towards Gordon and is passed by Fox, who is shown from behind in a medium shot.
The room itself looks very luxurious: Black granite all over the wall, many objects of art; as well as golden statues in the display case.
Despite the walls being black, the room does not seem to be dark at all, since big windows are covering on side of the room.
Then the camera zooms on Gekko, focused on his face to let the audience see that he’s surprised by Fox angrily coming into his office.
Without looking at Fox he sends his partners away, than confronting Fox why he is there.
With Gekko walking to the door the camera zooms to Fox, turning around him and than focus on Gekko.
The pictures show a typical movement of the camera in this scene, because in this scene the camera often moves around the actors showing their expression.
The whole turn is only about 2 seconds long.
The first cut is at 1:31:25, which is a “Reaction shot” on Gekko, who for the first time, speaking to Fox unbinds his temper and angrily shouts at him. After that he tries to calm Fox, telling that even if his father will loose his job, Bud will have enough money, so Carl Fox does not have to work again.
However, in his greed, he does not mention all the other workers, who do not make any profit out of the deal and will end up in poverty after the airline is sold.
Then Gekko explains want capitalism is based on, it can be clearly seen how reckless he is, Bud instead seems to realize that the world he now lives in is not about “birds and bees”.
In this shot Gordon tells Bud that most Americans do not posses as much as it would be worth mentioning.
In this camera position Bud’s inner conflict is shown clearly: On one side there is wealth, but to achieve this, he has to break laws and can not respect anyone; on the other side there is the honest life, but without much fortune.
Gekko seems to know that Fox is essentially in the Bluestar deal, so he makes sure that he still trust him by saying „Are you with me?“ “I need to now: Are you with me?”
He not only wants to convince him of his plan, he also puts a lot of pressure on him so he will not interfere again.
When Gekko says “I need to know” music begins to play in the background. In the beginning very quiet, than becoming louder.
At first there is a kind of horn, a few seconds later a snare drum appears.
When Gekko shuts the doors and goes to his desk, in order to make a phone call, the music underlines his current emotions. It gets louder and more dramatic, together with the horn and the snare drum, there is now also a drum, which makes thunder like tones and a triangle.
The music is used as a sound bridge to the next scene.
2.3 Diagram of Tension

2.4 The Dedication
Oliver Stone was inspired to make a drama about corruption and greed, by his father Lou Stone (1910-1985). For that reason the movie is dedicated to him.
Lou Stone was a Wall-Street broker for 34 years, but unlike the corporate raider Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), whose character was also based on an existing person, his meaning of life was not “all about bucks”.
The character, who was formed after Lou Stone, is Lou Mannheim, played by Hal Holbrook.
Oliver Stone described his father as a very calm, but serious man, a respected economic-intellectual, who published many books and reports about the market. (They were translated into 20 languages)
But he did not make as much money as many people expected from him, O. Stone observed he made all the money for his clients and not much for himself.
Oliver also claimed, that is dead did not had any sense of saving money. It was Lou Stone, who told him that he “spend the money as I own”.
2.4 Lou Mannheim
Lou Mannheim, even if he is just a sub-character he plays an important role in the movie.
Mannheim is the CEO of Jackson Steinem and for that reason he has the power about everyone. But he is not respected properly by the brokers, because he does not like risky investment and prefers “to stick to the fundamentals” because “good things sometimes take time”.
Mannheim often comes to the “boys” with advises and suggestions; as well as he tries to hand over his wisdom to the young generation, in order to create fair and respectful brokers, who do not deal with any illegalities. However he fails with Fox and gave one of the weightiest quotes of the movie by saying: “Man looks in the abyss. There is nothing staring back at him. At that moment, the man finds his character. And that keeps him out from the abyss.”
This means Bud should realize that he is already in too deep, but still has the chance to find his way back.
It shows that, in end the end, only the fair-minded will survive. History shows that, this is perennially the case, but the message of the movie is obvious: “Stick to the fundamentals” , work hard and lawful, that is the only respected way to success.

3 Capitalism
The basic idea of capitalism is not bad at all, it just about „the distribution of goods in order to realize a profit“, which is only in socialism and communism prohibited.
It will only become an evil thing when an individual is willed to make money by breaking laws, acquiring profit by somebody making loss ,or giving a minimum amount of loan to his/her workers.

3.1 Historical Background
Capitalism itself got a long tradition. The first hints of a capitalistic society can be found in the Arabic culture of the seventh century A.D., where they started trading. (Goods for money)
Later the Arabians also discovered Europe as a market, so it is believed that “mercantilism”, how it is called, came to Europe from the Arabic countries.
The religious form of capitalism is called “Calvinism”, which basically mean that the individual with the most affluence is Gods’ most precious.
But different to modern capitalism, spending money on luxurious good is tabooed, that is why all the money is invested in new companies.

3.2 The Concept
The fundamental concept of capitalism is that every person has “economic freedom”, which is also based on democracy, but in capitalism personal profit is more likely to be achieved as the unity and wealth of the entire society.
But it is remarkable that capitalism only works in the western society. Hernando de Soto described in his book: “The mystery of capital”, that even if people of, for example, the Third World own enough land, electronic goods or other things, they can not make it into “capital”.
These people only posses, but they don’t have any document saying that this and that is theirs, they just own it.
Similarly there is a lot of business, but there is no status of incorporation.
It is very hard to say whether this is a good thing or not.

3.3 The Zero-Sum-Game
In Michael Lewis “Liar’s Poker”, as well as in “Wall Street”, capitalism is described as a zero-sum-game, which means “somebody wins, somebody looses”. This statement lets conclude to the “moral values” of the people working on the “Street”, they do not care about the others loosing money as long as they make profit.
But it is not throughout a zero-sum-game. For that “Gordon Gekko” gave an instance for a capitalistic case which is not a zero-sum-game, when he told “Bud Fox” that he bought a painting for less money than he could sell it now. Obviously the person who would buy the picture would make a loss, but on purpose.

3.4 Ethics
The superior reign that makes normal people do unethical und immoral acts, is the desire of money in order to become unique in the modern society.
In capitalism, greed will lead money into an idol, worshipped by people.
Defining the ethical standards in capitalism is impossible, since the variety of different values is too huge. The only way to generalize is by saying the more money the individual already has, the more he intends to have, and that is why capitalists can not posses enough money.
With a certain amount of money, capitalists, in many cases, get more and more careless, which in the banking business, where a high percentage of people making money by illegal transactions, is lethal. There are issues where to greedy persons get arrested, due to feeling untouchable.

A good example for this comes not from Wall-Street, but it demonstrates that the greed for money is completely unethical and is not only a problem of the USA:
Pablo Escobar became a billionaire by running the biggest cocaine cartel of the world.
But that was not enough; he even made it into the Columbian congress and supported many social facilities, to help the poor. But he did it not for welfare, but to have people on his side to protect him; especially against the USA. When he was supposed to go to trial, he blew up the entire state building, killing everybody and every evidence. No Columbian wanted to trial him again, because of fear.
After he was caught by the Americans, and sentenced to prison, he escaped and later he was shot.
The day he was executed, he hid in a small village, possessed by the idea that he is inviolable, not realizing that he was already trapped by a special police force.
This might be the worst case of capitalism ever, but it certainly clarifies how far people would go for money and power.
A different degree, but still a good example for moral values is displayed in the movie “Boiler Room”. Main character Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) sold shares to a customer, saying that they will “go up” for sure. Pestered by Davis, the customer buys the shares with the money he saved as a down payment for a house. With the price going down Davis refused to take the shares back, because he is forced by his boss not to take back anything.
Then his customer not only lost his money, but also his wife and daughter.
It is well presented, that Davis even, if he is forced to, does everything to please his boss in order to keep his job. Davis had moral issues; however the money involved made the decision.

4 Insider Trading
Insider trading is as old as the stock market itself. That is why 1934 a law against the illegal trading was passed.
Even if many people think that insider trading is completely illegal, there is a way to legal trading, but it is very small.

It is legal insider trading when the person who buys the stock:
Works for the Company he has the insider information
Send a report about the trading to the SEC
Illegal insider trading is basically, when non-public information is given to another person by corporate officers, directors or employees.
In the movie Fox got insider information from his father and traded with them, that is as illegal, as if he gave a friend of him, who is an attorney, the information to buy Teldar Paper stocks and in return he showed him where he can find some information about another deal, where his friend is hired as lawyer.
Individuals who disobey the SEC law will be punished by “disgorging their trading profits”.
The SEC is also allowed to give a penalty up to three times of their profit.
By according to people’s loyalty to law, further to their greed for money and their own penalty being lowered, the SEC sets a bounty on the insiders.
So Fox’s punishment, after co-operating with the SEC will not be as high as it was before.
The high risk of insider dealing is well known by the brokers, but the vision of having more money than they could spend, lets them forget this hazard.
Notorious B.I.G. said: "Either you're slingin' crack-rock, or you've got a wicked jump-shot." In the movie “Boiler Room” main character Seth (Giovanni Ribisi) related this quote to his own life: “So I went the white boy way of slinging crack-rock: I became a stock broker.”
So, stock broker are defiantly aware of the danger of dealing with illegal information.
5 The Typical Wall-Street Broker
After doing my research, I was surprised to find many parallels between financial traders, stock/investment brokers and the other jobs at Wall-Street and other markets world wide.

5.1 On the Outside
The typical (greedy) stock broker is a Caucasian male, but the percentage of other ethnic groups is rising, women, still, are more likely to have a “behind the desk” job at Wall-Street. (But it does not mean they have only secretary positions in the company.
Michael Lewis indicates that, when he became a trainee at Salomon, he was the only one who was blond. Everybody, except him, had dark or no hair; presumably because the stock market was in Jewish hand for a long time, yet it changed over the years, more and more. (Still, numerous brokers loose their hair, due to stress)
The average age of a broker is about 45, but the age of the money hungry start-ups is about 29. (Michael Lewis was 24 when he got into business, Nick Leeson only 18)
As business men are used to, they wear suits; the more expensive the suits are the more authority and respect he has. Ergo: Brokers spend exceedingly much money on them.
5.2 The Inside

There are two kinds of brokers:

The superior one:
He thinks he has to (pretend to) be superior to the others, in order to impress the bosses and let the other fear him. This works like the “survivor of the fittest” principle; so the toughest will win.

The bosses pet:
Always sitting in the first row, listening interested and does everything to please the companies “elite”. That he tries to achieve is that a good job or a higher position is given to him, for being “everyone’s darling”
Type A is the more common one.

5.3 Their Life
Young Wall-Street broker live a very exhausting life, but it is unquestionable that it is not the worst.
Stock Traders usually work from 6am-6pm, the entire period of the market.
Those who control the orders etc. work a lot more.
When the days’ job is done, the “job” during night begins: party!
They do this a lot and they spend a lot of their money, just because they have it and they are firm to get more and even more.
Commonly their marital status is single.
When Michael Lewis was still a trainee and an old broker told the class that it is more important to have a family instead of a career, Lewis wrote that it was the most bizarre thing, they had heard during their training.
Alternatively to living in a relationship there are some other ways for the brokers to have sexual intercourse. (Which is, according to many sources, very important for them)
Prostitution is not a taboo topic a Wall-Street.
Young brokers also enjoy representing their wealth, by buying luxurious goods, such as big houses and sport cars.
6 Working for a Capitalistic Company
Working for a renowned company, like Merrill Lynch, is in many aspects very complicated.
Even joining such a corporation is more arduous than graduating in Harvard, which in many cases is essential. However, even if a person is hired, it is still a rocky way to success.
After the training program, which is actually thought for educating the trainees but used for socializing, so they will get a more respected position, the trainees become “Geeks”.
Geeks are treated by the others as less than nothing; their only function is to carry out orders, such as buying something to eat. The worst thing about this job is not physical exhaustion, but agony, since trainees and Geeks really have to fear everybody. Not only because of the tricks played on them, but the anxiety of loosing their position because they might not have pleased the seniors adequate. Though it is not seen as mobbing, throughout the years it became a ritual to tease the Geeks and when the juniors become seniors they will do the same to the younger ones.
With their position finally occupied, they are still not equal to all colleagues, since there is a strict hierarchy, according to how much money the individual accumulates.
That is why team-work does not exist in capitalism, only if both parties make remarkable profit. Even “killing” your rivals in the company is legitimate, since everyone could steal money. As a result, everybody is a lone wolf, and everyone tries to be the best, even if they know they are not. For that reason, revealing their true emotions and thoughts is prohibited, so that a weak spot is not identifiable.
Respecting other employees is rare, since they could get your position, or sometimes worse: Your purchase order, and at the end of the year an increased bonus. Your bonus. The bonus and the salary in general are the most significant factors for capitalists, when they decide for a job or a firm. Therefore many capitalists leave their company if they received an offer, which promises them more money.
For that reason even traditional incorporations, such as Salomon Brothers, are very unstable if it comes to its employees. Sometimes another establishment is expanding by hiring employees from other concerns. (In Salomon’s case it was mostly Goldman Sachs)
That is why loyalty, in capitalism, is not built with the help of friendship or devotion, but with greed for money.

7 Conclusion
It would be a too obvious lie if I would say capitalism is greed and greed is the root of everything evil.
Is not money the reason why most students attend the school form of the “Gymnasium”?
Is it the desire to get more educated than the others?
No. In many cases it is the prospect of a highly-paid job for easier work compared to, for example, construction workers.
What is so condemnable about an individuals’ desire to make money?
What about insider trading? On the surface it seems to be unfair that people having an advantage about others, but who is really hurt?
Especially on Wall-Street everyone “is about the buck” and that is why incorporations exist, not to let the workers have the right to make decisions, but to make money.
They are aware of the risk and their greed forces them to do the step.
That is the reason why capitalism (on Wall-Street) is not a wicked way to live.
Greed, on the other hand, has to be seen with prudence, because greed can harm innocent people.
Example: A (monopole) company fires a lot of people and lowers their product quality in order to make a huge profit.
Also the human attributes gets changed during the progress of becoming more and more obsessed by greed.
Also shown on “Wall-Street” it is even worse in “Boiler Room”: Stock brokers only show up in gangs in public during night and even in their private life they have to outperform the others, mostly also colleague brokers.
The only case, where a high paid broker was still hanging around with his friends from school (Who were plumbers or had other “not respected” jobs) was Nick Leeson, who is British. It is hard to decide, whether this is just a coincidence or an affection of the European culture.
Words: 3.929
(inf.) Wall-Street language; stealing an offer or a client, so the person can not make any money
„Wall Street“; Gekko advised Fox not to get emotional about stocks
Anhang A 1
„Wall Street“ Chapter 12 (1:29:53)
Securities and Exchange Commission
„Wall Street“ Chapter 14 (1:50:32); Anhang A2
„Wall Street“ Chapter 1 Time: 00:03:47
„Wall Street“ Chapter 1 Time: 00:03:52
A4 (1)
A4 (2)
inf. „Wall-Street
“Boiler Room” USA (2000) directed by Ben Younger
Christopher Wallace (U.S. Rapper)
The author of „Liar’s Poker”
one of the biggest brokerage incorporations in the 80’s
Author of “High Speed Money”
Used by Michael Lewis in „Liar’s Poker“
inf. Trader lang.
“You are not naive enough to think we are living in a democracy (...)” “It is the free market (...)”
With these sentences, Fox realized that he can not compete with Gekko. So he closes his eyes in order to accept his failure. At this point, Fox does not see any way to rescue Bluestar and seems to keep following Gekko without own will.
As it can be seen Gekko himself is trying to look superior to Fox in just standing next to him.
There are many details, just from comparing their looks, which leads to the temporary victory of Gekko.
This camera setting endures 8 seconds in this position, than it is interrupted by Fox turning away.
It is clarified in this picture that Fox lost all his passion to tell Gekko what he thinks about him. He just turns around and is ready to leave.
Gekko and the camera did not move, that shows that the only one who is resigned is Bud. Gordon can not be moved from his point of view.
Meine Facharbeit mit dem Thema Kapitalismus und Gier.
Hauptaugenmerk der Facharbeit liegt auf der Analyse des Films "Wall Street" und auf der Entwicklung eines Individuums zu einem "Kapitalisten"

(Englisch-Facharbeit zum Thema "Capitalism and Greed based on "Wall Street"") (4202 Wörter)
14.06.2004 von unbekannt
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