Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Op-Ed: What Harvard Philosophy Courses Taught Me About Grifting

Editors' Note: This week, the International House of Hot Takes, d/b/a The New York Times Op-Ed Page, offered up an account of ancient finagling plutocrat Bob Rubin's encounter with philosophy at Harvard College, where he went to college.  That's Harvard College, buddy, and don't you forget it.  Apparently his Gen. Ed. survey courses taught him how to make billions, run Citibank into the ground, and keep Bill Clinton from spending money on poor people.  That's quite an achievement for one little Department.  Well, we at the Spy have op-ed writers who went to Harvard too.  And they took, or at least registered for,  Philosophy courses there. And they too were inspired to grift their way to fame and fortune, just like Bob.  Don't believe us?  Check this out:

By Samuel Insull '76
Financial Editor

As I look back on my brilliant career in financial depredation, I think not only of the hundreds of factories I helped to close, the thousands of workers displaced by my leveraged buy-outs, and the billions I have safely stashed in Cayman Islands trusts.  I also hearken back to my days as a humble Harvard undergraduate walking up the steps of Emerson Hall [Or was it Sever?  Louise, please check – S.I.] to drink in the collected wisdom of the great professors who taught me everything I needed to know about Philosophy.

As a mere freshman I encountered the legendary Philosophy Professor Robert Nozick.  I'll never forget his classic response to my question about the meaning of life: “Who are you and why are you talking to me?”  Such fundamental questions!  Years later, when I returned to Harvard to drop $20,000,000 of WorldCom stock on Neil Rudenstine, l learned the answer: that I was a brilliant son of Harvard who would be remembered forever for ensuring that future Philosophy Professors would no longer have to put up with in window air-conditioning units.

It's a lesson I never forgot: when you have big bucks, they know who you are and they can't wait to talk to you!

My philosophy. 
I also remember sitting in Philosophy 171, Political and Ethical Philosophy, taught by the great moral philosopher John Rawls, author of A Theory of Justice.  Professor Rawls had just finished his magnificent work.  It taught me that I needed something equally magnificent named after me, which is why you can be treated at the Insull Massachusetts General Hospital, entertained at Insull Symphony Hall, and read all about it in The Insull Boston Globe, edited by my brilliant fourth wife, Tawny Insull.

Professor Rawls also taught me many vital lessons that I applied in my business career.  At a critical juncture, I learned that some big banks would lend me $1 million for every $10,000 in capital I invested in flipping a business.  I knew the banks were making a terribly risky business decision, but at that time they had  much more money than I did.  Professor Rawls always taught that the right decision is the one that benefits the least advantaged, and in those days, before those banks went bankrupt from those bum loans, the least advantaged was me!

That same wisdom also taught me the value of hiding indebtedness behind a veil of ignorance, or as my bankers called them, special investment vehicles.

I remember the late nights discussing great ideas and sharing the weed provided by my classmate John “the Bongmaster” Roberts.  He always used to say when you thought about it that white men were the least advantaged people because everyone was always trying to take what they had, and that if I didn't chip in $20 for the next ounce I could smoke lint.  I wonder whatever happened to that guy?  What a wastie!

But let me return to what Harvard's Philosophy Department taught me: always focus on what is truly important in my life  And that's me.  Despite the bankruptcies, the divorces, and the SEC settlements I've never stopped concentrating on me.  Best of all, now that I'm rich as s***,  everyone listens to me and thinks I'm a f***in' Socrates. 

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