Night Terrors For Those At The Top

by Karl Denninger, Market Ticker:

What keeps people up at night?

For ordinary folks it tends to be ordinary things.  You think you might have cancer.  You fear your kid is going to screw up big-time and wind up pregnant and alone, in prison or dead.  You fear an approaching hurricane; you have no money to evacuate nor can you rebuild if your home gets destroyed, as you couldn't afford insurance.

For people with lots of money and power all those ordinary things really don't bother them very much.  The kid-based fears are still real, but you can buy their way out of most -- but not all -- of those.  The others?  Meh.  Look at Steve Jobs, who got cancer and yet he both extended his life and finagled a transplant that nobody else could have managed, simply because he was rich.  Yes, the cancer got him anyway but it would have gotten anyone else a hell of a lot faster.  Hurricane?  Into the G-IV we go and call the insurance company.  There are a number of wrecked multi-million dollar yachts in SE Florida right now that could have been moved before the hurricanes came, but weren't -- they were left inadequately secured and were, as expected, destroyed. The (almost-certainly rich) owners basically sold their boats to the insurance company; it happens in every big storm and is why premiums spike like mad as soon as we are hit by one.  In the worst case (e.g. Richard Branson) you hide in your wine cellar and then rebuild when it's over -- you have both insurance and money, never mind other places to live while your palace is restored to its former glory.

No, what these people fear is the sort of thing that just happened with Harvey Weinstein. Not so much that Harvey blew up, of course, but rather instead of being contained to him, it is spreading like the fire from a match tossed on a pile of dry straw in a barn.  There are myriad people who have pulled the same crap for decades and suddenly the "social contract" (read: payoffs) that locked up the voices of all of those who were abused has been shattered.  It's a social mood shift and it brings the hammer down -- hard.

One would hope that the hammer which comes remains civil and lawful but there's no guarantee of that.  Reality is that nobody has eyes in the back of their head.  You can buy security, and most of these people do, but it's both expensive and following protocols to the letter, which you have to do to remain reasonably secure, is a huge pain in the ass.  You can't go to a Christmas party at a friend's house, you can't have one at your own house without screening the people who come, you can't even go into a Church on Sunday.  Travel in your own car, driving, is right out of the question.  So is a visit to an amusement park or shopping at the local mall.  Your home(s) are essentially encased in razor-wire, although you make it look pretty, with all the potential places someone could snipe you from 500ish yards away blocked by hard cover -- and guards.

You might have a big-ass yacht and a G-IV, but what you don't have is the ability to decide to get in your Chevy and head up to the local watering hole for a drink and watch a baseball game.  Or, for that matter, to go to one yourself.  Run a 10k Saturday morning?  On your own property, sure, but on a public street?  Hell no -- that's 3.1 miles each direction you'd have to evacuate everyone from for a radius of 500+ yards.  Forget it.  What I just did -- three races in two days, a 10k, a 5k that evening and then a half-marathon, all on open, public city streets with only a couple of cops (to try to keep the random idiot from hitting us with a car by accident)?  Not if you want to maintain physical security.

You basically have to build yourself a prison and then live inside it.

So most of these guys don't really follow the rules.  The President does, but then again he doesn't write the checks and it's part of the job, which all candidates know before running.  Having the Secret Service go into a hotel before he gets there a couple of days in advance and check everything is just part of the deal.  So is renting a whole floor so you can keep the random ******* in the next suite from being someone other than a random *******, never mind riding around in the back of an up-armored car that's damn close to a tank in terms of it's resistance to attack.

Harvey?  Ha!  Not a snowball's chance in Hell he plays by those rules.  Nor do any of these other guys.  Beyond heads of state nobody does because nobody will put up with that **** and neither will their families.

The local hospital director?  He goes home -- in a Porsche or Lexus, but he goes home and he probably drives himself.  He might have a big boat, but what he almost-certainly doesn't have is a private security force that has the force of law behind them like the Secret Service.  People like Weinstein have chauffeurs but most of them like to drive their own exotic cars a decent part of the time -- you see the chauffeur is a feather in their cap at big public events, of course, and maybe a burly dude or two packing along with him.  Even "big name" executives like Zucker****er and Bezos have the "trappings" of security but not the reality of it.

Nor do Congressmen and women, or any of the people in your State House and Senate, your County Commissioners and City Council members.  Even the mayor of most major cities has nothing more than a couple of cops hanging around him all the time and perhaps a somewhat-upgraded perimeter around their "mansion."  Ditto for the Governor of a state.

No, you see what causes Night Terrors in people with this kind of money and power, whether in the private sector or otherwise, are two possibilities, one "civil" and one not-so-much.

The "civil" one is that someone like Weinstein "blows up" and the rest of those who are guilty of the same garbage get fingered for it along with him.  That sort of event is completely out of their control, which is why they wake up with night sweats; they simply never know if or when the mood will rapidly shift in the country and what was a simmering series of payoffs to people and lawsuits over various very bad acts will turn into "Money ain't enough -- I want your ass in prison, out of a job and broke, and I don't much care in what order those things happen."

The very uncivil possibility is even worse, of course, because unless you're a head-of-state your so-called physical security isn't worth a fart in church.  Oh sure, against one lone nut these measures are almost always enough, and God knows there are a lot of crazy people out there.  That's why folks in those positions pay for said pseudo-security and why people below heads-of-state in fact are reasonably secure with a cop or two watching things in a civil society.  The nuts are pretty easy to defend against because they're crazy and, equally-important, they nearly always act alone.  After all, why would a bunch of sane people follow someone obviously missing a couple of cans from their six-pack?

But none of this applies to the civil or uncivil courses of action if the social mood shifts en-masse and now you have a whole bunch of people who aren't crazy but are hell-bent on justice -- or worse, vengeance. Suddenly you have coldly-calculating, thinking and intelligent folks who you screwed one time too many and they decide individually, but at roughly the same time, that you're not going to get away with it any more.

We're seeing what may be the start of the civil alternative right now in the entertainment industry.  If you're a very rich (or even moderately-rich) creep in that industry you can't be sleeping very well this last couple of weeks.  Who knows how far this goes before it burns out.  It might fizzle rather quickly but then again it might burn far and hot enough to get back into The Lolita Express and everyone who ever took a ride on it, along with going into the halls of government at both a state and federal level.  It sure looks to me like it's not stopping with Harvey Weinstein; every day or three there's another very wealthy and powerful person in the bizness who is finding out that his fingering is coming back to haunt him.  The only real question right now is whether it will remain contained to the entertainment industry.

The jury is out on that thus far....

Where things could get very sporty, however, is if people start recognizing some of the other and arguably much worse abuses that are regularly served up by the wealthy and powerful.  For example, what if people recognize that they're being robbed of a house each and every year and both very wealthy private individuals and government officials at all levels are responsible for it?

Then there's the quite-possibly far worse scenario: America recognizes as a body politic that 200,000 Americans are killed by these abuses every year, it is the third leading cause of death in the country, and it happens simply because there's no incentive to do things right when the hospital or doctor can bill you for the cost of fixing their own mistakes even if they're unfixable or kill you.  The human misery and cost in dollars is bad enough but 200,000 avoidable deaths..... is that an unsupported span far enough out for the mood to shift suddenly and without warning, leading to its collapse?

How many wives and husbands, or parents, have been dispossessed of a spouse or child via these scams and schemes?

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