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Mar 16 / Jonathan

We honor the market thus

Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber.

Aigamemnon (A Fragment)

CLYTAEMESTRA
Citizens of Argos, you Elders present here, I shall not be ashamed to confess in your presence my fondness for my CEO, billions of dollars of losses notwithstanding.

First and foremost, it is a terrible evil for a wife to sit forlorn at one of her several homes, severed from her husband, always hearing many malignant rumors, and for one messenger after another to come bearing tidings of disaster, each worse than the last, and cry them to the household. Because of such malignant tales as these, many times others have had to loose the high-hung halter from my neck, held in its strong grip. It is for this reason, in fact, that our boy, Timmy, does not stand here beside me, as he should. For he is in the protecting care of well-intentioned taxpayers, who warned me of trouble on two scores—your own peril beneath Ilium’s walls, and then the chance that the people in clamorous revolt might nationalize everything, as it is natural for men to trample all the more upon the fallen. Truly such an excuse supports no guile.

CASSANDRA
Are you sure you should be paying out this money?

CLYTAEMNESTRA
Thanks to a substantial injection of public funds, my heart is freed from its anxiety and the annual bonuses may be paid. [To AIGAMEMNON] So, my dear lord, dismount from your car, but do not set on common earth the foot that has trampled upon global markets. You to whom I have assigned the task to strew with bonuses, salary top-offs and the like, Quick! With something on the order of $160 million let his path be strewn, that Justice may usher him into a new quarter he never should have seen. The rest my unslumbering vigilance shall order duly, for if Geithner can be made to swallow this than, please god, pretty much fucking anything can be subsequently ordained.

AIGAMEMNON
Offspring of Leda, guardian of my house, your speech fits well with my views. Pamper me not as if I were a woman, nor, like some barbarian. For I do not take these gifts out of greed, but rather because my hands are tied with the bonds of contractual obligation. I find it difficult and distasteful to proceed in this fashion. But the gods of Serious Legal Consequences must be appeased and so unhappily I must shoulder the burden of paying out this money to employees who only recently crashed the global financial system.

CASSANDRA
Normally it’s the other way around, but I don’t believe this.

AIGAMEMNON
We honor the market thus; but it is not possible for a mortal to proceed with such barefaced cheek without fear. Thus I tell you it is better to revere me as a god. Only when man’s life comes to its end in taxpayer-funded, wholly unjustified prosperity dare we pronounce him happy; and if I may act in all things as I do now, and roll the Treasury in this quite spectacular fashion, I have good confidence that future creative restructuring solutions will likely eventuate similar outcomes. To have it turn out otherwise would be tantamount to Class Warfare. Besides, we are committed to seeking other ways to repay the taxpayers for supporting the Financial Products Division Retention Payments.

CASSANDRA
Such as what?

AIGAMEMNON
I was thinking maybe placing excrement in the trashcan of every citizen and setting it on fire on their doorstep.

CLYTAEMESTRA
What do you suppose that Priam would have done, if he had achieved your triumph?

AIGAMEMNON
He would have gone with the flaming poop at the outset, I certainly believe.

CLYTAEMESTRA
Then do not be be ashamed of mortal reproach.

AIGAMEMNON
And yet a people’s voice is a mighty power.

CASSANDRA
To be honest, I’m beginning to doubt it.

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