Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Morgan on the Failure of Capitalism

I’m a big follower of the work of Gumshoe nominated Richard Morgan, having known him since he debuted with Altered Carbon. Morgan was recently interviewed at the SF Web site IO9 and his insight is always of interest, especially in these economic meltdown days.

I was intrigued at Morgan’s response to Alex Carnevale’s question relating to Morgan’s take on the economic situation and what he had written in an earlier novel:
Market Forces was a screenplay and you picked it apart for a novel. It's eerily prescient -- what does it have to say about what's happened with the economy?

I'm kinda torn because on the one hand it's always nice to be right. On the other hand, I own a house like everybody else. And I don't want to see its value drop by a third. I am constantly perplexed by the reaction to Market Forces, especially the reaction in America. I didn't really think I was saying anything startlingly off the wall. To me it seemed like I was extrapolating a fairly obvious line. Anyone who knows anyone who works in high-risk financial institutions. Anybody who has friends who are merchant bankers, or stockbrokers or commodity dealers or has anything to do with that world will tell you, and I had a number of e-mails of people saying this, this is how these people operate. It's a high-testosterone environment. These people thrive on risk and massive fast success. It's a self-reinforcing loop. The more successful you are, the more testosterone you build, and the bigger risks you're prepared to take. Inevitably you're heading for a crash with that, it's impossible to sustain.

The book was really written as a critique not so much of the systems but of the mindset of this kind of boorish American business model asshole machismo. I didn't really think I was saying anything spectacularly unusual. I thought anybody who looked at would say, "Oh. Yeah, that's right." I ran into an awful lot of people for whom market forces are a kind of religious faith. I hate to caricature, but I do think American culture has a faith problem in the sense that there's much more of a willingness on that side of the Atlantic to take things on faith, and just accept stuff and believe in something wholeheartedly.

In Europe people just seem to be a lot more cynical about these things, whatever it may be, if it's religion or politics or whatever. And yet it would appear there are a lot of people for whom free markets are tantamount to a kind of religious faith. And by writing the book I'd stomped on that as if I had written a viciously anti-Christian satire. That may be it, I don't know. It may be that it was a book in which it's hard to sympathize with everybody because the characters are all fairly unpleasant.

As for what's happened now, I can just say, "Yep, see." It's not a very emotional "Yep, see," because to me it doesn't take a whole lot of smarts to predict something like this.
Read the full IO9 interview here and there’s more from Alex Carnevale here in “Novelists Write Our Way Out of The Financial Crisis” or stick around IO9 with Meredith Woerner and get really depressed when you discover “Why the Economy is to Blame for More Night Rider.”

Photo of Richard Morgan (left) and Ali Karim taken around the time Altered Carbon was first released. Photo courtesy Ali Karim.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

hear, hear...i push people to read morgan at every turn, with "market forces" (as a stand alone) at the very top. had no idea it was a screenplay would make an amazing film.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 2:29:00 AM PDT  

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