There’s a maxim I like to fall back on in situations where the members of the 1% speak as if they are breaking from the elite: It’s easy to become a Buddhist after you’ve made your first million.
I was reminded of it when trying to put the New York Times op-ed from former Goldman Sachs (GS_) derivatives vice president Greg Smith in perspective.
The situation is similar to when Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B_) talks about how it’s shameful that he doesn’t pay more taxes on his $45 billion in net worth. That one calls to mind Hollywood celebrities finding peace in a yogi’s retreat in India after CMG has signed them to a long-term deal and another blockbuster is raking in hundreds of millions at the box office.
Another example: When former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky — awarded the riches of Russia’s natural resources for a song and dance back when the Soviet Union broke up — began calling for democracy with an eye toward becoming the country’s president, was it a sign of a higher road being staked out by a member of the 1% or simply a natural move for someone who had already been made comfortable enough by capitalist excess to say and do whatever he wanted?