Charles Ferguson is a former Clinton Administration policy consultant and Brookings Institution senior fellow with a lifetime membership in the Council on Foreign Relations and a political science PhD from MIT. What enabled a guy with such impeccable establishment bona fides to make a documentary as comprehensively censorious of The System as Inside Job, the Academy Award-winning 2010 documentary about How It All Went To Hell is, I suspect in part, because he has also done considerable time in Silicon Valley, having founded the company that developed the web software Front Page before selling out to try his hand at filmmaking.
On every page of Predator Nation, his follow-up to Inside Job on the legislative, judicial and intellectual history of deregulation since the late seventies, it is gratifyingly clear that Ferguson knows instinctively and intuitively what a productive sector of the economy looks like and how it prospers, and this ain’t it. (If you never caught former Intel CEO Andy Grove’s treatise on industrial policy of two summers ago, it’s a similar reading experience.) This lends to his analysis a few distinct (and frankly, enormous) advantages over those of mere journalists such as myself and the other varieties of observers (disgruntled finance types, Michael Moore, Jonathan Franzen, etc.) most likely to attempt a scathing diagnosis of all that went so wretchedly wrong with the American experiment during the past three decades or so, all of which essentially boil down to: the man is a grownup. As a software developer, his mind is clearly trained to comprehend precisely the magnitude of complexity Wall Street deploys with the intention of confusing us to death; as a self-made centimillionaire, he sidesteps all the existential insecurities that seem to lurk at the heart of the Beltway bro-aucracy’s slavish and pathological ass-licking of the oligarchy. And as a veteran of one of the rare American industries in which it has been entirely possible to join the Top 0.1% while actually improving the lot of the 99%, he harbors none of the misanthropic zero-sum nihilism that enables destruction and exploitation profiteers to rationalize their work to everyone.
Put simply, he sees everything you and I and Michael Moore see about what’s sick and deranged and deluded about this place, but it doesn’t seem to make him want to eat a gun. Which is nice since Predator Nation will, predictably, depress the hell out of you. But it’s one of the more comprehensive and well-organized indictments of the financial disservices industry and the crooks and brown-nosers and enablers who insist on letting them steal all our money. And knowing guys like Ferguson are decent enough human beings to quit their much more glamorous Hollywood day jobs for long enough to put it all together is about all we’ve got going for us in the Department of Hope these days.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]