Private Equity, Robin Hood, and Iris DeMent
Ram Dass said that if we know how to listen, everyone would become the guru. What I might consider a guru, you may think is fluff. Most of us have a preference for everything in our lives, and for now, my gurus are private equity, Robin Hood, and Iris DeMent.
What I will learn, however, is yet to be seen.
All three of the teachers are fairly well known, but what I am learning is personal. In some ways, all the lessons we learn are only personal.
It is important to view those things in our lives that are unpleasant as teachers. Opportunities to learn. They are important, because nobody wants to be stuck on the same lesson, especially with those we consider unpleasant.
Also, it is important to take the time to learn lessons from those teachers we enjoy. Not to get those lessons out of the way, but to graduate to other lessons we find enjoyable.
Here are three lessons taught by unconventional teachers.
Private equity is “private”, because it is not listed on any public exchange. It is equity, because it provides funds to buy out companies that others have built.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would like you to believe that private equity is evil and will be the eventual downfall of the middle class in America. Private equity firms would ask you to believe they are a champion for the workers in companies they “help”.
As in all things, there is most likely some truth to both.
Private equity killed Geoffrey the Giraffe’s job at Toys-r-Us.
For the life of me, I cannot find a checker board at Walmart, who benefitted greatly from the greed of private equity.
There was money made in the venture, but it was not made for those that depend on paychecks or struggle to pay the utility bill. This is the reason AOC believes the whole idea is evil.
Private equity, at times, takes advantage of businesses in distress. Which sounds predatory, but if a company is about to go bankrupt, private equity is not to blame.
When a company has taken on too much debt, or made bad deals to generate capital for growth, private equity might be one of the easiest options for continued operation.
All be it, mostly for the owners of such companies.
Of course, they will terminate experienced managers and raise prices. Vendors will be treated poorly as cost becomes king, and shareholders and executives will be the main concern for compensation.
Compared to closing the doors, it might be selfish, but it is not without its merits.
When you go looking for someone, or something, to blame, it is not private equity. Private equity is often a necessary evil for companies that were poorly run for years.
Evil, none the less.
Most people have heard some version of the Robin Hood tale. What makes Robin Hood a hero to some, is that he “robs from the rich, and gives to the poor.”
There is little need for me to form a judgement here. I might ask if robbery is ever a heroic trait. Robin Hood might have been a thief who tried to appease his guilt by being charitable.
Which, when I type it out loud, seems to be similar to big corporations and figures like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. Donating to well known charities and social movements.
The Robin Hood considered here, is the app marketed to individual customers who want to invest in the stock market. Sounds noble enough.
What customers did not know, is that while they were using the app to invest in the stock market, Robin Hood was collecting data. They were collecting data and selling it to those with more power to influence the stock market.
Now we know that a group from the social media platform Reddit, and others, beat hedge fund managers at their own gambling game. Even without possessing the influence that hedge fund managers wield.
Funny how the rich call for regulations as they lose money, yet were fine without them when they were not. What is not funny is the response of Robin Hood.
They killed the ability to use the app in order to help the people that were paying them for data, unconcerned for their clients. Turns out, Robin Hood, in this case, is kind of an ass.
What can I say about Iris DeMent that would do any justice to the voice she brings to the world. She is concerned with just that.
For years, I only knew her from a duet with John Prine called, “In Spite of Ourselves”. Fun song. Great song.
Also for years, she has sung from a place that questions blind allegiance to authority, the way things are, and how we might respond differently to the world. When I discovered her work beyond John Prine, I became an instant fan.
The thing about those who protest against certainty and allegiance, is that often we want to be certain to blindly follow their tune. Not everything she sings rings true to me, but it is as close as it gets these days.
At the very least, she is a conversation starter, and one of the few people speaking truth to power these days. Not interested in the typical version of success in the music industry, she sometimes sings and plays from her living room. For free.
For the life of me, those videos mean more to me sometimes, than any sacred text. She considers her words and sings them in a way that makes you believe an angel wrote the prose.
An angel, or some prophet, from some mountain top, in some far off land.
Of the three, private equity, Robin Hood, and Iris DeMent, Iris DeMent is my teacher. Private equity and Robin Hood may be lessons, but Iris DeMent is a teacher.
Influence in this world often looks like power, greed, and profit.
While private equity and Robin Hood buy it hook, line, and sinker, there are those of us who do not.
We define influence in different ways. Those ways are described in any number of posts on this website.
And what of power, greed, and profit? Even over the consideration of people?
Iris DeMent calls them three shovels digging a hole.
I hope the hole is not so big that we cannot get out.
If you are in a hole, you are not alone. It might seem dark, but that is the only reason you do not see the many friends sitting next to you.
Powerful people have no need to cast a light in to the hole. Even if they offered a rope, my suspicion is they would cut it before anyone got out.
Distracted by their own image as it reflected from the windshield of their new Tesla and worried for the speck of humanity that somehow stained their Chinos.
I am learning from private equity, Robin Hood, and Iris DeMent.
You may be learning the same lessons from other teachers. Learn from them, but do not become them.
You are better than that. Take care of each other.