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6/12/2005
Broadway Review: Glengarry Glen Ross

Imagine if Warren Buffett and George Soros were to get together to collaborate about a play about Wall Street and the stock brokerage industry.

Both of them are animated by a holier-than-the-Pope attitude about their own rectitude and morality compared to the sleazy dishonesty of the brokerage industry. Both rail against the selfish desire of wealthy people to reduce their estate taxes, and both long for a planned order where philosophic benevolent people like them would stamp out greed and the excesses that go with speculation.

Educated at a time when Thorsten Veblen's "The Leisure Class," Matthew Josephson's "The Robber Barrons" by C Wright Mills's "The Power Elite" and J.K. Galbraith's "The Affluent Society" were considered the best works on the history and effects of business, neither Buffett nor Soros has since read a book; nor have they kept up with modern developments in the fields of enterprise, Austrian economics, economics, finance or mathematical sciences. And neither of them ever having involved in an operating business, aside from the hedge fund of the former and the conglomerate of the other. They both believe that selling by people other than themselves is a hornet's nest of deception, high-pressure sales techniques and destructive competition.

Both however, have their ears tuned to popular culture, and have seen the play "Death of a Salesman," a few times, and in the latter case taken in a touring production in Omaha of "The Music Man."

OK, now consider they get together to write a play.

The first scene would likely be about a Willy Loman-type broker complaining that he can't sell the public any highflyers anymore and collect the old fixed commissions rates.

The second scene would probably be about a Henry Blodgett or Mary Meeker or Harold Hill type of salesman trying to hype a billion-dollar market value Internet company to the rhythm of the train scene -- "But he doesn't know the territory!" from the Music Man.  The scene would include side comments on how terrible the metrics really were, and how they secretly planned to sell companies without any music to them at all.

The third scene would probably be about a whistleblower talking to a friend about splitting the finder's fee for going to Spitzer or some such crusader with tales of excessive executive pay , smoothing of earnings or after-hours trading.

Finally the whole thing could come together in the second act with the company declaring bankruptcy and the Willy Loman type being taken to jail for a crime so much less than the power elite, the establishment brokers, mutual funds, hedge funds, corporate executives, accountants actually were guilty of.

Doubtless such a play would win a Pulitzer Prize, receive rave reviews by every mainstream paper because of its accurate depiction of the greed of people trying to get rich or help others get rich, be made into a movie and would run on Broadway every few years or so. If you were to picture such a play not about investments, but about the evils, the cons, the duplicity, the greed, the self-dealingness of the real estate industry, but instead of low brow "common folks" language, littered with trash talk, every other word the four letter one, you would have a good overview of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. It's a hateful play with no insights into the real estate brokerage industry it portrays, the incredible wealth achieved by all the people who actually bought real estate since its 1983 writing, or the valuable services that salesman and brokers provide.

Please unless you wish to wallow in hateful anecdotes about the one-tenth of one percent of business that is dishonest and can stay in business notwithstanding such unethical practices, stay away from this destructive piece of propaganda

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