Tom Wolfe is back, and boy is he pissed. Well, maybe not. But it's safe to say that his opinion of Wall Street hasn't improved in the intervening 30 years since The Bonfire of the Vanities first appeared in Rolling Stone. In this lengthy piece published in the inaugural all-digital issue of Newsweek, Wolfe opines that us Streeters are no longer the Masters of the Universe, and that we're now The Eunuchs of the Universe.
Deliberately provocative title aside, this is one piece you absolutely should read. He starts out taking a run at Facebook and doesn't even attempt to mask his disdain for Zuckerberg and his hoodies. He takesto task for their abysmal management of the IPO, including all the exchange errors that went along with it and the bank's half-hearted attempts to cover up what looked to be a weak quarter immediately following the offering.
He then goes on to describe the Quant revolution and how the manly Masters of the Universe were supplanted, probably permanently, by the pocket protector crowd. To make the case he brings up Ed Thorp, granddaddy of the Quants, and how he beat the Vegas casinos with math thereby laying bare the fact that Wall Street could also be gamed.
It's a great piece and Wolfe has lost none of his vigor (or vitriol, for that matter). A favorite passage of mine from the piece bears that out:
Like warriors they were—except for one little thing: the chances of a Master of the Universe dying in the line of duty were statistically nil. Most of them were under 40, and the likelihood even of stroking out while cursing Fate with their hands up on either side of their heads, shaking spastically… was remote.
On thefloor they were slightly older, vastly richer versions of the frat boy. Beneath the frat boy’s wild times, the drinking, the cocaine, the practical jokes, the drinking, the getting laid, the talk about getting laid, the whoring around, the talk about whoring around, the drinking, the sarcastic cracks classified Sarc I, Sarc II, Sarc III, the dilations upon such esoteric topics as the size of turds and the span of projectile vomiting, the drinking… lay a single, simple desire: to present a man’s view of the world.
Indeed. Makes me long for the old days.
I suppose if you asked Wolfe he'd tell you to do something more worthwhile with your life than work on Wall Street. Failing that, however, he'd likely tell you what I've been telling you for the past couple years: learn to code like your balls were on fire.
Because while the Quants on the Street may in fact be eunuchs (at least compared to the BSD's of the '80s), they still make shitloads of money. And as much as Wolfe seems to loathe that fact, it's the reason we're all still here.