capitalism at work

On Thursday night I went with Nick and Dan to a fundraiser for Junior Achievement. They had basically set up a fake stock-trading game with teams given $500k to make as much as they could on a set of 30 or so fake companies. It was an open system (i.e. price changes pre-determined and not affected by internal trading), so it was a little less fun than I was hoping, but it was fun anyway. The challenge of the game, then, was just figuring out the “trick” to what made companies’ prices go up. In this game, it was that the news bulletins made for much greater long-term increases for companies than the “hot stock tips”. Unfortunately we figured that out too late to take advantage as well as others. “Team Belmont” in particular did really well. I forget who won, though.

We came in as a replacement for a team that had dropped out, so we were a little clueless about everything, but we still represented and came in a very respectable 5th out of about 30 or so other teams.

They also had free food and booze, which I took advantage of rather rapaciously.

As a game, it was a lot of fun. As a social event, it was a little surreal. Lots of younger middle-class pretenders hanging with a few board-of-directors types. A few of the latter were responsible for MCing the proceedings of the game, and boy were they excited. These guys were really getting a kick out of pacing the room shouting the meaningless platitudes and rallying-calls of capitalism we’re all so familiar with. “Remember, buy low, sell high!!” “You gotta spend money to make money!!” “You gotta risk to gain!!” “If you want something you gotta reach out and grab it!!!”

Whatever, dude. Tell that to the guy standing behind the buffet line being paid $6.50/hr to tend the eggrolls. You’d be hard-pressed to find a market where these jewels of advice could have possibly been less useful for, with the exception, of course, of the real world.

As a fundraiser, I don’t really know how successful it was, but I did find myself noting the bizarreness of spending however many thousands of dollars on the food, booze, and Stadium club reservations to raise money. When they could have, you know, just gotten everyone to donate $1000. I said to Amanda, “it seemed more like an excuse to get together and play a game and eat and drink,” and she responded “uh, yeah, that’s what philanthropy is.” But we all already know how I feel about that.