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Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

The Rupp Report: From Monopoly To The Real World

By Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

We are living in a strange world. For centuries, hard work was for most ordinary people the only way to make money. Of course, the Medici more or less invented the true banking system during the Italian Renaissance and became not only rich but also very powerful. The end of the Medicis is history too. However, hard work was the job to do to get out of the social mess and become at least a member of the lower or middle class.

In the Western world, this hard-work attitude has changed dramatically over the past two to three decades. Making a lot of money is a new game: gambling on the stock exchange. Banks have become bigger and bigger and made a fortune by buying and selling shares. With the increasing income of the people, more money has been available and the banks and private traders have encouraged people to do the same. Some of the most famous and very rich people of today didn’t make their fortune with their hands, but using their brains.

Shareholder Value
“Lean business” and “shareholder value” have become very popular words among the financial community. If a company is in trouble and the earnings drop, the first thing to do is to lay off people. Nobody’s really asking, what went wrong? In the days of the true patrons, it was the opposite: first, a safe working place for the people; personal pride was a leading and driving force. More or less, the benefits came automatically; it was an environment of trust and credibility.

But the true patrons mostly have disappeared. In modern times, CEOs, COOs or managing directors are leading the listed company working with somebody else’s money. If they win, they get big bonuses; if they lose, probably a golden parachute is waiting. Or again, more workers are fired. Who cares for the people? The shareholder value must rise, and the analysts are waiting for the next quarterly report. No time for reflection — just go.

When I was a boy, my favorite game at home was Monopoly. It was a personal satisfaction to beat my Dad and a big pleasure for a whole weekend to buy and sell houses and hotels with fake money. Some time ago, people started to do the same, buying houses. But this time it was the real world. However, it seems that people and the banks forgot to consider that this time it was real money. The end of the story is very well-known. The global economic system is jeopardized.

Who’s Supporting Whom?
It’s really a strange world. After wasting billions and billions, the same people are now crying for help. Around the world, national banks are forced to support the modern Monopoly. And who’s paying the bill?

My father always said: “Son, just spend your own money, and don’t dream of a dollar if you can have 50 cents in your hands.” Probably I got the wrong education. But my father also said, you can always tell the truth if you don’t owe money to somebody else.

January 29, 2008