The Magazine

The Upside of the Down Market

Corporate corruption has its advantages.

Aug 5, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 45 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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CORPORATE CORRUPTION endangers everything in which we have, over the past many years, invested our time, effort, and money--particularly Republican control of the House of Representatives. And our 401(k) plans aren't doing so well either. In this period of gloom--with liberals seeking to make hay from capitalist foibles and our own capitalist foibles reduced in value to bales of ditto--it behooves us to look for a moment at the bright side of corporate corruption.

That is, assuming there's any corruption. It may be semantics. When senators and representatives get together in Congress to fix prices on prescription drugs, they're national heroes. When pharmaceutical company CEOs get together on the golf course to fix prices on prescription drugs, they're indicted.

However, if corporate corruption does exist, it has benefits as well as liabilities. Auditing scandals will no doubt improve the sex lives of accountants. Bean counters were previously thought to be drab and unattractive creatures. Now accountants are considered cute--by their fellow prison inmates.

Potentially, our own sex lives also are improved. Numerous senior executives' trophy wives will soon be running around unattached. We wouldn't have stood a chance with these women before the legal bills arrived and the skinny blondes got poor.

Corporate corruption has ecological merits. It's helping to preserve that species known as Democrats--thought to be endangered as recently as the year 2000. Democrats are an important part of the Washington ecosystem. Extinction of Democrats would lead to serious disruption in the food chain. We of the bloodthirsty right-wing press would be forced to rely for our prey solely on John McCain.

And there's more. Suddenly our kids think we're hip. "Gangsta Rap" is very popular with today's teens, as is dressing in prison garb and acting and speaking as if one belonged to the Crips, the Bloods, or some other criminal organization. The subculture of felons is in great vogue among adolescents. Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and so forth allow us Republicans to say to America's young people, "We be thugs." The GOP may capture the youth vote at last.

Corporate corruption is saving us money. However much we've lost on the NYSE and NASDAQ, we'll more than make it up in lower entertainment and redecorating costs when Martha Stewart goes to jail. Plus, corporate corruption is no necessary impediment to making money. If you can get your wife's cousin to short your stock the moment you're served with a subpoena.

Finally, corporate corruption has brought me hope about my own professional career. Capitalism is all about adding value. I am a capitalist. But I don't have any value to add. This is my one objection to capitalism. However, besides being a capitalist, I'm a journalist, so I do know how to lie. Thanks to the peculations of the past few months, I've realized that, in the capitalist market system, I can add value, too.

One last cheering thought: Corporate corruption gives al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other Muslim radicals second thoughts about messing with the United States. If we'll screw our own grandmothers in the stock market, God knows what we'll do to them.

Contributing editor P.J. O'Rourke is author, most recently, of "The CEO of the Sofa."