Lawyers and money

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater - Kurt Vonnegut

There are a number of Vonnegut books that I wish to read again, but this is not one of them. It is not because it is a bad book, or badly written, but that it is somewhat to what I expect from him. I somehow enjoy the irony of how a science-fiction writer casts his main characters as failed science-fiction writers (despite him not being one, though I suspect that when he started writing this would have been the case). However, Vonnegut's genius is not that he is a modernist and absurdist writer, but rather that he uses his writings to expose the darker side of modern society (which is why he is a modernist).



The definition of a lawyer pretty much defines this book, 'a lawyer is a person who takes money from one person, gives it to another, and takes a bit for himself', though the reality is that they don't take a bit, they take a lot. However, that is true, and it is this that gives lawyers a really bad name. For instance, the divorce lawyers who drag out a divorce and end up pocketing most of the money that the couple had and leaving both of them destitute. Similarly with the wills and estate lawyers who encourage clients to challenge the will so that those who should inherit the money end up with nothing while the lawyers walk away with the entire estate. That may make being a lawyer sound really good, except for the fact that it can be very hard to break into the profession, and even if you do, it is harder to maintain your honesty and integrity in the middle of a dispute knowing that the counsel on the otherside is syphoning all of your client's resources, and that you also must make promises that you have no intention of keeping simply to get that client in through the door.



It may sound that I am having a go at lawyers, but it is the sad fact that the lawyers seem to take all of the flack when this is essentially how the modern capitalistic society works. Take for instance the insurance broker who pretty much does nothing except take your money and gives a lesser amount of money to the insurance company. In fact, I know brokers that pretty much do nothing other than that. Or the accountant that arranges your tax return, but does so much work on it that it ends up costing more for the accountant than that what you get back from the tax office.



In a way the modern economy is like a river, almost to the extent that terms that come from fluid dynamics are used to describe the stock market. A stock is liquid or illiquid (and that defines how easy it is to buy or sell it). A company floats its shares on the stock market, we describe the financial health of a company in terms of liquidity, and when you have lost money on a position you are described as being underwater. To an extent this is true: capital is supposed to flow, and a financially healthy system ideally has money continually flowing through it, however that is not actually the case. Instead, it flows from the net spender to the net saver. I would say it tends to flow from the poor to the rich, however that is not actually the case because a poor person who is a net saver does not necessarily remain poor while a rich person who is a net spender does not necessarily remain rich.


Another aspect of this book is the idea that in a capitalist society, the idea of one of the wealthy being a philanthropist and working an ordinary job (in this case as a fireman) is an aberration to the point that the antagonist of the story (a lawyer) goes out of his way to declare that this person is insane. I remember reading this book, and all I seemed to be focusing on was the lawyer's plot to get the money from the rich man and give it to the failed insurance salesman, and not actually realising that in doing this the lawyer was undermining the type of person that shows the good side of humanity. You end up becoming so caught up in the lawyer's scheme that you lose track of what the novel is about, and that is that capitalism hates philanthropy, and that somebody who acts in such a way is not so much mad, but dangerous. The idea is to impoverish people, and when they are impoverished, to then impoverish them more. It is economic evolution, a means of destroying the masses so that the world may be left for the wealthy to stretch out and enjoy (if there ends up being anything left that is).