Kevin Roose’s first book came out in 2009. “The Unlikely Disciple” told the story of his semester at Liberty University. I was impressed that he bypassed the all too easy one-dimensional caricature, instead telling a nuanced story of people; humanizing if not sympathizing.
“Young Money” is a similarly engaging and thought provoking read telling the story of Wall Street’s newest hires, far from the golden parachutes and mind-boggling power plays of the financial industry elite. Roose explores how lost college students evolve into our favorite modern social villain, the Wall Street executive.
Roose profiles eight recent college graduates who decided to work on Wall Street after the crash. He follows the try-hards and the children of privilege, Occupation sympathizers and Wall Street apologists. He follows those mentally and physically destroyed by a machine designed to create absolute loyalty and dependence on The Bank while also profiling those who thrive. There are those who can’t fathom ever being happy while working on Wall Street and those who can’t imagine being anywhere else.
This is the story of young 20-somethings doing what they have always done. They are figuring out who they are and what they stand for and which sort of life they want to live all while having never been told what they should do beyond “be happy.” The road to finance is much more accidental than you might expect. While there is a subset that entered the field with passion, drive, and specific aspirations, there is a larger group that is simply trying to survive until they grow up a little more and can do what they dream or at least know what that dream might be.
Roose examines if change can really come in an industry both defining and defined by the status quo. He looks at what happens when young people are expected to come to moral maturity, cocooned in an inherently amoral industry.
Roose offers this observation about Chelsea, “To her, the great tragedy of Wall Street wasn’t that it was evil and greedy, but that it was fundamentally boring, a place populated by the kinds of uncurious corporate drones who had no lives outside of work, who watched CNBC out of personal interest and considered Berkshire Hathaways’s annual investor letter the new plus ultra of high literature. It was those people and not insider-trading felons, book-cooking CEOs, or sneering plutocrats, who made her want to run screaming from the finance world.”
Then there is Derrick who says, “People in private equity are smarter than your average person, but they’re not that much smarter. And as long as the system is structured like this… it’s not going to change.”
Derrick is the embodiment of one of the key questions of the book. Can you find a balance between an amoral job and an ethical life? Can money buy happiness or does it just make misery more palatable? Can you put a price on two years of your youth or is it just a deal with the devil? And, most importantly, what happens when the devil gets his due?
None of these questions are fully resolved. The answers only come with time. Some of those profiled have made their choices and are happier for them while some are still groping towards adulthood. The titans, the fixtures, and the economic bailiwicks offer up hints and indicators of what the future might hold. Roose parses the subtle systemic changes with incisive analysis. Gatsby is dead. Wall Street is no longer beautiful. But, should the young love her anyway?
Article source: Roanoke