Random Thoughts: The Police State of New York

By Todd Harrison  OCT 20, 2011 10:15 AM

Social mood phones home.


It was a dark, dreary night in Manhattan when I decided to leave my office last night.  After a full 12 hours at my post, I had finally chewed through my long list of to-do's and set my sights on the important stuff.  I’m not complaining; being busy is entirely better than the alternative, and I know how lucky I am to be doing what I love with people I respect while serving the greater good.

It was raining but I didn’t care; I had my Oakland Raiders baseball cap pulled tightly on my head and wore a warm, oversized Bear Stearns fleece that I was given at an idea dinner in their executive boardroom the night before the first phase of the credit crisis consumed that once-noble financial institution. 

I’ve never been one to mind the rain; I find it cleansing, almost purifying.

As I edged north and turned the corner, my eyes suddenly squinted at the flashing red lights; there were cops everywhere, and one of them had a man pinned face first against a brick wall.  My first instinct was to cross the street but there was too much traffic.  I continued forward, my eyes darting left and right; a few police officers sized me up and down to gauge whether I was a threat.

For many, a scene like this is no big deal; it's the price you pay for living in a big, metropolitan city.  To me, someone who believes that signs surround us daily if we just pay attention, it was another proof point of the continued deterioration of social mood; my first thought was a familiar one—I need to move my family out of New York City.

To be clear, I’m not a fair-weather fan of New York City.  I’ve lived in the belly of the beast for over 20 years and seen my fair share of grisly scenes.  I didn’t pull the plug after 9/11, didn’t bolt after the blackouts and never thought I would leave the immediate gratification of having the best food at my fingertips, Broadway plays a cab ride away, downtown lounges if the mood struck and big-time sports wrapped within a tiny island.  That was, of course, until I had a family.

I’ve written about the potential ramifications of the shifting social mood for the better part of 10 years.  I’m empathetic to the self-proclaimed 99% and emphatically believe not everyone on Wall Street is evil and some are even trying to be part of the solution.  I’m a card-carrying free-market capitalist who feels like he’s living in the past; the markets haven’t been free for years, and at our current pace, I’m unsure if or when they will be again.

A little over a month ago, with Gold at $1,900, I wrote an article, Is the Gold Bubble About to Pop?  The following day, based not only on the volume but the tenor of the feedback, I shared a vibe called The Gold Scold that noted the vitriolic pushback I received for using “gold” and “bubble” in the same sentence.  That spoke volumes, and the yellow metal traded almost 20% lower the following weeks.

I bring that up for a reason.  When I wrote that column this week regarding the enormity of the economic condition and the ramifications of our rapidly shifting social mood—the cumulative imbalances and its collective toll—it was shared in the context of education; to understand where we are, we must appreciate how we got here, and we’ve been talking about it for a long time.

The takeaway—at least for me—was the venomous reaction from both sides of the proverbial aisle.  The left accused me of being part of the Wall Street machine and the right called me a tree hugger.  Sticks and stones, I know, but the reaction to news is always more important than the news itself, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share the heightened state of anxiety given that social mood and risk appetites shape financial markets.

Random Thoughts:


Twitter: @todd_harrison

No positions in stocks mentioned.