Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip in the U.S. House of Representatives, gets the award today. Let us scream two phrases into the night sky with the scant hope that our elected representatives will hear and respond. (You can try e-mail or letters but is that really working?) The phrases are “conflict of interest” and “patriotism.”
What did good ole Eric do to get me really upset? Well, take a look at this from the Wall Street Journal.
Yes, that’s right. An elected representative of the people of the United States is taking a short position against long-dated government stocks. That doesn’t sound like a big deal you say, what does that mean anyway? It means that if the United States does badly economically, he makes money. On the other hand if the country is prosperous and successful, he stands to lose money. Wow, and guess what, as minority whip of the House of Representatives he has some say in whether or not the country does well.
Now, you might ask at this point if I am suggesting that he is acting to destroy the nation to make money. No, I don’t. But I can’t see this as anything other than a massive conflict of interest considering how many possible influences he has over government bond values. And for pity’s sake, is this the act of a patriot? Now, here you have another opportunity for a good question. Do you believe that Cantor is acting the traitor by investing against our government bonds? Once again, I don’t. However, this is poor judgment on his part and certainly carries implications as to his actual feelings regarding the limits of capitalism.
Let me explain what I mean by the limits of capitalism, You see, I wonder where self-interest stops and other factors of judgment kick in. For example, I ask this question a lot and it goes like this, “At what point are you willing to give up profit to protect the interests of your country?” My general perception of the executives (CEO’s, etc.) in the United States is that they are willing to give up nothing.
Nevertheless, I will continue to claim long and loudly that a patriot must give up profit if it damages the interest of his country.