Superhubs: How the Financial Elite and their Networks Rule the World by Sandra Navidi

At first, I thought this book was about uncovering the ruling elite of the world, and to some extent it does, but more interestingly, it’s really a book about the science of networks and its ability to explain why, in a world which rewards networking, people gravitate toward well-connected people and by fault make them even more well-connected and richer, creating a positive feedback loop, and explaining in part, the ever expanding chasm between the haves and the have-nots.  Likewise, when richer people get bigger tax breaks and lower interest loans, that too is a positive feedback loop and also explains the expanding chasm between the haves and the have-nots.  While the book mentions George Soros’ reflexivity philosophy, I had to look it up separately and was pleased to discover that Soros understands that humans are fundamentally irrational, that constructing social sciences around the premise that we are rational actors with good information is pure and utter horseshit.  Booms and busts are a natural side-effect of our social networking and irrational minds.  Economic booms and busts are mirror images of trends like the Orchid craze, the Elmo craze, the Beanie-Baby craze, the Korean food craze, etc. ad nauseum.  A very small percentage of the population are innovators followed by a few early adopters, and they are followed by late adopters who wait for some critical mass of trendiness.  The vast majority of people do stuff, because other people are doing it.  Britney Spears became a star, not because she was innately good, but rather, because she was good enough but a few early adopters found her really entertaining and promoted her to each other.  The rest of us followed her because she seemed cool. 

 What comes across as most bothersome is the tone of the entire book.  The author has drunk the Koolaid.  The author knows that she’s in a very privileged position and has the luck to rub elbows with the financial elite and titans of the global financial markets.  She’s not about to give away their biggest secret, their rigging of the entire system.  Successful people are as delusional as unsuccessful people.  While unsuccessful people assuage themselves by blaming externalities, successful people assuage their guilt by believing in divine internalities.  They succeeded, because they were smarter and harder workers, but in reality, as the author has already proven, the vast majority of their success is based on the biased system which disproportionately rewards well-connected and wealthy people.  If networks were a computer program, and you ran them over and over again, those on top now do not always wind up on top.  Luck plays a huge part.  Once you get near the top, it’s just then so much easier to get to the very top. 

 The most ridiculous part is when she describes the Federal Reserve as an independent government body and Federal Reserve chairmen as independent stewards who just happen to be very close and intimate with the titans of financial markets.  You don’t think for a second that after manipulating elections that the financial elite have nothing to say about who becomes Federal Reserve Chair?  Give me a big, f’n break.  The author dismisses conspiracy theories but the entire science of networking corroborates the irresistible forces that make conspiracies work, the networking of a few disproportionately powerful and influential players.  If you think everything they plan is publicized and open information, you’re a goofball with a tinfoil hat.  Undoubtedly, as irrational, self-interested players in a game, they have every single incentive to conceal and control information about what they are planning with other elites, not just from the masses but from competitors who might use that information against them.  Concealing information from the public while working closely with a few, powerful people is pretty much what I would call a conspiracy if not insider information and collusion.   

 Reading this delusional, sycophantic babble was extremely painful.  The author loves to cherry pick examples to fit her assertions.  In pointing out what Superhubs have in common, she forgets a few pages ago, she just asserted that Superhubs are a self-generating phenomenon.  Once you become a big hub, you have a greater shot at becoming a superhub, so the real question is, what made you a big hub, and the answer is usually luck added to a baseline of skill, talent, and ambition.  Perhaps the most vile misappropriation of biology besides Darwinian survival of the strongest is the notion of Alpha males and how the richest men in the world are all Alpha males.  I don’t know about you, but when you get to that level, people treat you special.  They turn you into their conception of the Alpha male, but few of these Superhubs pass for Alphas before they became rich and famous.  George Soros?  Bill Gates?  Warren Buffett?  These guys are all nerdy dorks.  They behave like Alphas, because they have amassed stupendous wealth, and people treat them special.  But on top of all this, few people have no idea what a real Alpha male is, and in human society, it’s a rarity. 

 First she says, Alpha males tend to become Superhubs, then she says emotional intelligence makes you a Superhub, well which one is it, because I don’t see Alpha males as being very much in tune with people’s feelings and needs.  A lot of people love to say that Trump is an Alpha male.  In my opinion, he’s a cowardly bully, and if you think bullies are Alpha males, you’re a pencil-neck dweeb who probably gets bullied all the time.  A true Alpha male doesn’t need to threaten, attack, or bully anyone.  They have allies.  They have their own strength and courage.  They use character, conscience, patience, and integrity.  People don’t follow them out of fear or desire to exploit their connections.  People follow them, because they trust and like them.  Therefore, no Superhub in my mind comes across as an Alpha.  If you’re looking for Alpha males, they’re probably your neighbor or local business owner or professional, someone whose ego isn’t so fragile he overcompensates by dedicating his entire life to hoarding wealth and power. 

 Between dropping names and self-aggrandizement, the author manages to bring up a few notable topics, one of which is conspiracy theories in the middle of the chapter about exclusivity.  The author is incredibly naïve or just enjoys putting up the air of naivete as a form of self-preservation.  When you state that the most powerful and wealthiest people in the world meet at exclusive clubs, conferences, and events, and then cavalierly say that collusion is the exception and not the rule, you are being absurdly clueless.  Throughout history, you can claim a conspiracy theory for everything that has been proven true.  Oh, the mass relocation and genocide of Native Americans is a conspiracy theory.  The mass killings of innocent, unarmed blacks by cops is a conspiracy theory.  Watergate is a conspiracy theory.  The Holocaust is a conspiracy theory.  The Tuskegee Study is a conspiracy theory.  The Israeli attack on a US warship is a conspiracy theory.  The NSA spying on US citizens a conspiracy theory.  The CIA helping Nicaraguans import cocaine to South Central a conspiracy theory.  Please explain to me how countless conspiracy theories that turned out to be true are the only ones that are true.  The countless conspiracy theories that have not been proven true are the ONLY ones that are not true.  This is the most bullshit concept ever perpetrated by those who hold all the power and wealth. 

 The fact that so many conspiracy theories were only proven when some whistle blower went public means that countless crimes go unproven simply because A. there was no whistle blower, B. the whistle blower was killed, C. the whistle blower was bought off or sufficiently scared into being quiet, or D. the whistle blower was unable to accumulate sufficient evidence.  To assert that no elite wealthy and powerful person has ever committed a crime by collusion except those who have already been caught is the utmost stupidest thing to assert.  Unbelievably, Nixon recorded everything he said and proved that people at the highest levels are constantly conniving and circumventing the law to get their way.  To assert that if you recorded the conversations of every ruling elite, you would find zero, zero evidence of any criminal collusion, you have to be braindead, or in the case of this author, completely bought off.

 I believe the author unwittingly, because she’s so dim, gives away a perfect reason for how and why the ruling elite collude to rig the market in their favor.  By nature, as network masters, they gravitate toward each other, and by nature, they create an exclusive circle around them not only to keep the masses out of the loop, but also because this is what we do when we bond with people like us.  They just happen to all be similarly powerful and rich and hence bond over their special status as the world’s cream of the crop.  So what would the world’s Superhubs talk about?  The Kardashians?  Weather?  Sports?  Irrelevant stuff none of them have in common?  Of course not.  What they talk about is stuff they all have in common, and that is how to become and now maintain their privileged status as the world’s elite, or elite problems.  Do you think for a second that one of them would start a conversation by going, “Hey guys, I was just thinking, we get these incredible tax breaks, because we have politicians in our pockets and the best accountants in the world.  I’m getting a little tired of being insanely rich.  I think that in order to benefit a large group of strangers with whom I have nothing in common, why don’t we increase our taxes while decreasing their taxes?”  If you think for a second that they talk like this, you need your head examined.  More likely, they go like this, “Hey guys, there are these really annoying politicians named Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and they’re talking up a whole storm about holding Wall Street accountable and increasing taxes on the rich and closing tax loopholes.  Do any of you guys have contacts that can take care of this situation?  I mean, how about we all throw our support behind Hillary Clinton who’s much nicer to us?” 

 The most wealthy and powerful people on this planet, should read this book, because it should convince them that they are committing a logical fallacy by assuming that they are at the top because they know best, they are the hardest and smartest working, and they have found the magical key to success.  Certainly, that gave them a few hundred million dollars, but what gave them billions and billions was luck, being at the right place at the right time.  To think that these rich pricks think that they are entitled to run the world, to impose their philosophies and ideologies upon us, just because they happened to become Superhubs is like asking the Kardashians for their political and philosophical advice. 

 Near the end of the book, the author writes, “…in 2013 Ben Bernanke earned a yearly salary of about $200,000 as chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Shortly after leaving the Fed, he made a minimum of $250,000 for a two-hour speaking engagement on the conference circuit.”  If this isn’t political corruption, I don’t know what is.  So why on Earth would someone pay this buffoon a quarter million dollars?  Do you really think a banking cartel head who was blindsided by one of the greatest financial collapses since the Great Depression has anything worth listening to?  The more logical answer is that throughout his career, he did countless favors for the elite, and now, the elite are paying him back, sending a strong and clear signal to every single one of his successors.  Putting his stupid ass in prison would be the opposite message, but obviously, since he was doing the elite a favor, he was rewarded instead of imprisoned for historic negligence and incompetence. 

 While, for the majority of the book, the author revels in her hobnobbing with financial Superhubs, she offers a sort of mea culpa in the last chapter which she is smart to do, because the elite who may read this book are probably too stupid and arrogant to make it to the end.  Perhaps, she realizes that she could not become a Superhub herself, because she is a woman, and therefore suffers from sour grapes too.  She ultimately questions the current financial system as unsustainable and unfair.  She rightly notes that the Superhub system is a monoculture with like-minded, like-raised white men which is not amenable to adaptation and change, especially when it got them to where they are.  While her advice is somehow improving the ethical culture of Wall Street and among Superhubs, there is no incentive structure for this or effective punishment structure against unethical behavior.  There certainly were countless ethical people in Wall Street who simply quit and walked away, and they will continue to do this when the unethical people continue to be rewarded and escape punishment.  You can’t change the system unless you tackle the inherent rewards and punishments that drive behavior and success or failure.  The election of a Wall Street watchdog like Sanders or Elizabeth Warren would have been a step in the right direction, but Wall Street money is too powerful and connected with DC.  It is inevitable that another crisis will occur, and there will be fewer options to mitigate it resulting in a much longer period of suffering that will only fuel greater anger, protests, riots, and calls for revolution.  Whether you like it or not, this is the only way change occurs.  One other alternative is for the Silicon Valley gods to become so powerful that they overtake Wall Street and replace it with their own banking and financial systems, which may be less predatory and unstable.  But don’t be fooled for a second.  Once they realize they rule the world, they too will fall prey to the delusions of greatness and impose their warped beliefs upon the rest of us, but in this case, enhanced by AI and robots which will be unassailable, untouchable, and invincible.  Hopefully, hopefully, one of those tech wizards will have the wherewithal to expand his or her mind sufficiently to recognize that their position of power was mostly the result of luck, that leaving humans alone to self-organize and create spontaneous order will result in a kind and nice society, that you don’t need to impose force or manipulation to get humans to be kind and nice, that if you do, they wind up total assholes.    

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