A Walk Down Wall Street
walk down Wall Street
was on 11 September 1609, that the
first European set foot on the island we now call Manhattan. Henry Hudson
came ashore near about the site where the World Trade Centre was later to
soar and crash. The explorer and his crew of twenty, aboard the ship Half
Moon, were working for the newly formed Dutch East India Company.
Their mission was to find the fabled Northwest Passage which would allow
European trade vessels to navigate past the frozen northern coastline of
America to reach China.
into the mouth of the river that was later named after him, Hudson saw
scores of native people paddling their canoes between the mainland and an
island they called Menatay -- ‘the place where the sun is born’. The
southern tip of Menatay was a summer time gathering place where the
Delaware people came to mingle, converse and barter. Hudson and his crew
ventured into this gathering with an offering of beads, knives and
hatchets. In turn they were given beaver and otter skins. Here was free
exchange in an almost pristine form. Hudson’s journals glowed with
accounts of the loving, generous nature of the indigenous people.
Within a few years, the Delaware gathering place gave way to a rag-tag settlement of Dutch traders and immigrants. When guns, germs and greed replaced the bonhomie of first contact, the European settlers built a small wood and mud barricade across the narrow southern tip of Manhattan
The walls of Fort Amsterdam were a symbolic representation of collapsed conversations.
Eventually, the Delaware people retreated inland. The expanding population of European settlers now declared Fort Amsterdam to be an 'obstructing nuisance'. So they pulled it down. The short and narrow street that replaced the barricade was named, naturally, Wall Street. A vastly different kind of meeting place and market began to take shape in and around the literal and metaphorical Wall Street. Free exchange gradually morphed into an idea known as the 'free market'.
Three hundred and ninety-nine years later, almost to the day that Hudson landed there, Wall Street imploded. From the primitive barter hub of the Delaware tribe to the fall of Lehman Brothers and other giant finance companies in September 2008 we can find a wealth of encoded messages that might be vital to the future of civilization.
more or less stumbled upon these codes. My journey was initially driven by
rather basic questions which were far upstream of the doomsday machine
that has shredded businesses on Wall Street and thus across the world. Can
we resuscitate the planet's gasping eco-systems only to the extent that
the money bottom line of the market will allow? Why do enough responsible
people accept, as a gospel truth, the claim that no further miracle drugs
would be invented without the motive of enormous private profit? We all
enjoy the freedom of open exchange in a market place but is that the same
as the 'free market'? To my surprise I discovered that a dazzling variety
of people, across the world, are troubled by these questions. Most of them
share a firm conviction that the creative freedom inherent to our species
is far more powerful than the 'free market' orthodoxy…
Chapter 2 continues this journey upstream into the history of ideas to show how the current narrow definition of self-interest came about. It is now being overturned by upheavals within the discipline of economics and other revolts which make Homo economicus look more like an effigy than a portrait.
Chapter 3 delves into multiple dimensions of how the old habit of money is being re-examined, tweaked and recreated to challenge—and perhaps even transform—the ways in which we pass on information about value. A feral kind of competition has been increasingly endemic in the market.
Chapter 4 traces the growing interface between cooperation and competition, particularly the gift culture of the Internet and wider implications of the open source movement.
Chapter 5 explores how the terms of engagement between Main Street and Wall Street might be redefined to truly address the needs of those who feel threatened by globalization.
Chapter 6 explores the promise and limitations of changes unfolding within the world of corporations.
Chapter 7 grapples with the possibility of creating a new operating system for the market mechanism—one that is founded on the reality that nature bats last and it owns the stadium. In the tradition of the agora as an open space for philosophical reflection as well as material exchange, these stories are an endeavour to expand conversations in and about bazaars, to explore how far we might stretch the freedom to seek universal well-being. Thus, the title Bazaars, Conversations and Freedom. True, each of these words evokes a multitude of images and cannot be fixed to any one meaning. And yet we can venture forth, carefully, knowing that words serve as tools or signposts for a fluid and multidimensional exploration of reality. The basis of this endeavour is the raw faith best expressed by pioneers of the open source phenomenon: with enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow. Or, as Marcel Proust said, ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’