A Subtle Hazard of Reading the Wall Street Journal

WSJ Front PageAs a counterbalance to the reflexively liberal Los Angeles Times, which we read every morning, we also read the reflexively conservative Wall Street Journal on weekdays. The paper is extraordinarily well-written, and its non-news feature articles are better than those in most magazines.

The problem with reading the WSJ every morning, though, is that you soon discover the way the world really works. You learn that capital and power and influence agglomerate at one lofty point — or, if you like, at the bottom — where those who have achieved a kind of critical mass attract more of what everyone on this planet seems to want, as if by gravitational force.

You learn that corporations control much of the world’s political life, and in the places it doesn’t despots do.

You learn that success is quite easily measured by one simple question: Do you or do you not own (or lease through fractional ownership) a private jet?Uncle Warren in the WSJ

You learn that the vast majority of ambitious Americans — not to mention Europeans and Asians — aspire to make piles of money, even if the pursuit of the golden trove indentures them to a life filled with manufacturing an obscure auto part or a hybrid strain of wood pulp.

If you are not one who participates in this kind of quest — or, even more poignantly, you do, but unsuccessfully — the quotidian recitations of who’s winning and losing can be quite depressing. It also gives you the false impression that if someone is not earning $200,000 or more a year, he is probably on the brink of bankruptcy.

Foreign currency exchange; debt ratings; FDA approval; market share; economic downturn; increased margins — these are the phrases that matter, that keep millions and millions of souls toiling at their specialized tasks, afraid to look up from the millstone to see the beautiful world around them. (That’s reserved for weekends and retirements.)

When our subscription to the Journal lapses in a few weeks, we’re inclined to ignore the renewal notices. We’ll have to live without the sharp writing and vicious editorializing. We’ll have to forego our daily dose of business insight. And though we might sometimes miss the trenchant analysis that explains why one semi-conductor company is beating another in the commerce wars, we reckon our mental health will be slightly improved.

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