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The Goldman Sachs/Greg Smith Matter: Readers Respond

Stocks in this article: GS

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I think I now know what it feels like to be as despised as Goldman Sachs (GS).

My tentacles aren't nearly as long or likely as slimy, but an article I wrote posing questions about former Goldman executive Greg Smith's attack on the Vampire Squid put me squarely in the corner of Goldman, that is, as far as many readers are concerned. My character was assassinated all day Wednesday in a blistering offensive. I was called all sorts of bad names fit for a playground or locker room and accused of all sorts of ethical breaches that could probably land me a job at Goldman as Smith's replacement.

A simple -- and somewhat cheeky -- proposition I laid out, that "it's easy to become a Buddhist after you've made your first million," was seen by some as a rousing defense of Goldman.

Reader Greg Janetka noted that Buddha set a good example in this regard, but says I've got Buddhist history all wrong: "The historical Buddha was a very wealthy prince prior to his search for enlightenment. The idea that, 'It's easy to become a Buddhist after you've made your first million' simply has no regard for actual Buddhist history."

It's not easy being Goldman Sachs and making all the green (by cheating those "Muppets.")

I would disagree, and say that the Buddha example is a perfect example of questions about wealth and enlightenment being more complicated. My objective was to search out the contradiction and complexity in the world and on Wall Street.

Where some want to see the Goldman Sachs "smoking gun" in Smith's New York Times piece -- the banking world's equivalent of a former tobacco exec going public with studies proving Tobacco Road has known all along it's killing people -- I see an opportunity to ask broader questions that get to the heart of the capitalist zeitgeist.

Indeed, just a few years after the monumental collapse of our financial system, for which most of Wall Street is to blame, and in the wake of the Occupy movement, there are still more questions than answers about our capitalist system, its ethics and its excesses.

Here are some of the more essential questions raised in reader comments on the Greg Smith Goldman Sachs story.

  • Does Greg Smith have the right to preach ethics after making all the money he made at Goldman over 12 years?
  • Reader Myron Pitts thinks Smith is vulnerable on this question, writing, "Smith himself said Goldman was acting dishonorably. He never said or implied that he ceased working for the firm immediately when he discovered that it had gone astray. So, if you're working for a dishonorable outfit and profiting from it, you in some degree share its dishonor. It's great that he got religion now, but it's after he's made his money. Sorry, I'm just not overly impressed with that. It's not brave when it doesn't cost you anything. I don't think I'm saying anything particularly negative about his character. I'm just not ready to shower him with confetti and roses and act as if he's a hero."

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