HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN?

HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN?

Congratulations, everyone.  It’s over.  The great battle for the hearts and minds of the capital markets has been decided.  We won.

Specifically, ESG – Environment, Social, and Governance investing – has been thoroughly and inarguably repudiated.  It’s done.  It’s now universally acknowledged to be a joke – and a bad one at that.

What was it that undid the great ESG craze, you ask?  Was it Tariq Fancy’s ongoing PR war against his former employer, BlackRock, the king of asset managers and ESG grifters?  Was it the obvious and undeniable fact that ESG practitioners are lying about the returns produced by their craft, that the overwhelming percentage of alpha produced by high-returning ESG funds is actually due to factors other than those that are ESG-related?  Or was it, maybe, the growing realization that the global energy crisis and various responses to it are proof positive that the economic damage being done by “sustainability” investing is both crippling and unnecessary?  Was it that nice man on Tucker Carlson’s show last week talking about corporatocracy – such a nifty but underused word?

Well, actually, it was none of the above.  Rather, it was a trip to California for Arthur Fonzarelli and his surrogate family, the Cunninghams.  You see, in the 1977 premiere of season five of “Happy Days,” Fonzie is asked to come to Hollywood to audition for a movie role by a producer who sees him as the next James Dean.  He bombs, but his young friend and protégé, Richie Cunningham, also auditions and is deemed by the studio to have star potential.  Meanwhile, Fonzie learns to water ski and, after being dared to risk his life by a bully who bears a striking resemblance to Gregg Marmalard, ski-jumps over a trapped shark, thereby saving the world from…well…bullies who bear a striking resemblance to Gregg Marmalard, we guess.

Twenty years later, a pair of roommates at the University of Michigan, Sean Connolly and Jon Hein, turned a phrase derived from Fonzie’s death-defying act – “jump the shark” – into a metaphor for the moment that any creative project demonstrates, in ridiculous fashion, a permanent loss of creativity.  At that moment, a moment of sheer absurdity, it is clear that the project has reached its apogee, and it begins to move, inexorably, on a downward trajectory.  As it falls, it becomes less and less creative, more and more palpably absurd, and thoroughly uninteresting.

Well…yesterday, ESG jumped the shark:

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, are getting into the investment business. They are joining Ethic, a fintech asset manager in the fast-growing environmental, social and governance space, as “impact partners” and investors. Ethic has $1.3 billion under management and creates separately managed accounts to invest in social responsibility themes.

The couple could attract more attention to sustainable investing. Harry and Meghan can make E.S.G. investing part of pop culture in a way that, say, BlackRock’s Larry Fink can’t. “From the world I come from, you don’t talk about investing, right?” Meghan told DealBook in a joint interview with Harry. “You don’t have the luxury to invest. That sounds so fancy.”

“My husband has been saying for years, ‘Gosh, don’t you wish there was a place where if your values were aligned like this, you could put your money to that same sort of thing?’” Meghan said. They were introduced to Ethic by friends, she said.

Harry and Meghan said they hoped that their involvement would help democratize investing, making people — especially younger people — more deliberate in their choices and conscious of investing in sustainable companies. “You already have the younger generation voting with their dollars and their pounds, you know, all over the world when it comes to brands they select and choose from,” Harry said, suggesting it was a natural extension to do the same with investments.


We gotta hand it to Aaron Ross Sorkin and the rest of the gang over at Dealbook.  We don’t think we’d have the guts to write a sentence like this one (clearly the best part of the whole story), “Harry and Meghan can make E.S.G. investing part of pop culture in a way that, say, BlackRock’s Larry Fink can’t.” 

Ugh.

They’ll make it a part of pop culture alright, just as Fonzie made shark-jumping a part of the pop culture.

These two quarter-wits (who, together, make a rather pitiful halfwit) are, of course, the perfect spokesmodels for ESG.  They’re vapid, self-absorbed, frivolous, fatuous, self-entitled, and aggressively self-righteous.  They are, in other words, perfectly emblematic of their generation (Meghan at 40, being both three years older than Harry and the oldest of the Millennials).  And as such, they are also perfectly emblematic of the type of investor who will make or break ESG, once the remaining hippy-dippy boomers have finished transferring their wealth to their shallow, soulless children.

In his essay on the 1851 coup conducted by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, Marx famously wrote that “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”  ESG has always been the farcical second appearance of the “New Left’s” tragic rebellion against the existing cultural order.  Now, with the addition of these two simpletons from the generation formerly known as the “baby boom echo” to the mix, the farcical “second time” is complete.  From the narcissistic “rebellion” of bored, spoiled, upper-middle-class white kids to the noblesse oblige of the nouveau-royalty in just over a half-century is an impressive, if embarrassingly banal and expected evolution.

As we say, the good news is that this marks a turning point, an acknowledgment that the entire woke capital movement is now exposed as a farcical and thoroughly spent force.

The bad news is that these pitiable jokesters are nothing if not stubborn and thoroughly convinced of their own righteousness, which is to say that they will not give up easily or quickly.  Every schoolboy knows that Fonzie “jumping the shark” marked the apex and then the downward trajectory of “Happy Days.”  What most people don’t know, though, is that the show premiered in 1974 and went off the air in 1984, meaning that the shark-jump – Fall 1977 – took place in the FIRST half of the show’s run.

If our analogy holds, then, that means we still have several more years of ESG nonsense to muddle through until the powers that be finally cancel the damn thing.  We’ve won, in other words, and that much is clear.  But a great deal of damage can be done before our victory is acknowledged.

And if you don’t believe us, we have three words for you: Mork. From. Ork.

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