Frenetic Intemperance and the Culture of the Short Term


An interesting article on the website gives an accurate idea of what is meant by the term frenetic intemperance. The term, which appears in the book Return to Order, denotes a reckless and relentless drive inside today’s business culture to throw off all restraints and gratify all desires.

This article reports on the efforts of Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard to oppose this prevailing trend of running business frenetically. Her strategic vision concentrates on solid, sustainable growth that will guarantee the company’s success for generations. However, her focus on the long term has not endeared her to Wall Street analysts and investors who have shunned the company’s stock for its lack of quick short-term yields.

“In my view, it’s better to be very thoughtful and strategic and lay things out for the long haul,” Whitman notes. “I think, historically, there’s been a little bit of `let’s fix up this year,’”

The article also reports on the comments of former FDIC chairman Sheila C. Bair who blames the financial meltdown of 2008 on frenetic markets.

“We tried to stop the excessive risk-taking that was fueling the housing bubble and turning our financial markets into gambling parlors,” Bair wrote in a July 2011 Washington Post op-ed. “But we were impeded by the culture of short-termism that dominates our society.”

Making the problem yet worse, Bair notes, it is the media that create a climate of frenetic and sensational excitement around markets.

“The type of information that dominates cable news and the blogosphere is generally not designed to appeal to our more rational, long-term thought processes.” Bair wrote. “Instead, is excites our emotions, inducing greed and fear, and more often stokes prejudice and cynicism than rationality and fortitude.”

The results of this shortsightedness are unbalanced markets that do not consider the future. As the book, Return to Order, points out, the problem is not an economic one but rather a psychological and moral problem which lies at the root of the present crisis. Change this emotionally-charged climate, the book claims, and economy will go back on course.