Dr. Friedman also brings up the neurotransmitter dopamine, and its key role in the reward circuitry of the human brain. He theorizes
for many of them, the previously expanding market gave them a sense of power along with something as strong as a drug: thrill.He made me think anew about this crisis. One theories of drug addiction these days is that there may be a subset of people who live in a perpetual state of "unrewardedness" because they lack one of the receptor subtypes for dopamine (D2). They may end up becomming addicts to self-correct this natural void within. How many of those who worked in investment firms did so not because they enjoy a thrill but because they need one? When I read about past economic booms and their subsequent busts - e.g. tulip mania - a period in seventeenth century Holland during which the price of tulip bulbs soared to exceed the annual salaries of the average skilled worker by many times - the people involved appeared to participate in a kind of mass madness. When we have enough distance from the delusion that perpetuated our recent greed and the crisis of confidence that popped the bubble, perhaps it will strike us that this period was no different. Building reality checks both for individuals who need a thrill and for institutions who need profit might be desirable if they cannot help pursuing them. It further might be useful for us all, if their pursuit perpetuates a delusional sense of power, since we all seem to end up sharing in the delusion... or so Dr. Friedman's article made me reflect.