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The Diary of a Yuppie

Auchincloss, Louis | Houghton, Mifflin, 1986


p. 73

Robert Service (a yuppie lawyer) explains his moral code to two other men: “The trouble with you and Blakelock is that neither of you has the remotest understanding of the moral climate in which we live today. It’s all a game, but a game with very strict rules. You have to stay meticulously within the law; the least misstep, if caught, involves an instant penalty. But there is no particular opprobrium in incurring a penalty any more than there is in being caught offside in football. A man who is found to have bought or sold stock on inside information, or misrepresented his assets in a loan application, or put his girlfriend on the company payroll, is not ‘looked down on’ except by sentimentalists. He’s simply been caught, that’s all. Even the public understands that. Watergate showed it. You break the rules, pay the penalty, and go back to the game.”

pp. 94 - 95

Robert Service, a yuppie lawyer, reflects on his moral code: “What I had to despair of even making Alice see was that I was not immoral. I simply accepted the basic greed and selfishness of human beings. I reorganized that they are always going to act in their own interests and that they should be allowed to do so except where an actual crime to person or property was threatened. To avoid crime in law was the sole moral imperative, and it was imposed on man not by God but by man. Yet on that sole imperative hung ‘all the law and the prophets.’ A man could go right up to the threshold of crime, but not a step further. Not even a half step! Alice, for the life of her, couldn’t see this as a moral code. But to me it is the only valid one. The rest is cant.”