Not too long back I posted my finding that most people I knew wanted Paris Hilton in gaol, but they didn’t think it mattered whether she had broken any laws. It was a matter of principle.
Likewise the leaders of the financial community who have led us into our current dire straits.
Today the Financial Times published an article by Martin Wolf bemoaning the irresponsibility of Congress for not coughing up $700,000,000,000 to save the financial system. The grounds were very reasonable –
We are watching the disintegration of the financial system. Finance is the web
of intermediation binding economic agents to one another, across both space and
time. Without it, no modern economy can survive. Yet that is now threatened,
with the ongoing collapse in trust and flight to safety. We can indeed run this
experiment. But why should we?
As far as the role of the financial system is concerned, I agree absolutely, and it would be insane not to fix the problems. And that’s coming from a devout socialist. (Strangely, in my experience socialists understand capitalism far better than capitalists.)
But this is one case where we could and should throw out the babies with the bathwater, or at least the throw out the bath attendants. They got us into this, and it is shocking that, if this measure goes through, they will still have their jobs – the very jobs they have proved they cannot do at the very pinnacle of the systems they have just proved are crucial to society as a whole. To tell you the truth, I’m quite shocked that, come the end of this process, they will still have their liberty. As I keep telling everyone I know (very nearly jokingly), the message should be that, once the negotiations about saving the system are over, they will all be off to gaol. We don’t really care what for – they just belong somewhere as dark and dingy as the misery to which they have sent so many other people.
A bit draconian? How about this then? The banks (etc.) get this financing on the absolute condition that they have completely replaced their leaderships within a year. After that, if we catch any of them running so much as a sweet shop, they go to gaol.
Still a bit draconian? I don’t think so. What have these people done that deserves such bitter treatment? Just pushed the financial system Wolf rightly declares to be the hub of our economies over a cliff. They were give absolutely all the leeway to run their businesses they asked for. Nothing was too good for them as far as our brainless governments (who seem not to understand capitalism at all) were concerned. And what did they give us in return? The threat of the worst economic depression we have seen since the Thirties. The destruction of thousands – and if the more grim predictions are right, maybe millions – of jobs. Vast harm to millions of people. A crushing blow to the very economic foundations of society.
I’m sorry, but if I had deprived so many people of so much – money, safety, happiness, future – by such evident greed, indifference and stupidity, but done it in some other walk of life (bank robbery, perhaps), would I still to be loose on the streets, let alone being paid to carry on?