August 6, 2012
At one point during lunch today at an infamously spicy Sichuan restaurant in London’s Soho district, my colleague turned to me and said, “You know, it’s shocking to me that there hasn’t been a single instance anywhere in the world of a banker getting beaten to death by the mob…”
I stopped for a moment, wondering if it was the cashew prawns talking. It wasn’t.
The idea seemed shocking to me as I’m not one to ponder the physical harm of others… but when you think about it, it is quite remarkable. Bankers are almost universally hated right now, and with good reason.
After all, they did play a key role in wrecking the world economy through bad speculations made with customers’ money… the very funds they had the most solemn fiduciary responsibility of managing with care.
Then they went on to present people with a cataclysmic scenario in order to strong-arm a taxpayer bailout, after which they stopped lending to just about everything that didn’t come with a government repurchase agreement.
Shortly after, Bob Diamond, then-CEO of Barclays, famously quipped that ‘the time for banks to apologize is over…’
Of course, then came the LIBOR scandal in which those same banks, including Barclays, were caught outright lying and colluding to screw consumers through interest rate manipulation.
We’ve also seen banks fail to heed the lessons of 2007, losing billions from derivatives exposure and trading algorithms gone wild.
Everyone takes it on the chin. The customers. The taxpayers. The shareholders. Everyone, of course, except the baking elite.
Throughout it all, despite so many taxpayer bailouts and the damage that their fractional reserve system has caused to the global economy, the banking elite has still managed to maintain its wealth and status.
Sure, the oddball Madoff or Rajaratnam case occasionally surfaces, but for the most part, not a single member of the banking elite has been charged with a crime.
You know who has been charged with a crime, though? Gary Harrington. In case you haven’t heard of this criminal mastermind, Mr. Harrington was recently sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $1,500 for a most heinous crime against humanity.
His transgression? NINE misdemeanor convictions of collecting rainwater on his private property. That’s right… this vile miscreant had the felonious intent to set up rainwater collection systems on his private property to capture water that falls freely from the sky… an obvious violation of Medford, Oregon’s 1925 law which awards ALL water to the government.
So Gary Harrington goes to jail for collecting rainwater. And every single banker who has been complicit in defrauding billions of people around the world walks freely on the streets. Or rather drives freely on the streets in their Maseratis.
There are countless other stories of what I call the ‘criminalization of existence’– people like Gary getting abused by the state for the most innocuous activities. There are so many laws, rules, policies, and regulations on the books, you can hardly breathe without violating one of them.
And yet, despite all of these rules and regulations, there’s not a single one that can be brought against those who lie, cheat, steal, and collude to defraud the entire world.
This is the nature of democracy today. It is the criminals who write the rules and the good people who go to jail.
Have you hit your breaking point yet?