“Whoever commits a fraud is guilty not only of the particular injury to him who he deceives, but of the diminution of that confidence which constitutes not only the ease, but the very existence of a society.” Samuel Johnson
As the hearings and scandals progress, and the revelations and charges start to cut closer to the heart of the credit swindles, inevitably there will be a movement to say, “We are all responsible. Let’s allow bygones to be bygones, it was all a misunderstanding. Let’s move on to something new. Justice is not important, and cannot be done.”
There will be long accountings of how the problems arose, and how changes in the banking laws, broker deregulation, and the erosion of elite privileges compelled the Wall Street banks to take more and greater risks, to violate unspoken understandings about customer relationships, to take great risks, to bend the laws, to use money and influence to suborn perjury and the breaking of oaths, and to generally undermine the fabric of government.
There will be long analyses that suggest that trust has been lost, the trust that binds the social and financial interactions of people. And there will be an effort to regain that trust, to promise change and reform, and of course, justice.
As for justice they will say, but aren’t we all responsible? Didn’t we all believe the promise that ‘greed is good?’
The overwhelming majority of people are hard working, honest in their dealings, more concerned with raising families than ruling others, if anything distracted by their day to day problems. Long suffering, patient to a fault, too willing to the give the Wall Street bankers the benefit of the doubt for the very reason of their own good natures. They could not imagine themselves doing the things of which these men stand accused, so they cannot believe that others would so willingly lie and deceive, cheat and steal, attack the very heart of the nation, while wrapping themselves in a flag of hypocrisy, for a few more dollars that they can hardly need or even personally spend.
And why? Because it feeds their sickened hearts, their pathological egos, and the need to make others suffer loss for their own gains. It sets them apart from a humanity which they hold in contempt enmingled with a nagging self-hate, makes them feel superior and worthwhile, and at the extreme even as gods among men.
So when the fresh public relations spin and propaganda from Wall Street and the financial sector’s demimonde starts this week, and seeks to confuse the issues and distort the true nature of the fraud, recall who profited and who lost, who was caught with their hands deep in the pockets of the many, and even now stand arrogantly unrepentant with the ongoing misery of others to their account. And who stood idly by while charged by sworn oaths with protecting the innocent, the unsuspecting many, from the predatory, lawless few.
“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Edmund Burke
Or, in the words of William K. Black and Elliot Spitzer in their essay Questions on the Goldman Scandal at New Deal 2.0:
“We applaud the SEC lawsuit, but it will not solve the problem. Unless our financial system is reformed to put adequate protections and checks and balances in place, we can expect this kind of fraud to continue. Financial executives will continue to take risks they do not understand. Those who control the flow of capital will continue to churn out profits with socially disastrous consequences.”
The banks must be restrained, the financial system reformed, the economy brought bank into balance, and justice done though the mighty fall, before there can be any sustained recovery.