The Atlantic is DEEBLY GONCERNED about how to get far-reaching changes of policy.
The search for an answer will require some history regarding Benjamin Franklin, and Indians.
The Atlantic wrote:
How can bankers live with themselves after the destruction wrought by their industry? That’s in part what the Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk sets out to uncover in his new book, Among the Bankers: A Journey Into the Heart of Finance, …
Luyendijk…, conducted hundreds of interviews with people who work in the City, London’s version of Wall Street.
…“Banking today is like playing Russian roulette with someone else’s head,” one banker said.
Unlike many finance-centric books, Luyendijk goes beyond the front-office—an industry term that refers to those in the professions most often seen in the movies: traders, investment bankers, deal makers, financial advisors. These workers, particularly the male ones, were full of bravado when responding to Luyendijk, and some had quick dismissals for every critique of the industry: The City pays a ton in taxes, creates jobs, and supports much of London, they argued.
But these workers make up only a fraction of the thousands of bank employees who work in compliance, human resources, IT, and a variety of other critical roles. This group gets little of the limelight and often little respect from those who earn higher salaries and bonuses. And yet, Luyendijk finds, they still have strong feelings about working for a bank. Even if they aren’t the ones pricing deals or making trades, they feel pride or shame at being associated with the industry. “You become part of the fabric of the place. Then they dispose of you,” one woman, who had worked in support roles for over a decade, told Luyendijk after being fired. Still, upon receiving the news, she went back to her desk and started sending emails about an ongoing project to ensure that her colleagues, and the bank, wouldn’t suffer from her absence. Perhaps one of the most important contributions of Luyendijk’s book is in giving voice to these people, who support—and, in some cases, enable—the financial industry.
Among the Bankers shows just how intricate and fractured the global banking system is, with departments within the same bank unaware of what their own companies are doing. That makes the banks not only too big to fail, but possibly too big to manage. Their sheer size creates two problems: the inability to identify and remedy problems—such as rogue traders—but also a culture that allows for the plausible deniability of its leadership. Luyendijk concludes that bank employees—often singled out as the driving force behind the economic collapse—aren’t solely to blame. There is a system that pushes them to take risks and a culture that shames anyone who admits errors or weakness; these factors, Luyendijk argues, are more culpable than any single person or even any group of people.
…banking… is more often than not an all-consuming job that pushes workers to conform or burn out. …, the author asks a banker if he has any friends outside of finance. He responds by saying, “When you make $100,000 a month you basically don’t have common interests with your friends anymore.” That can change the way people dress and behave and can create complex feelings of loyalty to an industry that has proven itself to be mostly indifferent to outside conceptions of morality. “I have found that many outsiders are deeply reluctant to accept that to an important degree the financial world isn’t populated by people willfully doing evil, but by conformists who have simply stopped asking questions about right and wrong,” Luyendijk writes.
Changing a system in which one is in some way complicit is difficult. More than that, the hierarchy of banking means that those in fields like compliance can feel belittled or powerless to confront or rein in the ambitions of front-office workers and executives, whose risky but profitable strategies keep the entire operation afloat. “Nobody ever challenges the front office,” one compliance officer told Luyendijk. After all, if a bank goes down, its compliance officers do too. And, as Luyendijk finds out, the employees in the financial industry vastly outnumber those at regulatory agencies, plus they’re paid better and better equipped to pivot quickly, leaving regulators to play catch up. It’s no wonder banking culture has been so difficult to reform.
What Luyendijk finds is that piecemeal changes to the financial industry won’t create the change that many are hungry for; that would require a massive overhaul of the entire system. Luyendijk describes his prescription as “not repairs or a major clean-up but a completely new DNA,” the sort brought about by huge shifts in law and policy. So far, that type of change is nowhere to be found.
So how could society possibly bring about huge shifts in law and policy?
Wouldn’t it just be as easy as eliminating the ring-leaders?
Could the common man just cut off the head of the snake? Can’t the common man just crank up the Cybernazi tunes and imitate Duterte?
I don’t think so.
For centuries, progressives have been promising freedom from evil, with just one more mass killing. It has sometimes worked to eliminate some limited class of evils (the French Revolution obviously was different from the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields) but it rarely works as well as advertised.
The French Revolution eliminated French monarchy, but it didn’t eliminate bankers, and (as Hudson has written) democracies may have been supported by bankers because democracies are easier to bribe. Even after the French Revolution, the populists were so incompetent that they tried to get various dictators.
[begin shameless Wikipedia rip]
Napoléon Bonaparte was called Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, from 1804 until 1814, and again in 1815. Between the years 1852 and 1870 there was a Second French Empire, when a member of the Bonaparte dynasty again ruled France: Napoleon III, the son of Louis Bonaparte.
[end shameless Wikipedia rip]
I suppose the French monarchy tortured more people than the Napoleon regime, but the French Revolution was not an unmixed success.
Shortly before the French Revolution, in America, the white people hated white culture, but for the most part, they could not escape it. Benjamin Franklin wrote:
” When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and makes one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return. And that this is not natural [only to Indians], but as men, is plain from this, that when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived awhile among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet within a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of Life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.
…No European who has tasted Savage Life can afterwards bear to live in our societies.”
…in Pennsylvania , in 1744, between the government of Virginia and the Six Nations. After the principal business was settled the Commissioners from Virginia acquainted the Indians in a speech that there was at Williamsburg a college, with a fund for educating Indian youth, and that if the chiefs of the Six Nations would send down half a dozen of their sons to that college the Government would take care that they should be well provided for, and instructed in all the learning of the white people. [They replied:]
“For we know,” said he, “that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those colleges, and that the maintenance of our young men while with you would be very expensive to you. We are convinced, therefore, that you mean to do us good by your proposal, and we thank you heartily. But you who are wise must know that different nations have different conceptions of things, and you will therefore not take it amiss if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some experience of it. Several of our young people were formerly brought up at the colleges of the northern provinces, they were instructed in all your sciences, but when they came back to us they were bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods, unable to bear either cold or hunger, knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, or kill an enemy, spoke our language imperfectly, were, therefore, neither fit for hunters, warriors, or counselors; they were totally good for nothing. We are not, however, the less obliged by your kind offer, though we decline accepting it, and to show our grateful sense of it, if the gentlemen of Virginia send us a dozen of their sons we will take great care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them .”
Surely all the whites should have reverted to savagery, then, and the American Revolution should have never taken off!
Why did the American Revolution work so much better than the French Revolution? It didn’t, for guys like Daniel Shays and the four thousand Shaysites, who were apparently doomed, no matter who dominated the politcal landscape. But the American Revolution allowed a lot of indentured servants and potential sans-culottes to become land-owners, in a socio-economic context where land-ownership was tremendously empowering – in terms of musket-based politics and agriculture-based capitalism. However, that led to a gigantic land grab, which ended up working very badly for guys like Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and there many less-famous tribesmen.
This was not the sort of reversion to savagery that Franklin was talking about – it was an extension of capitalist gentry ethics to former peasants. In a time when farming the land was a ticket to the middle class, America opened access to the middle class.
Unfortunately, lobbyists were rife even before the term of President Grant, who invented modern “lobbying,” And soon enough, after Jackson was dead, the bankers ascended to return America to degradation and indentured servitude. Now the former middle class is falling to lower class status.
Will there be a revolt of “ordinary Joes” against bankers? As the Atlantic wrote: “the employees in the financial industry vastly outnumber those at regulatory agencies, plus they’re paid better and better equipped to pivot quickly, leaving regulators to play catch up.” The bankers can study every known trick of revolt. They can hire entire city police forces, as they did when Occupy Wall Street posed a minor threat to their insouciance. There are no more entry points to the middle class, only exit points.
Insouciance, hubris, and avarice may well contain the seeds of their own destruction, and we may live to see those seeds take root.
An example of USA hubris is JASTA, which apparently asserts that the USA has jurisdiction that overrules all international laws.
An example of international hubris is the “Internet of Things.” This is a collusion between Big Business and Big Government. Big Business hopes to sell all consumers shoddy goods with built-in spy chips, and Big Government hopes to spy on everything.
It sounds like a sure-fire plan, right?
However, the IoT is designed to swindle the customer with shoddy security so that snoops can get in. But that means that criminal crackers can make considerable profits when they get in before the government snoops do.
“When I first go in DDoS industry, I wasn’t planning on staying in it long,” one street criminal wrote. “I made my money, there’s lots of eyes looking at IOT now, so it’s time to GTFO…”
The street criminals will not become middle class. Even rich street criminals will always live on the margin, but most of them will lose their ill-gotten gains quickly, returning to the impoverished lower class.
The hubris of the white-collar criminals is enabling the enterprise of the street criminals, and the resulting edifice will probably collapse sooner rather than later, crushing the unfortunate servants who get trapped inside. Unfortunately, China might invent Banking 2.0 and keep the scam running, but with an Eastern elite on top instead of a Western elite. Populists like Duterte might kill a few bankers, but no amount of killing will produce a paradigm shift that will make people stop believing in banking.
Paradigm shifts are mental revolutions, and they are considerably subtler and more difficult than bloody revolutions.