Stop Bellyaching About Bankers (and grow up)

When I became a man I did not ‘put away childish things’, as described in a letter sent to Corinth by St Paul. More fool me.
But, recently, my efforts to be an adult have included trying to examine my feelings of anger before expressing them. When I manage to do this, I usually learn that the thing about which I was feeling angry is a bit different – if related – to the way I was about to express it.
This pause for reflection (when it happens) especially pleases my wife.

Running with a mob that is expressing anger is a dangerous thing – fertile ground for extremism and fascism. Lynching, witch hunts and demonization only perpetuate injustice.

Recently, everyone’s favourite villains have been the bankers. I am not denying that there have been abuses and excesses, and the whole self-serving fill-yer-boots culture is especially annoying at a time that the bankers have bankrupted the rest of us. How can it be that their cup still overflow-eth?

When I became a man I learned to look beyond the symptoms, and sought instead to reflect on the causes. This is part of what ‘putting away childish things’ means. Understanding causes allows us to ‘flick the switch’ to achieve the change we desire, rather than waging trench warfare against symptoms.

Yet a war of attrition against symptoms is exactly what seems to have ensued (against bankers) following the financial crisis of 2008. Whilst not invalid in their own right, ‘better regulation’, ‘bonus taxes’, ‘Basel III’ and ‘banking commissions’ are not going to achieve anything fundamental. The game of cat n’mouse will go on, further enriching professionals and further technical-izing the issues.

The cause is, of course, the fact that we – the angry masses – have become incapable of operating the things that we own. We were alright when we were talking about our sheep, or trading at market. But (with the exception of our houses) our capital – what we own – has become abstract. It has been sliced and diced so many times. It is so liquid, aggregated and diversified that we have no idea what it actually is! The irony is that we need professionals – especially BANKERS – to understand and operate it. In fact, whisper it quietly lest they overhear us … we rely on them.

The solution is obvious, elementally powerful and very grown up. Empower the angry masses to connect with and understand their capital. Democratise finance. Give us the opportunity to make our own decisions – rather than forcing us into the hands of the bankers by regulating us out of the market ‘for our own protection’. Give us the opportunity to grow up.

  1. 20th Apr 2011

    I’m still learning from you, while I’m trying to reach my goals. I unquestionably love reading all that is written on your blog. Keep the stories coming. I loved it!

  2. Paul Munim
    20th Apr 2011

    I think this issue will continue to be discussed for many years to come because it has had an impact on so many people’s lives. People have lost jobs and livelihoods and nobody bailed them out. I continually come across people who are very upset about banks and the role they played in our economy. While I understand what James is saying, I think for many people this is a personal issue.

  3. 20th Apr 2011

    I basically learned about a lot of this, but having said that, I still considered it was helpful. Very good post!

  4. Jonathan Jenkins
    20th Apr 2011

    I must admit I agree with James – I am fed up with the perpetual banker baiting.

    And not because I am a former investment bankers of sorts.

    But because the media and the masses seem to have forgotten or ignored the fact that we are dealing with a powerful minority of staff high up within these institutions. To simply lazily run down anyone who works for a bank, is to forgot the masses of poor sods who lost their jobs at Lehmans and the like during the crisis. Not the small numbers of highly paid individuals who were probably snapped up by rivals PDQ, but the big percentage of those who lost their jobs who werent massively well paid, did not receive massive bonus or payouts and simply ended up on the streets.

    Normal people, with mortgages, kids, and other commitments.

    These are the forgotten victims of the fallout.

    I know a large number of honest, diligent, committed bankers with high levels of personal and professional integrity.

    And right now, we need them firing on all cylinders, not stand on the sidelines with an economy teetering on the brink of a double dip, calling them names and blowing raspberries in their general direction.

    For those who mis-sold instruments, products, and services, by all means string them up, but dont throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Because we cant afford to.

  5. […] bonus issue has been covered here before. This analysis of the problem and recommended solution remains my view. But continued failure to address causes in […]

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