Keith McLeod (November Issue) does not blame the bankers for our present financial position; he did say that the bankers seem to be responsible for the economic woes of the West, but went on to say “Actually not true…”
He chooses to blame irresponsible borrowing by individuals. It is true that some people did borrow more than they should (that, in itself, was an indication of the greed and the incompetence of the banks) but, unlike the bankers, the majority of those that borrowed are required to repay their debts and most are struggling to do so, many have lost practically everything, including their homes.
Keith also believes that the reason for most people’s anger with the bankers is essentially one of envy. The truth is the bankers gambled with other people’s money, it was the investment bankers, the introduction of the derivatives market, the hedge fund managers and the short selling traders that really brought the house tumbling down.
It is not envy of the bankers’ high salaries that provokes so much anger, it is the fact that they gambled and lost, and then it fell to the nation to save them from bankruptcy. What really angers people is the fact that the City bankers gambled with money that they didn’t have and if they won they put the money in their pockets and the pockets of their shareholders, but if they lost their losses had to be covered by the people. It was an international failure of international banks, all trying to cover their losses by disguising them and trading them with other banks.
The consequences of their actions are that many individuals are suffering hardship through no fault of their own, many people have lost their jobs, very many able and bright young people are unable to find jobs and everybody is having a fall in their living standards, everybody, that is, apart from those actually responsible.
Yes people are angry, angry with the bankers and angry with a system that could allow this to happen, and to add insult to injury, the bankers continue to pay themselves beyond avarice. Keith is scornful of those who complain of unfairness, he started his letter with reference to the parable of the farmer who paid different rates to his workers for the same job. The lower paid workers considered this unfair and were told that it was not their concern. It is the same message that was preached from the pulpit to keep the peasants in their place in the days of the rich landowners, they were told it was their role to serve their master and be content with the crumbs from his table.
Fairness and social justice are important for our individual happiness and our social cohesion and we should strive to achieve it. For example, it is not fair to pay women less than men if they are doing the same job with equal competence, this is recognised and has to be rectified when it is found to exist. Of course there will always be some unfairness, but extremes such as we are experiencing today should not be tolerated.