They tell us: it’s homeowners, its governments for not regulating us enough, its the central banks, its voters, its the Chinese, its workers for being paid less and “diluting the capital ratio”. It’s everyone’s greed, not theirs.
They’re like alcoholics unable to take responsibility for the damage done by their binging. At one point the truth came out: “it’s a systemic problem”.
It’s not a conspiracy of individual bankers, there’s a system set up to reward short-term irresponsible behaviour, making private profit from risk borne by you and me.
It’s fun to watch bankers with hangovers (“It is terrible. Death. It’s like a massive earthquake,”) and if there’s any sympathy in relation to Lehman Brothers’ collapse then it should go to their lower-paid temps and cleaners that might not be getting their last paycheque. The thing is, all these crises end up being inflicted hardest on the people with the least, while the rich can cushion themselves from the ill-effects: Merrill Lynch’s boss was among the 10 highest paid last year, despite presiding over a bank that needed to be bailed out.
So what do we do to end this crap?
I’d be looking at credit unions, for one thing. Take the toys from the boys. City types “looking after” our money doesn’t work, they can’t be trusted because the system is rotten. But beyond “dropping out” of the banking system, we need to find ways of getting what we need without making others lose out.
Working together, not against one another. That’s what’s we mean when we talk about abolishing capitalism as a set of “social relations”. If there’s anything that watching the flights in the financial markets shows, it’s that the whole edifice relies on belief in its permanence, and that confidence can disappear easily.
It won’t disappear on its own, but we are not powerless.