Gee, Officer Krupke

Since the world’s financial system went into meltdown, there has been a certain amount of tooth-gnashing and mouth-frothing about the dreadful greed and recklessness of bankers — a lot of it from politicians who frankly aren’t in a position to lecture anyone about short-termism. I find it difficult to work up much righteous anger.

Firstly because complaining that bankers get too excited about money seems like complaining that gannets get too excited about fish. But also because we’re not talking about one or two individuals doing a Nick Leeson job on the world’s banks: as far as I can gather, most of the world’s bankers were making the same bad decisions at the same time. So I tend to think: there but for the grace of God go I. Of course it’s possible that I would have been one of the few bright sparks who spotted what was going on and tried to avoid it, but the odds are against it.

I suspect, ironically, that some of the very people who are most full of outrage at the excesses of global capitalism would be the first to excuse bad behaviour and reckless short-termism in the case of, say, the urban poor. It’s not that merchant bankers are bad people; they’ve been failed by the system.

» the video is of course from West Side Story; the actual song starts at about 1:50.