I’m no friend of the bankers. It seems that Dalrymple isn’t aware of the full extent of corruption the bankers indulged in, but he does raise the important moral point. Easy Credit and asset inflation has been the opium of the 21 century masses, and the public complacently and greedily accepted this arrangement.
The comparison is alarming for several reasons. First, it disregards the distinction between the legal and the illegal. No doubt some bankers broke the law and should be held to account for it, but not all did. To conflate those bankers who behaved badly but not illegally with looters is, in effect, to encourage either the impunity of the latter or the punishment of the former, who have broken no law. In either case, the rule of law would be subverted, and it is not encouraging that journalists—important members of the intelligentsia—should have so little regard for it.
Second, the comparison disregards the fact that the bankers’ main fault was to have lent too much, a fault in which the population was joyfully complicit. You can lead a man to a loan, but you can’t make him borrow. In Britain, furthermore, the government benefited mightily from this coining of fool’s gold. Not only did the process impart to the electorate a pleasant sensation of prosperity; it allowed the government to increase the scope of its own operations and therefore of its own patronage. If the bankers are guilty, so are the people and, even more, the government. To single out the bankers to blame for the general orgy of improvidence is to indulge in that most pleasant of all political pastimes—scapegoating. But improvidence, however undesirable, and however much some people may have profited by it, is not a crime. It is punished only by reality.