Sunday, 1 January 2012

Blaming rogue traders ... so the bankers can continue to counterfeit and gamble

Vince Cable recently referred to the City as a "source of systemic instability, unfettered greed and industrial-scale tax dodging" but appeared to blame the problem on a small number of rogue institutions. The use of a minority scapegoat to cover up wide spread illegality, immorality and abuse of power is a particularly favoured tactic in the financial sector (alongside threatening behaviour).

The figure of the rogue is evoked to apportion blame and ask for forgiveness. It's always just one or two rogue individuals, states or institutions that emerge as the unique source of blame for an entire system's failure. The rogue is blamed but ultimately the system that produces it is forgiven.

When the figure of the rogue is evoked, it stops us asking more challenging questions. What if the rogue institutions in the City that caused the financial crisis of 2008 and now avoid paying their taxes are simply the best, and most profitable, example of everything that is wrong with capitalism today; merely the product of a system that rewards greed and exploitation?

Let's hope that the rogue institutions of the City are not allowed to fulfil the promise of their epithet – for their transgressions to be forgiven and ignored. These rogues are products of greater forces at work. Let's stop treating them like inexplicable anomalies and start to understand the conditions that make them and their misdemeanours possible. Then, perhaps, we can do away with the figure of the mischievous but forgivable City rogue altogether.