If you burgle some houses and remove some £20,000 worth of swag, and you’re caught, you’ll be sent to prison. If you run a bank and by your recklessness and folly require bailouts costing the taxpayer £70bn + £850bn asset support costs, or if you launder billions for drug cartels, terrorists or pariah states through offshore accounts, you don’t get prosecuted. The fact that there’s one law for the 99% of the population and another for the 1% economic elite could hardly be clearer. The underlying theme connecting all this unending stream of huge scandals – the financial bubble imploding in 2008, the MPs’ expenses fiddles, Murdoch’s phone-hacking to increase newspaper sales, police corruption in protecting people in high places, Barclays’ LIBOR interest rate-fixing, G4S able to rake off hundreds of millions from the State despite utter incompetence, and now HSBC money-laundering on an industrial scale – is that if you de-regulate all controls to private markets driven by the urge to maximize profits, this is what you get: an economic system rotting on the inside where the super-rich get away with it and dump all the blame, and the costs, on to everyone else.
This seeminly non-stop saga of corruption raises several devastating questions:
* HSBC is Britain’s biggest bank. Why was their worldwide money-laundering only discovered and investigated in the US?
* Why has LIBOR rate-fixing been going on in the UK since 2005 and never been dealt with (and may even have been colluded with) by the FSA or the Bank of England, and was only brought to light by lawsuits and legal rulings filed in courts in Asia and the US?
* Why was a contract ever given to G4S as a private company to take responsibility for security at an event so hugely important for the reputation of Britain as the Olympic Games when no private company can guarantee the reliability that only the police and military can offer and apparently no check was made on the capability of the firm to perform as required?
Several key implications arise from these questions. A neoliberal capitalist system driven by these incentives to exploit shamelessly at every opportunity will always throw up these scandals, and the system must be fundamentally replaced. The UK financial authorities are simply not fit for purpose and should be replaced by a new system of financial regulation with powers to investigate and intervene in much greater depth and at a much earlier stage, perhaps by a US-style Securities and Exchange Commission. The G4S contract is a folly of an irresponsible Home Office which should be held to account, not hide behind the Locog quango. Above all there are many areas where privatisation under free market neoliberalism will inevitably lead to disaster, and those areas should be kept in the public sector, notably most of banking, national security, energy supply, health, education adult social care, pensions, non-commercial legal services, social housing, to name just some.