Punishment, Vengeance and the Banks
Submitted by wuming on Wed, 12/19/2012 - 6:35pm
(cross posted from Attorneyfong.com)
People sometimes ask me, if I was in charge, what would I want done with the bank that have broken the law and carried out epic levels of fraud in the United States. And it's not just the banks, it's the finance, insurance and real estate industry as a whole, commonly called the FIRE sector.
Specifically, people often ask, what should be done about the executives who masterminded the various frauds? Some people expect me to say life in prison, brutal punishment etc. People expect me to say, that's what these people deserve, so screw them, they have to pay.
But honestly? That's not what I'm looking for. The drive for vengeance is what got the United States into this problem to begin with. Part of the reason that and the oligarchy have gotten to be so powerful, is the politics of resentment and vengeance. In the last 30 years, whenever someone raised the idea of restraining the FIRE sector, there was an angry group of people that opposed restraint, because they were so angry and afraid that someone else might get something that they "didn't deserve." We can argue all day about what people deserve, and some people will argue that Americans deserve what is happening to us right now, because we allowed it to happen.
What kind of punishment would I like to see for FIRE executives convicted of financial crimes? I'm not interested in feeling good about vengeance, I'm interested in meaningful steps that will both prevent the damage from happening again, and taking away the money from the people that stole it. Vengeance? We've had lots of that through the prison system already, and I don't see that it's helping. It cheapens the culture when people make rape jokes about prison, and think that torture-porn media are both entertainment and foreign-policy guides.
Here's what I propose we should do with FIRE sector criminals
1. Restitution. They should have to give back their ill gotten gains.
2. Prison that focuses on rehabilitating them so they understand what they did wrong and can be productive members of society.
3. Lifetime ban from the finance sector, and a new job. You made your money handling money and ripping people off? Fine, from now on you can be a carpenter, a barber, an auto mechanic, or something unrelated to the FIRE sector.
Even if someone doesn't really change their heart in prison, the lifetime ban will prevent them from doing extreme damage to the financial system again. And for people like that, it will be a real punishment to spend the rest of their lives staring from the outside in. I think this would also be a strong deterrent for people in the field who love what they do. They would know that if they were convicted, they'd have to give up their money and the job that is the center at their identity. That's enough. I