LIBOR, Liars and Vultures
I should be thanking Barclays and its CEO, Bob Diamond. As a result of the recent LIBOR fixing scandal, I have taken a mental tour of the world of punishment. The image of Braveheart’s death recurred though I preferred the reality of William Wallace being disemboweled before being drawn and quartered to Mel Gibson’s “Freedom” fantasy. I thought it might be nice to follow with a Tibetan sky burial in which the bodies are left to be eaten by vultures.
As the effects of civilization set in, however, I have mellowed and am willing to compromise as long as we keep the vultures.
It seems to me there are several aspects of this episode that might lead to such feelings.
I doubt very many people like being lied to. It is worse if lying provides an advantage to the liar. Worse still if those being lied to are at an information disadvantage. Worst of all if the liar holds a position of trust. Guilty on all counts.
What will happen next?
There will be government hearings on virtually every side of virtually every ocean. Earnest elected officials will sit in tall chairs looking down at contrite bankers armed only with talking points. In this case there are no defenses, but it would not matter if there were because the hearings will be a preordained rout.
What if they weren’t? What if the bankers got to ask the elected officials if they ever lied? If they had an information advantage? If they held a position of trust? If they benefited from the lies they told?
That would certainly be interesting.
Inevitably, this leads to Grover Norquist and his tax pledge. Lost you there did I?
Love the tax pledge or hate it, it is extremely successful in making elected officials do what they say they will do.
What about a pledge not to lie? Seemingly the voters would love it if only for the reduction in attack ads.
Since the Supreme Court recently ruled that it is okay for a politician to lie, the new pledge would have to be entirely voluntary. It would be available to candidates of both parties. Grover teaches us that it should be simple.
Here’s a draft.
1. I will not lie at any time during a campaign or in office.
2. If I discover that I have inadvertently done so, I will publicly correct myself.
3. If I violate either of the above, this pledge constitutes my immediate resignation from office and commitment never to run again.
If the LIBOR scandal were to spill over and create similar outrage in the political world, I would consider withdrawing my request for the vultures.