There’s something slightly decadent about a bank holiday, extending the traditional weekend recuperation from work into more of a carefree, calming mini-break. Bank holidays were ushered into British law as an alternative to religious holidays by liberal politician and banker Sir John Lubbock in 1871. The term suggests we should be grateful for the boundless benevolence of bankers.
Bankers have changed since Lubbock’s day. No longer upstanding pillars of society, the gallery of rogues that currently inhabit the profession have earned reputations that place them somewhere beneath traffic wardens, ambulance-chasing lawyers and pay-day loan sharks in the hierarchy of social tolerance.
I’m not talking, of course, about the good people that sit behind counters and cash cheques or convert bags of coins into folding money, but the investment bankers who continue to over-generously reward themselves for gambling ineptly, without risk or burden, with someone else’s money.
I’m talking about the ‘heads-I-win, tails-you-lose’ liars, cheats, and thieves who wagered on someone else’s house, or someone else’s pension, and lost spectacularly, only to come crawling back, sweaty palms outstretched to the taxpayer for a bailout and the opportunity to gamble and lose again. I’m talking about those who, with breath-taking arrogance, packaged up and sold junk as gold and claimed a fat commission on the trades, or who fabricated interest rates to cosset their end-of-term bonuses.
Given the enormous debt that investment bankers owe the societies they look down on with distain, I propose they forfeit any right to time off on a public holiday until such time as their social and moral debts are repaid. In full. Those debts, incidentally, should carry an interest rate of 10 percent over and above the Bank of England base rate.
If the Prime Minister had any genuine empathy for the people that put him in power, he would have a new law drawn up and re-brand bank holidays as ‘taxpayer holidays’.
The new law would mandate that investment bankers give up their time on public holidays to maintain the empty shops that litter and mar our high streets. They would serve in the small businesses that are suffocating for lack of an overdraft and to console those who lost their jobs in the banker-created global recession, and then had their home loans called in. Cash would not be accepted as an alternative and accountability would be non-transferrable. Banker’s homes would be at risk if they failed to honour their debts.
The enforced wearing of clothing endorsed with the phrase “I’m repaying my debt to you” would help the guilty become a little more familiar with humility, too.
If bankers felt any shame or accountability for the role they played in messing up the world’s economies, the passing of a law would be unnecessary.
Genuine remorse would see them offer up their time voluntarily in an attempt to rehabilitate their personal and profession’s reputations. If they cared one iota about the damage and despair they’ve created or the lives they’re ruined, they’d be making more of an effort to acknowledge their dues and seek public forgiveness.
Unless investment bankers genuinely accept publicly the damage caused by their greed and incompetence, they are destined to repeat it. That more of them aren’t in prison shames the criminal justice systems charged with maintaining fairness and decency in our societies.
I hope you’re enjoying your long weekend and the bonus day off. Just remember: it wasn’t given to you by a banker.