1

CrimeTalk

An educational resource at the heart of criminological teaching, debate, and research

Editor's Blog

Distrust of banks & government: implications for criminology

In a recent poll of 1,650 investors by UK business and investment e-zine, CityWire, only 6% said they would trust the government to manage their money or give investment advice and the banks only received 8.6%!!!!  See Investment advice: who we do and don't trust

This is an amazing statistic, whatever its imperfections. CityWire is an investors' e-zine and you'd expect a high degree of cynicism. But what hope for government and democracy, banking and sane money management, if those willing to invest their own money don't trust the government and the banks? Does managing this political economy come down to dependency on the blind faith and ignorance of the masses? Or do they already have their doubts and suspicions? After all, in the UK, they are not exactly saving heavily and have given up trusting company pensions.

Only 15.9% trusted stockbrokers!!  So how do investors deal on the market?  Online execution-only is the modern answer. Amazingly, 20.3% said they trusted fund managers - like Bernie Madoff? OK, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and if someone makes you money you trust them, but actually, although unprovable, I'd bet private investors largely outperform fund managers per £ year in year out.

When I reached the institutions investors do trust, namely financial advisers, at 26%, and the financial press, 29.2%, I almost fell off my chair at that degree of trust. IFAs are mega-cautious and charge too much in the UK. Top of the pile, reassuringly, with a massive 85% was 'yourself'. From direct experience, I can vouch for this as a very good call - however little you know. Never ever be persuaded that the so-called experts and institutions of good governance and prudence know best! No investment advice intended of course; but stocks can go up as well as down....

As a private investor for over a decade now, you almost take for granted the cards-close-to-the-chest obfuscation, concealment, lying, economy with anything resembling truth and blatant stock price manipulation that routinely occurs in the stock markets. Many of us conclude that 'the city' is a pigsty of amorality and immorality; a daily ritual whereby the impatient are systematically relieved of the money they cannot afford to burn. And what exactly the regulators actually regulate has yet to be discovered. Things are so bad and so complicated, luckily, especially with the advent of hedge funds and computerized automated micro-trading, that even this state of affairs does not mean you don't make money and that only the liars win - markets are not as rational or efficient as some economists would have us believe and they do seem to be out of anyone's control for the most part. So that's alright then.

What is the relevance of this for criminologists who after all tend to assume that capitalism exists and works well and that government is real and functions? Mmmm, my formulation gives away the answer: most of criminology is based on the validity of government decisions and judgment calls and the likelihood that the economy will continue as is, yet both those assumptions require massive qualification to make any kind of sense. One of the biggest qualifiers being that the people who invest in this country have little faith in the workings of casino capitalism, its bankers and its regulators.....I wonder what the alienated, dispossessed and disenfranchised, or even the radical intellectuals, really think or assume?

Looked at this way, studying the 'crime problem', or Crim 101, should begin with Bernie and Osama not the antics of annoying teenage boys. Conventional criminology is a good example of camera obscura where everything appears upside down. It puts the microscope on the scrawny unfortunates and turns a blind eye to the big crooks, the really big beasts. Steal a little they put you in jail, steal a lot they make you king, Bob Dylan once said. It's also like the famous football manager who never sees the fouls of his own team and always whinges that the referee never spots the little push from the opposition. Like Gregg Barak says in his essay on Madoff, they get away with it so easily because everyone else is looking the other way. After all, no member of your golf club would shaft you for millions would they?

No mainstream criminologist would have predicted the murderous rise of the US-trained Bin Laden nor the colossal fraud of Madoff, and indeed those criminologists who might are often derided as 'crackpots' and 'Marxists' or are at least unemployed or under-employed. Criminology tends not to look at ugly macro-economic development processes and is busy looking the other way at vulnerable adolescent individuals.

See also Gregg Barak's comment on Madoff here

Text Size