‘Laws are like spider webs,” said the Scythian philosopher Anacharsis. “They will catch the weak and the poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful.” He was describing the Athens of the 6th century BC but his cynicism applies as well to modern Britain.
Steal £1,000 of other people’s cash and you go to prison. Steal £1,000,000 of other people’s savings and you go to the House of Lords. Prosecutions of financiers have become so rare that last week a shocked press treated as news an announcement by the Financial Services Authority that it had arrested alleged insider dealers. By sending its officers to Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas and Moore Capital, the Economist explained, the authority was demonstrating its new strategy of “credible deterrence”. As I understand it, “credible deterrence” differs from the FSA’s previous policy of “incredible deterrence” in one significant respect. Instead of doing nothing, the authorities have decided to enhance their credibility by taking the bold and innovative course of actually investigating potential criminals.