Good evening. Back from (the belly of the beast) NY, NY– very happy to be once again holed up in my tree fort at lakeside in central Canada. I love New York, but boy it is always nice to leave all those people too–especially in 30 C.
As I was walking by the New York County Supreme Court House in Lower Manhattan yesterday, I made note of the George Washington quote etched above the entrance. It stood out for me now more than ever. (Actually it choked me up as I thought about it, walking past. Hey I’m a passionate fan of truth, and I see the great strength lurking in humans, what can I say). The inscription reads: “The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government.” Actually the quote is from a letter George Washington wrote in 1789, and he used the word “due” instead of “true”. But the point is timeless. See the building facade here.
In law there is a principle of equity that justice must not only be done—it must also be seen to be done. These tenets are the foundations of democracy and its dependence on fairness and freedom. If you want a free society to adhere to the rules and work together for greater good you must hold everyone accountable to the same written laws. We have learned this truth repeatedly through history. Societies who reject this principle have repeatedly done so at their own demise eventually.
As I checked in at the progress at Ground Zero this week, I could not help but note that the greatest assault on democracy the past few years has not been terrorists from foreign lands. It has been white-collar citizens forgetting that freedom is about a nation of the people for the people. Democratic systems cannot be just the personal game for gain of a privileged few.
In this context I was encouraged to tonight hear this refreshingly honest take on capital markets from the Mad man himself Jim Cramer (courtesy of Barry Ritholtz). I can’t say I usually agree with Jim, but here it is.
Jim makes many excellent points in the clip that follows. I would add that one of the important reasons that the SEC (and other regulators) have done such a pitiful job of keeping the Banksters and other HFT’ers at bay the past few years has been a conscious political decision to under-fund the regulators and gut them of the long-serving meaningful rules required to maintain order, transparency and a level playing field in capital markets and finance. A dearth of political will and leadership and a shocking neglect and apathy from the rest of those who should know better, have allowed an elite few to make mayhem and mockery of our capital markets, financial system and sound business all over the world.
It is quite simply shameful and a black mark on all who have allowed this to happen. Today it is also a call to all of us who have the knowledge, integrity and opportunity to lead and rebuild our systems again for the future.
I disagree with Cramer that we need to just get used to the prevalence of dishonesty, reckless policies and deceit. I know we can repair and rebuild our rules and commitment. I have not given up hope. History tells us we will eventually learn from our mistakes– albeit the hard way.