Thursday, 9 June 2011

Whyte: Why our masters insist on breaking the rules

Jamie Whyte's latest article, for the FT, is up to his usual high standards:
Rules are made to be broken. This is a confusing adage. If you do not want a rule followed, why make it?

Yet it is clearly a popular idea among the European politicians who are managing the sovereign debt crisis. When they bailed out Greece, Ireland and Portugal they did not merely do something that exceeded their powers, they violated an explicit prohibition on such bail-outs.
they claim that by breaking the rules they are acting in the interests of the European people. But such judgments ought to be irrelevant. We do not allow an ordinary citizen to decide when the laws against theft should apply to him and when, all things considered, it would be for the best if he stole someone’s property. A thief cannot evade conviction by arguing that he had a good reason to steal. Yet the dear leaders of Europe can and do pardon themselves by declaring the wisdom of their rule-breaking.
Whyte argues that the old adage is interpreted by the ruling elite as "rules are made to be broken by the anointed" but that, on the contrary, it is those who wield the power of the state who we most need to restrain:
I recently discovered a fraudulent transaction on my credit card. Someone has imposed a £5,000 debt on me without my agreeing to it. That is against the law and I expect I will not ultimately be forced to repay the debt. During the financial crisis, the British government borrowed tens of billions of pounds, of which they require me to repay my “fair share” through taxation. This broke no law and to avoid paying I will have to emigrate.
He concludes:
Unlike the kings of yore, modern politicians cannot toss you in prison on a whim. But they can still impose debts on you. And, as with the kings of yore, their arbitrary powers are rarely used to benefit the little guy. In recent years, American, British and other European politicians have transferred the cost of poor financial decisions, amounting to trillions of dollars, from the influential people who made those mistakes to taxpayers who did not. If you refuse to cover the losses of those who lent to RBS, the Irish government and all the other failed but favoured enterprises, you will be imprisoned.

You might wish for some constitutional or other legal constraints on this power. But we already have some and the bail-outs of Greek, Irish and Portuguese bondholders broke them. Legal constraints are useless when the authorities believe that rules are made to be broken.
How true, and depressing.

Will we allow the ruling elite in Brussels and Westminster to continue abusing their power indefinitely? It seems unlikely that Party X can be dislodged at the ballot box, and even less likely that the Eurocrats can be reined in by democratic measures.

I fear this will not end well.

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