It is easy to fall into the belief that we are living in special times; that greed, avarice, fraud, and swindle are at new heights; that bankers are worse than they’ve ever been; that public trust in them is at historic lows. Nearly every day we learn of yet another major fine imposed on a bank for some wrongdoing, all this while the leaders of finance lament the burdensome rules they must now work under.
Pity them, and pity us, but life has always been that way, or at least that is the lesson drawn in reading the latest edition of Lapham’s Quarterly “Swindle & Fraud.” We are reminded that humans have a long history of behaving badly, and efforts to change that reality have usually run aground. Deception, lies, fraud and confidence tricksters are part of our fabric, whether in business or finance, on a New York street corner, Barnum’s circus, or ancient Greece. (more…)