The Goose and the Commons

The United States department of justice recently disclosed that Britain’s largest bank, HSBC, allowed drug traffickers to launder billions of dollars in the US – including $881 million for two drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia, according to one estimate.

GooseYet, as the Guardian reported: “The department spared HSBC a criminal prosecution only because it considered the bank too big to prosecute.” The bank did incur a hefty fine but these costs can be passed on to its customers, among others.

So, the banking system is saved because it is ‘too big to fail’, while the wider society, not least the very poor in the UK, thanks to George Osborne, are heavily penalised.

Banks have profited from serious crimes without anyone being prosecuted while a man who is doing two years for wrongly damaging an oil painting, for which the repair bill will be £200,000.

Perhaps it is time to recall some of our political folk traditions, such as this 17th century poem about the Engish enclosures which protests that the crimes of the rich are treated differently from the crimes of the poor.

The Goose and the Commons

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from off the goose.
The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.
The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.