Friday, January 02, 2009


From a New York Times article about the history of Wall Street:

William Duer worked under [Alexander] Hamilton at the Treasury Department and used his insider's information to collude with others in speculating on government bonds. When that scheme went bust, ruining many investors, "there was no bailout," [historian Steve] Fraser said. "Instead, because the collapse of his insider-trading scam produced an immediate local depression, the populace of New York was outraged. They chased Duer through the streets right here where we're standing, and would have probably disemboweled him had they caught him."

Why don't we have mobs anymore with the gumption to do something like this? What's wrong with this country?

Today's financial sleazebags know with absolute certainty that they're not going to be threatened by anything like this. They also know that they're never going to wind up utterly destitute, and they're unlikely to find themselves in any institution worse than a country-club prison. (Duer eventually went to debtor's prison and died there.)

I'm not recommending this as a structural reform, but is it possible that, as a temporary corrective, an angry, murderous, class-enraged mob or two might do this country a world of good?

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