Heads I Win, Tails You Lose
We live in fascinating times.
A significant portion of the world population has been laid off because of the pandemic and recently 30 million of Americans did not have enough food to eat. Community tensions are rising everywhere and somehow the social picture in some environment looks like the beginning of a civil war.
Despite those depression symptoms, folks in America, Europe, or developed Asia, have convinced themselves that it was possible to make easy money by buying stocks or deep out-of-the-money call options.
Well, this is 2020. Western countries are facing a deep and structural crisis that is weakening our economies and the foundations of our democracies, but a growing part of the population regard this period as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get rich.
While this stocks mania is clearly an important driver of future instability (as evidenced by the consequences of the heavy speculation of the end of 1920’s, or the deep impact of the Mississippi Company bubble on the French political landscape during the 18th century), the West may have another big problem: too many people have lost faith in the so-called “elites“.
“I Take No Responsibility”
Whether you live in the United States, in the United Kingdom, or in France, the past thirty years have been characterized by the loss of manufacturing activity, higher unemployment, skyrocketing asset inflation and growing inequalities. However, a tier-one social class has emerged and seems to have gained during this tough period, not only from a wealth perspective, but also by its ability to run away from responsibilities. Said differently, it has been the “heads I win, tails you lose“ era.
The political and business worlds are full of examples of powerful persons who were never convicted despite cases of financial frauds, bribery, or sexual assault. A highly corrupted cast of leaders who never take responsibility whenever things go wrong.
Look at JP Morgan paying $920 million to DoJ after probe of precious metals and Treasury trading. Or look at JP Morgan (again), along with HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of New York Mellon, being accused by journalists of “allowing criminals to launder dirty money”.
First of all, who is surprised by such revelations? What is more, who believes that the executives of those institutions will be convicted? Who thinks that Jamie Dimon’s career is at risk?
The truth is that managing directors should be held responsible for such scandals as they receive high compensations, but it almost never happens. “Heads I win, tails you lose.”
One could also cite the numerous undisclosed cases of insider trading on the United States capital equity markets, and the feeling that people like the President, his members of his administration, or the Federal Reserve governors, can manipulate trading activity and help others to benefit from the news flow, without risking to be sued by the SEC or any federal judge. “Heads I win, tails you lose.”
“Epstein Is a Terrific Guy”
The Jeffrey Epstein scandal is another example of this justice asymmetry in the West, as evidenced by the plea deal approved by US attorney Alexander Acosta in 2008. People should remember that Donald Trump was also accused of rape on a 13-year-old girl along with Epstein, and that Acosta became Secretary of Labor in the Trump administration.
While Epstein is said to have committed suicide in August 2019, his numerous victims and the general public may never have the opportunity to understand the exact role and actions of people like Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, but also Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, or Harvard University professor Alan Dershowitz. “Heads I win, tails you lose.”
The Concentration of Powers
Of course, this is not specific to America, as this justice asymmetry has also increased in Europe. It might be the symptom of a growing concentration of powers that invalidates Montesquieu’s philosophical concept of “separation of powers.” It is not just about the executive, legislative, and judiciary powers, but also about the economic power and the mediatic power.
While digital technologies have enabled the emergence of alternative media, the overall impact of such technologies on the society is not necessarily positive. It even seems that they reinforce the concentration of powers.
Party Like It’s 1789 Again?
To summarize, the past thirty years have led to the institutionalization of new privileges in Western countries. As George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm, all citizens are equal, but some are more equal than others. “Heads I win, tails you lose.”
While we are witnessing a major technological revolution, an increasing part of the population has got absolutely no benefit from ongoing changes. Besides, more and more people are getting angry in the street.
Therefore, such a period should be regarded as pre-revolutionary.