Thursday, July 02, 2009

If Bernie Madoff were just completing his sentence...

... he would have to have been committing his crimes in the mid-nineteenth century and convicted for them in 1859. Yes, that's some sentence.

Years ago, Paul Romney wrote a long, not so easy to read, but pretty terrific article called "The Ten Thousand Pound Job" on financial skullduggery in Upper Canada in the 1850s. The remarkable thing about that affair, he writes, is that for once there actually was some retribution visited upon the wrongdoers.
The juggernaut was simply too strong. The railway interest represented an unprecedented concentration of economic power, and to colonial politicians, who generally had little understanding of the world of international finance which had suddenly embraced them, the railway builder seemed to have the power of life and death.
For "railway interest," read "financial services industry," and it all sounds a bit the same.

Now if Francis Hincks had got 150 years in 1859 (instead of going on to be Governor of Barbados and Minister of Finance in John A. Macdonald's cabinet, he'd be a free man today at 202 years of age.

(I tried to check Hincks's birthdate in the DBC Online, gave it up as impossible (try it), and found it to the print edition, Volume 11. I wish the DCB would make its terrific online edition truly --that is, efficiently -- searchable. Nobody seems to care.)
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