Friday, September 13, 2013

Via the American Enterprise Institute: regulate Wall Street more

Cross-posted from the Treasure Islands blog:

From that hotbed of pinko softies at the American Enterprise Institute, a graph (from Harris Interactive) showing the results of a 2012 survey on public opinions about Wall Street:

Hat tip: Stephanie Ostfeld

These results are all worth remarking on, but one is particularly interesting: over two thirds of Americans disagree with the proposition that "In general, what is good for Wall Street is good for the country."
As John Christensen and I have been at pains to point out, and as increasing academic research is finding, oversized financial centres can cause great harm to the countries that host them, and not just for reasons related to the current financial crisis. (Economic cholesterol, as one World Bank official put it recently.) The problems are deeper and older than that. Interestingly, the AEI (via another survey) picks up on something that would resonate with readers of Treasure Islands and of our Finance Curse document:
"Seventy-nine percent told the Atlantic and Aspen Institute pollsters in 2012 that executives on Wall Street have a different set of values than they themselves do. In effect, Americans see Wall Street as a culture apart, one that operates by a foreign code of conduct."
Again, that also chimes with the Finance Curse analysis, both in the sense of parts of financial sectors being culturally apart, but also in terms of being 'foreign' - which potentially brings connotations of offshore.

In a sense, the battle for public opinion is already won in the United States, and hopefully in a sustained way, as those pinkos at the AEI note:
"While these attitudes are hardly new, what is new is how deep-seated they have become. In virtually every question in Harris’s battery about people who work on Wall Street, negative attitudes are bumping along at very low levels."
Which is of course how it should be. The work that needs to be done now, aside from holding on to these gains, is to deepen the analysis of the Finance Curse and broaden it out into the public debate. More on this subject, from the Tax Justice Network, in the coming month.


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