Putting Today's Scandals Into Perspective
I see a lot of posts here on CAPS whining about the corruption that is rampant in our society and how much better things used to be. Here's a few events from history that will put things into perspective.
Take a look back at things like the Yazoo land scandal back in 1794 where a group of Georgia politicians were given bribes to sell 35 million acres of land to a group of four companies for a penny per acre.
Or how about the Crédit Mobilier scandal of the mid-1800's where executives from one of America's largest companies, Union Pacific, set up a dummy corporation to pay themselves huge hidden bonuses.
Or how about 1869's Black Friday (aka Fisk/Gould) where a couple of speculators tricked then President Grant into keeping the U.S. Gold Reserves out of circulation so that they could corner the gold market.
Or the Panic of 1863 which occurred when "A large infusion of cash from speculators caused abnormal growth in the [railroad] industry as well as overbuilding of docks, factories and ancillary facilities." Sound familiar?
Or the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s where officials in the Harding Administration accepted bribes to lease government -owned oilfields to a company.
My point is that the scandals of today are no different than they were when our nation was founded. People are greedy...they always have been and they always will be. Sure, we're talking about larger sums of money today partially because of inflation and partially because of "financial innovations" such as derivatives, but despite what Wall Street wants you to think financial regulation will hopefully fix some of the leverage and derivative problems that we currently face.
There's always going to be scandals and thieves out there. We just hear about it more today than we did back then because we have something called the "Internet" and "Cable Television" and we always remember the past more fondly than it really was.
Does this mean that I think that we should let greedy bastages get away with stealing from people? Absolutely not. I think that it is very important to be aware of what is going on and even to talk about it (without beating it to death if possible) and that the people who commit crimes should be held accountable.
One should work within the system to better their lives for themselves and their families. My fear is that the huge amount of leverage in both the public and government sectors will make this mess last a whole lot longer than normal, but contrary to much of the doom and gloom that I read on the Web, life goes on. We will survive the problems that we are facing today and live to face a whole new set of scandals and problems years from now that everyone will at that time will believe are the worst thing that has ever happened.