Impunity and damage to democracy

Impunity definition: exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action

Peter Fieldman

piramide-capitalismoNo other word can so aptly describe how justice has been turned upside down to preserve and protect a privileged elite which has lost all sense of morality and ethics. Endemic corruption, which was thought to be confined to despotic regimes in the developing nations, is alive and thriving throughout Western democracies.

According to a recent report from the European Commission corruption is costing the European Union 120 billion Euros a year. But a much greater cost is the loss of trust and confidence in national, regional and local politicians as well as the financial and corporate sectors and justice systems. At the heart of the problem is money and greed. The close relationship which exists between politics and business has become so blurred and incestuous, it risks destroying the fabric of our economies and societies; Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch, Santander’s Emilio Botín and South American Presidents and Berlusconi and his media empire are prime examples.

Abraham Lincoln would be shocked if he could see how our present political leaders have forgotten his words at Gettysburg and that Government of the people, for the people, by the people has been transformed into Governments of, for and by financial and corporate interests, whose only objective is to increase their wealth and power.

Politicians are not listening to the people, whether it is about immigration, abortion, families, crime, education, health, or growing inequality. Political motives have little or nothing to do with the well being of the people or the country but to protect the life style of the privileged elite. While families were being evacuated from their flooded homes in Southern England, David Cameron was discussing a multi million pound salary and bonus package for the CEO of Lloyds bank, rescued by the taxpayer. This is where his priorities lie.


The financial crisis, caused by the rampant speculation of the banks, has led to a dramatic disparity in wealth, unseen since the Victorian age. The deregulation of the banking system, abolition of the Glass Steagall Act and the Global economy allowed bankers and the boardroom bosses of multinationals to plunder our savings, speculate on a massive scale and shift billions into the world’s tax havens, depriving treasury departments of tax revenues, which are a country’s life blood. The result has been cut backs in vital public services and investment in education, health and infrastructure.

Privatisation of utilities, energy, telecommunication, transport and in some cases, education and health simply transferred public monopolies into private monopolies or cartels. The control of strategic assets by a few oligarchs with political relations distorts competition and has resulted in a virtual takeover of sovereign states by big business. There is a direct correlation between the laying off of thousands of workers and/or lowering of wages and exploitation of employees and the increase in corporate profits, boardroom earnings and shareholder dividends.

It is only now, as Governments tell the people the worst is over, that are we seeing what has really been happening; like flood waters receding to expose the extent of the damage. Since the outset of the crisis only the top 1% has benefitted from any gains while the vast majority face lower standards of living with millions falling into poverty. And nowhere has the transfer of wealth been so grotesque as in Wall Street and the City of London where bankers and corporate bosses have siphoned off tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars and pounds into their own pockets after being saved from certain ruin by politicians who simply gave them more of our money. In the circumstances it is hardly surprising that people are disaffected with politics and are revolting against the capitalist system.

Corporate Immorality

But it is not just the greed of the elite which is causing resentment. Politicians, bankers, corporate bosses, soccer clubs and sports stars have been engaged in an orgy of criminal activities ranging from mis-selling, rate rigging, bribery, misappropriation of public funds, illegal political funding, fraud, money laundering, illegal foreclosures, excess charges and fees, phone hacking, match fixing, fiddling expenses and especially tax evasion on an unprecedented scale.

Wealth Management – code for tax avoidance – has become a major growth industry for the financial services industry. Basically it is a means to help the rich avoid or evade tax. Clever or dubious accounting schemes, connivance between political leaders, bankers, audit firms, powerful corporate figures and the proliferation of tax havens, has enabled trillions of dollars to escape the tax net ending up in untraceable companies or accounts in offshore banks. And when Hervé Falciani, an ex HSBC employee, provided a list of thousands of account holders in Switzerland, instead of the Governments cracking down on the tax evaders, they escaped punishment while he was pursued like a criminal.

The rule and respect of law are the pillars of our nation states. Without justice and equality they cannot function. And so long as greed prevails and wrongdoers are granted impunity, our democracy hangs on a thread.

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