William Watson: Who elected the bankers?
By whose authority do bankers take it upon themselves to collude — albeit in a nice, open, idealistic way — to achieve the slow strangulation of selected industries and activities?
After 48 hours in Glasgow, many A-listers among the world’s political leaders left town, seemingly content to hand over responsibility for world climate-change policies to a B team of bankers and financiers, who are going to start judging prospective investments according to their carbon impact and, by cutting off the supply of capital to companies and industries with footprints deemed too large, strangle carbon emissions. Good luck to you if you’re running an enterprise the carbon-counters blacklist. Unless you’ve got deep pockets of your own or can find rogue finance, you won’t find funding.
Down through history and even today, in the danker crevices of the internet, conspiracy theories abound about how true power in the world is wielded by cabals of bankers and financiers, who slaver after their own, not their fellow man’s, best interest. In the middle of the last century, such ravings led the world to some of its darkest places ever.
You would think that, conscious of this caricature, as lurid and paranoid as it is, bankers and financiers would want to avoid even the appearance of engaging in co-ordinated actions to send the world off in one direction or another.
Bankers and financiers do have power: they can say yes or no to your request for money or insurance. That can have big effects on your life. But so long as there are many possible lenders, each pursuing their own interest, the whim, miscalculation or misjudgment of any one needn’t prove decisive. If one source doesn’t give you the money, another may well. If none does, that may simply mean your proposed use for it is unconvincing, not that they are conspiring against you.
Mainly, however, I suspect it’s about profit conservation: it would be a brave financial business that declined to join a movement whose declared aim is saving the planet. With woke mobs roving the rich world, being in business these days is like being a French aristocrat in the 1790s.
There are two big problems with climate salvation via finance, however. The first is legitimacy. Many of the national leaders who showed up at Glasgow were put in office by free and fair elections (though many others, and two important ones who stayed away, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi, weren’t). But who elected the bankers and financiers? By whose authority do they take it upon themselves to collude — albeit in a nice, open, idealistic way — to achieve the slow strangulation of selected industries and activities?