My first night in Paris, I heard a knock on the door. It was the man who conquered France, Caesar's Ghost.
"Hail, dictator," I said.
"Is it really you? Or is it the ghost of the wild mushrooms in tonight's souffle?"
"Caesar has indeed arrived."
"What brings you here?"
"Caesar wishes to testify on behalf of his friends in finance."
"Bob Diamond. Jamie Dimon. Sir Martin Sorrell. Lloyd Blankfein."
"Barclays, JP Morgan Chase, WPP, Goldman Sachs. What company you keep!"
"They are Caesar's heirs today. Politics is too democratic. The military is too bureaucratic. Only business - and especially finance - allows men of influence to hold priority and power. That is, unless the regulators win their war against them."
"I see. You are reacting to the widening LIBOR scandal - the furor over interest-rate fixing by major investment banks. Parliament might be recalling ousted Barclays Chief Bob Diamond. And the US Congress is now getting into the act."
"Caesar feels a kinship with the titans of business, especially of finance. Like Caesar, they don't measure success by the water clock. They strive and exert themselves for something grander."
"Doesn't it gall you, Caesar, to chase after coin like Crassus?"
"No. Caesar would rather be the first man in an investment bank then the second in an army. And nowadays the corporate world is the only realm in which a man can enjoy primacy and the unfettered power to command."
"What about democracy, Caesar? Aren't you giving it short shrift?"
"Those with the greatest talents should have the greatest influence. Democracy holds the poor back because it keeps their champions from striving and exerting themselves for the common good. If everyone is equal than everyone will be equally poor."
"What about the cooperative virtues, for Pete's sake!"
"Caesar would rather be the first man in the Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn than the second man in JP Morgan Chase."
I decided that it was the wild mushrooms after all.
TO BE CONTINUED
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