Britain's biggest banks (or what's left of them) are considering a revolutionary new idea: Cutting the bonus pool. They are concerned taxpayers, who bailed them out in 2008, will object to large pay awards when they're having to tighten their own belts. One senior banker announced today:-
"It is probably true we are thinking about having a large lunch in the City, where it is not inconceivable that the subject of bonuses may arise, if only in passing. We are aware certain somewhat envious, and may I say, odious individuals, are incapable of grasping what the banking sector has delivered in recent years. These people believe that just because on one occasion the nation had to pay back all the money that had till then flowed into Treasury coffers, this represents poor value for money."
"Oh yes, they may well acknowledge the enormous tax revenues the banking sector generated over the past decade. Yes, they may well accept that my wife, Lady Banks, spent hundreds of thousands of pounds propping up the retail sector with her generous purchases of diamonds, of new kitchens and of designer clothing.
"But then they have the temerity to insinuate that senior bankers like myself and my hard-working staff have squirreled away many millions, nay billions of pounds in off-shore bank accounts, never to be seen again. They even claim that such nest-eggs were the product of the very credit derivatives deals that almost bankrupted Britain in the first place, and therefore should've been paid back when the banking system collapsed."
"But what kind of nonsense is this?
"If Britain is to retain it's number one banking slot, and if we are to incentivise future generations to follow the entrepreneurial lead set by myself - especially when said generations will leave academia saddled with debt - and if we are to revive the economy by allowing billions, should I say, trillions of virtual cyber-pounds and cyber-dollars to slosh around the financial markets once again, then surely we must continue waving these inordinately large sums in front of the deserving greedy, so they too can pursue the age old tradition much loved by all financial centres - namely, get rich quick and sod the consequences.
"So now, if you will, let me quote two historical characters who've had much to offer on the subject - that's if you won't take my word for it: First, that great economist Adam Smith who knew all there was to know about incentives: "Greed is good. And the good should grab all they can." Never a truer thing were said in my reckoning. And if that doesn't convince you, then what about the wise words of that other great Scottish writer, George Orwell (Eric Blair): "All men are created greedy, but some are greedier than others."
"So I say to you earnestly: Sod off and leave our bonuses alone. For if you don't, we'll sod off and take all our shiny buildings in Canary Wharf, and all our houses in Holland Park, all our private schools, our Porsches, our Ferraris, and all our foreign villas, and decamp to Beijing, Hong Kong or Taiwan where they are quite frankly desperate to invest in the kind of casino derivatives that brought the West to its knees in those heady and, may I say, exciting days back in 2008. At least over there they won't object to our paying ourselves massive bonuses. And why should they? For it is not their taxpayers that shall be bailing us out next time!"