A Monte Carlo of our own

“Until they are openly proved to be crooks, our own financial jugglers are regarded as distinguished if somewhat mysterious figures, so many benevolent wizards. Nobody but prosecuting counsel, at the right time and in the right place, is permitted to ‘de-bunk’ them and their world. …. it is, I gather, a sphere of action in which all depends on your being able to ‘get away with’ certain things. In lower spheres, where more stupid fellows are merely trying to do, to the best of their ability, the jobs for which they are paid—they may be making a chair, installing a hot-water system, even writing a book—it is not simply a matter of ‘getting away with’ things; but then it is not here we find the supermen, the wonder chaps, who have to work with one eye on Maidstone Gaol and the other on the House of Lords. It would be better to set up a Monte Carlo of our own than to let our men with Monte Carlo minds, men with a ‘system,’ loose upon the city, there to play with the nation’s wealth. We ought to have got past the gambling era now. … I blame us all for allowing such a daft chaos to go blundering on, wasting men who might otherwise have proved themselves first-class servants of the community. Metaphorical language is sometimes extremely significant. There is only one sphere of action in the more civilised countries to-day in which men find it necessary, when describing the ordinary operations there, to use metaphors and similes drawn from mediæval brigandage or the early life of the Wild West; and that is the world of high finance. Thus I cannot help feeling, in my innocence, that there must be something strangely anachronistic, crude, violent, barbaric about that world; and that therefore it is time it was brought into the twentieth century, cleaned up and civilised.”

J. B. Priestley, English Journey (Ilkley: Great Northern Books, 2009 [1934])