If you think there are no consequences to hysterical, anti-corporate grandstanding in Washington, pay attention to what's happening across the pond: "This is just the beginning."
So warned a public letter signed this week by a vigilante group called "Bank Bosses are Criminals." The thugs claimed responsibility for vandalizing a former financial executive's home and car in Edinburgh, Scotland. The bank official, Sir Fred Goodwin, was excoriated by U.K. politicians for refusing to give up company pension benefits dubbed "obscene," "grotesque," "unjustifiable and unacceptable." The vigilantes were stoked by a former newspaper editor, one Max Hastings, who wrote a diatribe exhorting citizens to violence:
"The time has come to address the entire robber banker culture. Investment banks have been run not for the benefit of society, customers or even shareholders, but exclusively for the advantage of the bankers themselves. … This is why we must stand outside their homes throwing rocks through the windows until they do."
This is no marginal movement. Some 3,000 protesters from around the world are expected to wreak havoc on the G20 summit next week in London. What happened at Sir Fred's house is a mere dress rehearsal. Bankers are being told to dress down to disguise themselves and avoid becoming riot targets.
Demonstrators are threatening to hang effigies. Protest organizer and university professor Chris Knight vowed worse: "We are going to be hanging a lot of people like Fred the Shred from lampposts on April Fools' Day, and I can only say let's hope they are just effigies. To be honest, if he winds us up any more, I'm afraid there will be real bankers hanging from lampposts, and let's hope that that doesn't actually have to happen."
How soon before we see this same kind of anarchic domestic terrorism on this side of the Atlantic? It's already here.