One of the neoliberal's tenets was that white-collar criminals were getting off easy. That is to say white-collar criminals, for instance a corporate fraudster, were being treated much gentler than muggers, bank robbers and other violent criminals. It was a class thing or a racial thing. The neoliberal promised to end this injustice. Neoliberals were going to get tough with errant businessmen.
Well, the neoliberal blossom has wilted along with all the other varieties of liberalism. Its obsession with white collar criminals, however, has remained, much to the detriment of justice as a whole and of a vigorous entrepreneurship. To begin with, a white-collar criminal is profoundly different from a violent criminal. The first is a scoundrel. The second is a scoundrel and a menace to human life. Further, America has always been inhospitable to white-collar criminals and long before the rise of the neoliberal we have been locking them up. Two reasons that America has been a vibrant place to do business is America's rule of law and its relative freedom from corruption. Yet now America is losing its position as one of the most favorable countries in the world to do business. The reason is the government's obsession with white-collar crime as manifest by such inhibitors of business as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Consequently the business climate in the United States has turned sour. The business climate in places like London is less risky, and IPOs that might have been issued here are now issued in London. The London Stock Exchange markets itself as "A Sarbanes-Oxley Free Zone." London is prospering, a businessman told me the other day, because of North Sea oil and "Sarbanes-Oxley, which has encouraged Americans to take their IPOs here."
Unfortunately, Washington's campaign against white collar crime has not ingratiated us to our most loyal ally. Our Justice Department is now pursuing three British bankers who allegedly defrauded a British bank. The evidence against them in Britain is insufficient to prosecute them according to British law, and they are free here. But our Justice Department argues that they were part of the Enron scandal and is extraditing them to Texas -- an instance of prosecutorial rapaciousness that has made headlines here for a week and created growing enmity against us. The reason for the enmity is that the Justice Department is extraditing the Brits by a 2003 extradition treaty that was reserved for terrorists and that Washington has not even signed.
The bad feeling comes from the left, for instance, the Guardian. And it comes from the right, from America's friends at the Telegraph newspapers and the British Spectator. Washington's obsession against white collar crime has at least been a unifying force in British politics. They are all mad at us.