Would torturing or executing financial criminals do any good? It might make some people feel better but that doesn’t mean it would be an effective tool. The simple fact is that for as long as there’s been an economy, there’s been economic crime.
Jason Zweig looks at human history and tries to gauge whether or not capital punishment has ever served as a deterrent against crimes of capital…
From Total Return:
Overheard in midtown Manhattan at the lunch hour:
“Another day, another financial scandal. New regulations, prosecution, getting hauled up in front of Congressional hearings – nothing seems to stop it.”
“Maybe we need to try something more drastic.”
“Well, there’s always the death penalty.”
Unfortunately, that’s been tried, too – and found wanting. Financial criminals throughout history have been beaten, tortured and even put to death, with little evidence that severe punishments have consistently deterred people from misconduct that could make them rich.
The history of drastic punishment for financial crimes may be nearly as old as wealth itself.