"The counterfeiter was hanged two weeks later.
"Until at least the early 19th century, it remained commonplace for counterfeiters and forgers to be put to death; between 1792 and 1829, for example, notes Wennerlind, 618 people were convicted of counterfeiting British paper currency, and most of them were hanged. Many were women."
Bloomberg provides details of one "peasant revolt" stemming from a Libor-like currency manipulation scheme:
"During the 'Good Parliament' of 1376, public discontent over [manipulation of currency exchange rates similar to the current Libor scandal] came to a head. The Commons, represented by the speaker, Peter de la Mare, accused leading members of the royal court of abusing their position to profit from public funds.
"A particular target was the London financier Richard Lyons. ...
"Initially the government bowed to public pressure. Lyons was imprisoned in the Tower of London and his properties and wealth were confiscated. Other leading courtiers implicated in these abuses, such as Latimer and the king's mistress, Alice Perrers, were banished from court.
"Once parliament had dissolved and the public outcry had died down, however, the king's eldest son, John of Gaunt, acted to reverse the verdicts of the Good Parliament. Latimer and Perrers soon reappeared at the king's side and Lyons was released from the Tower and recovered his wealth, while the "whistleblower' de la Mare was thrown in jail. The government also sought to appease the wealthy knights and merchants that dominated parliament by imposing a new, regressive form of taxation, a poll tax paid by everyone rather than a tax levied on goods. This effectively passed the burden of royal finance down to the peasantry.
"It seemed as though everything had returned to business as normal and Lyons appeared to have gotten away with it. In 1381, however, simmering discontent over continuing suspicions of government corruption and the poll tax contributed to a massive popular uprising, the Peasants' Revolt, during which leading government ministers, including Simon of Sudbury (the chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury) and Robert Hales (the treasurer) were executed by the rebels. This time, Lyons did not escape; he was singled out, dragged from his house and beheaded in the street."
If the King had followed the rule of law -- and kept Lyons and the boys in jail -- everything would have calmed down. The monarchy -- just like the present-day government -- chose to ignore the rule of law, and protect the thieves and punish the whistleblowers.
We have argued for years that the best way to avoid violence is to reinstate the rule of law.
The Bloomberg article -- written by a professor of the history of finance and a professor of finance at the ICMA Centre, Henley Business School, University of Reading -- ends on a similar note:
"The question now is whether public outrage at the Libor scandal and other financial misdeeds [like these] will lead to fundamental reforms of the financial sector -- such as the separation of retail and investment banking or legislation to regulate the "bonus culture' -- or just more cosmetic changes that fail to address the structural issues.
"Will we have to wait for a 21st century peasants' revolt before seeing any real change?"
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