A Tale of two Powerful Men

One of the interesting questions a lot of young people have is: where does power reside? In powerful corporations and billionaires or in government? The American idea that our lives can be lived away from busybodies may be true, but as far as our lives are intruded upon, which is the most invasive? Corporations or government? For many people the answer to the question may determine their political outlooks.

There is a tale of two different men whose lives might help answer the question. Allen R. Stanford and John Corzine.

Allen Stanford 61, is a former Texas billionaire who was the founder of Stanford Financial Group, a diversified financial firm based in Houston, but with its bank operations in Antigua and Venezuela. It appears that Stanford may have operated a ponzi scheme, or perhaps not, that after all is what a trial is all about. Stanford was indicted on June 19, 2009 and now after 2 ½ years is about to face trial this month. The Financial Services Regulatory Commission of Antiguan and Barbuda appointed receivers to manage the Stanford holdings, while Venezuela seized the bank, for, well that’s Venezuela does. Stanford never got bail, he was severely beaten in prison, possibly suffering brain damage, had all of his assets auctioned off, including personal items, he is not allowed to fund his own defense team and has shuffled through countless court appointed defense attorneys. His daughter has had to turn over some of her assets, even though she was not affiliated with Stanford’s enterprises. He has also suffered from addictions to drugs given to him by prison doctors. Depositors are awaiting the final outcome of a battle between the SEC and the SIPC over whether the SIPC is responsible for the deposits. If the unlikely happens and Stanford is found innocent, it will be impossible to untangle the damage done.

Now let’s turn to John Corizine. Corizine was the former CEO of the highly influential Goldman Sachs, host of many huge Obama fundraisers and governor of New Jersey. It was Corizine’s role as boss of MF Global that has caught our attention today. MF Global took money from private accounts and lost it all. Early indications are that MF bet long on Greek and European debt. Corizine has not been indicted, has not been arrested, therefore has no need of bail, his personal assets are untouched, he has not been beat up and has not come within a mile of prison doctors or court appointed attorneys. Corizine was widely expected to be next in line to head the Treasury.

Corizine was the epitome of the political animal, from massive fundraisers, to being Governor to being the heir apparent for Treasury. Stanford, for all his faults, was not nearly as heavy in the political realm, he was best known for burnishing his Caribbean image by sponsoring his favorite sport, cricket.

Now Stanford can’t even give prisoners financial advice. It is true that John Corizine headed the corporate MF Global, but it was only for a brief time so that it could be looted. Corizine is still untouched. On the power meter it is: Corporations 0, government 1.

Can a corporation like Walmart make you buy their products? Can a city council use your money to buy your trash cans and make you use them? Who wins if a corporation and the government use guns? But what about bribes? Don’t corporations use those to control governments? As I discovered in Human Action by Mises, a bribe comes from the weaker party, not the stronger.

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