“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.”
The Wealth of Nations Book I, Chapter 10. para 82
Adherents to the pure theory of the ‘invisible hand’ of the market prefer to forget that other saying of Adam Smith.
It is also a commonplace that in the debris left behind in a great financial crisis we find evidence of wrong-doing by many, even the great, the good & the otherwise respectable.
Adam Smith also wrote the Theory of Moral Sentiments. I don’t think he had anything to say about the public’s attitude to banker’s bonuses, but their sentiment has certainly changed.
Even bankers now know that the size of your bonus no longer functions to signal your status as a master of the universe; for the foreseeable future it will be a mark of amorality at best & thievery at worst.
It may still be a case of not needing to ‘fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account’, when all who know it still depend on banks & banking, but do you really want your wives & children to have to share your shame?