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July 30, 2009

Be a Man – Stay in the UK

By Spear's

Let them go, we say. We double dare them. It’s times like these that separate the men from the boys, the interesting from the boring.

Let them go, we say. We double dare them. It’s times like these that separate the men from the boys, the interesting from the boring. If sulky bankers, hedgies and private-equity managers — such as Guy Hands and Crispin Odey — want to throw a strop over increased taxes and decamp to Guernsey, Jersey, Switzerland or Monaco, let them. They’ll be back before their private jets hit the hangars, realising that leaving London is too great a price.

When they tire of hanging out with other rootless expats or trying to converse with Monegasque hookers on a mission to swindle them, they’ll long for the London metropolis they have left behind, a modern Periclean Athens at the juncture of the best Europe and America have to offer: arts, nightlife, sprawling parks and iconic architecture underpinning a cultural and political life of global reach.

They’re going to swap this for Geneva, a city with a population of almost 185,000 residents? Everyone is in bed by midnight. Surely the point of making lots of money is to enjoy it in a city that offers thousands of interesting ways to spend it, from the noble to the profane, not to flee from place to place like some narco-terrorist on the run. 

Not so much as fleeing criminals but more as pitiable exiles is exactly how they will be seen by the residents who remain, whether employees or entrepreneurs, left to pay the higher taxes necessitated by the bank bailouts and credit crunch caused by the system that made these decamping bankers so much money. Those who profited from the business that caused the global financial meltdown should have the guts to stay put in the city that gave them so much when times were good.

Entrepreneurs always criticise bankers for being the ones who offer you an umbrella when the sun is shining and take it away when the rain starts to pour. They should show their mettle and pay their taxes like men (even if we do not agree with the tax itself). Their absence is not a great escape but a sad self-ostracism from a tremendous life in London.

In Athens’ golden age, the undesirables were voted out of the city by citizens scratching their names on to shards of pottery (ostraka, hence ostracism). The exiled person would be doomed to wander for ten years, trying to find another city that would take them in. Swiss-bound bankers may think that they are libertarian heroes fleeing persecution, but by their leaving they are truly shown as these ungrateful undesirables, unthinkingly abandoning a city and a life like no other — for their wallets. Let them go — at least by doing it themselves they’re saving us the pottery. 

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