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Economics

It’s about the law, Senator!

“No presidential aspirant has ever had such an exotic financial portfolio,” suggested US Senator Dick Durbin recently in reference to reports that US presidential candidate Mitt Romney once had a bank account in Switzerland. As if his standing is insufficient (and it is), Mr. Durbin solicited confirmation from Mr. Cherry Coke-breath from Omaha: “I asked Warren Buffet in a meeting we had recently, ‘Have you ever had a Swiss bank account?’ He said, ‘No, there are plenty of good banks in the United States.’” And if the musings of the man from Omaha are not enough to persuade you, Mr. Durbin went straight to the man on the street:

So I started asking people: ‘Why do you have Swiss bank account?’ One, you believe the Swiss Franc is a stronger currency than the United States dollar. And that is apparently the decision the Romney family made during the Bush presidency. And secondly, you want to conceal something. You want to hide something. Why would you have a Swiss bank account instead of one in the United States? I would like to … ask the press to really press some of these questions, the obvious questions. When is the last time a presidential candidate for the United States had a Swiss bank account? I think the answer is never.

I am irked even as I expect nothing intelligent from anyone holding political office. I am irked not only on account of the sheer banality of what goes for news but equally as much for the utter ignorance, pompousness, hypocrisy and disrespect. Does not Mr. Romney or any other person have the right to dispose their own property in a manner that suits them? Is it not his property? If you have the right to exchange your money for a Japanese television or a German car or Italian shoes or bananas from Honduras, why is it not any different that one chooses to have a bank account in Switzerland, or London or Istanbul for that matter? If you have the right to buy a condo in Puerto Vallarta, why not the right to have a bank account in Bangkok? And why is it that Switzerland irritates so many people? Why not Monte Carlo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Jersey, London or even New York?

Let’s be fair. Swiss banking became famous not on account of one having “something to hide” as much for its sheer and inimitable skill (yet unknown in most lands), efficiency, superb organization and, yes, a system of law that respects and protects private property and private contracts. One is at a loss as to why America (among others) has drawn its sword against Switzerland alone, while their citizens are free to bank in Asia and other so-called havens in Europe and elsewhere. In my own view, the attack on Switzerland is solely an attack on its legal traditions. Very sadly, most Swiss people don’t understand the nature of this attack, either. Yes, Mr. Durbin, the Swiss view a bank account like you view your underwear drawer. You may have nothing to hide in there but it isn’t anyone else’s business. It is your private property. Since you are a US Senator, we excuse you for knowing next to nothing about the law—particularly as it concerns property. And thus, we can see why you see it as “exotic” if only on account of the fact that the law in Switzerland recognizes and protects the right of an individual to have ownership over his own property without the meddling of larcenous nincompoops like you. This must surely be an “exotic” idea to a politician from Chicago, no?

This article was previously published in Edelweiss Journal, Issue 6 (13 April 2012). For a free subscription, write to mail@edelweissjournal.com.

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