Deja Vu: Fearing Unrest, Goldman Bankers Packing Heat

Lindsay Beyerstein

Activists protest in front of the Washington, D.C., office of Goldman Sachs November 16, 2009.

Bloomberg News columnist Alice Schroeder reported earlier this week that Goldman Sachs executives are loading up on guns to defend themselves against the general public:

I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.

The NYPD confirmed to Schroeder that several of the executives she asked about did indeed have pistol permits. The bankers were seeking a combination of personal protection and wealth protection,” Schroeder explained in an interview with Betty Liu of Bloomberg TV.

They’re concerned about social unrest,” she continued, They’re concerned that we’ve got a country where a quarter of the kids are on food stamps and they’ve become an emblem, a symbol of greed.”

No kidding. Anger towards Goldman is especially acute right now. The firm has been criticized for handing out massive bonuses and hoarding the scarce swine flu vaccine.

I wonder how the bankers feel about bringing guns to work. Are any of them having second thoughts? My grandfather, Hilliard, worked in a bank in Alberta, Canada, during the Great Depression. It was hardly high finance. The tiny prairie bank wasn’t the most popular institution in town. It was reposessing farms left and right.

Hilliard quit after the bank issued him a gun to defend against a potential debtor’s revolt. He wasn’t about to shoot working people to protect the bank. So he left and took the gun with him.

He drifted into radical populist politics. He was one of the founders of the Social Credit” movement. No doubt one of the things that attracted him to the obscure economic doctrine was that it promised to overhaul the financial system end the tyranny of bankers. Eventually, he became a member of the Candian Parliament. (I hasten to add that no guns were used in the making of Social Credit.)

The gun has been in the family ever since. It was my father’s and now
it’s mine. We don’t display it. As far as I know, it has never even been loaded. To me, it symbolizes the courage to do the right thing at a critical historical moment.

I’d like to think that there are some hotshot bankers out there who are uncomfortable with the idea of shooting their fellow citizens for money. Maybe that’s overly optimistic.

Schroeder told Liu on Bloomberg News that a Clint Eastwood mentality” reigns at Goldman Sachs. Her sources told her that we may have a lot of empathy for these people who are the poor, but we’re not going to live in a double wide trailer, either. We’re going to protect our fistful of dollars with our Glock.”

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Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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