In an essay on the origins of the financial crisis, the late Peter Gowan described the “light touch” financial sector in London as “the place where you could do abroad what you could not do back home”. The City of London has long taken this role in the global economy. It is committed to the principle that free trade should take precedence over merely national jurisdiction. Its genteel permissiveness in a world characterised by nervously controlling government or outright lawlessness has been key to its success. As the Cambridge sociologist Geoffrey Ingham once remarked: “The City’s most distinctive activities have been involved with surmounting the substantive obstacles to absolutely free exchange which the existence of nation states presents.”
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