The Fox and The Scorpion: Building Better Banks Through Artificial Selection


What do almonds, power tools, and the fable of “The Fox and the Scorpion” have to do with the modern banking industry? Excellent question.

Everyone complains about Overdraft Fees, and the myriad other pitfalls of the modern commercial banking system. Or at least everyone complains when they get one on their own account. As fired up as a person may get directly after losing a considerable amount of money to corporate fine print, that anger often dissipates in short order as they face countless other trials and tribulations in their day-to-day life.

The Center for Responsible Lending reports that financial institutions collected more than $17.5 billion in Overdraft Fees last year. A disproportionate amount of this revenue was collected from social security recipients, minorities, the young, and families below the poverty line. Payday loans, aggressive credit sales and “trap fees” of all shapes and color are staples of the modern financial marketplace. Why are these shady practices on the rise despite public outcry? And, more importantly, what can we do about it?

I personally once sat through a work seminar in which my fellow employees and I were told, verbatim, that “Fear and Greed are the key to selling investments.” It was probably around then that I decided that people deserve better banks.

Having been a “Fraud Specialist” for one of the Top 10 Largest Banks In America for over two years (over two years longer than I would have preferred) I have had quite a lot of time to realize firsthand that most people simply have no idea how the marketplace actually works or how their dollar directly effects the way we all live our lives.

If the banking industry is the heart of a capitalist system, a pacemaker is a respectable option, but a clean, healthy, well functioning heart is still preferable. If a bank is a financial tool, it’s time we as a society learned how to use it correctly.

I hope through metaphor, simile, allegory and flat-out sayin’ stuff to first identify a structural pattern underpinning the financial marketplace which causes these symptoms to persist, second sow into all of our fertile mindfields the dream that enhanced system functionality is within our grasps, and third identify specific courses of action that any person can follow to help steer the industry towards increased utility for all us soon-to-be-happy consumers.

Devon Barrett


Social theorist and small business owner by day, corporate Fraud Specialist by night, Devon wears the Cap of Liberation as jauntily as the Fedora of Oppression. Studied in political and social theory, practiced in grim reality, stewed in a hodgepodge of eastern and western philosophy, Devon has been cultivating an interesting perspective on the eternal questions which he is thinking about naming “Enlightened Functionalism”, if he can’t think of anything less pretentious.