Democratically-elected governments wanted their voters to get back the feelgood factor after the tech bubble burst and the stockmarket pretty much halved. So they undid the belts round the banks' waists and said, go eat.
The banks went at it like labradors at a full plate of Gravy Train, and got very fat on lending far too much money, with very few questions asked. Houses doubled in value and became the new stockmarket.
Then the bust, because whatever you treat like an investment will behave like one. Except houses are unlike shares: if you lose all your money on them you have nowhere to live, and this will make the losers very angry and vengeful. Also, housing is illiquid, which is bad news for banks, who can't put bricks and fridges in their vaults. And if the banks go bust their richer depositors (some of them Party contributors?) will get very upset, also the businesses that hold their balances in cash. This last is very important: a small fraction of bank accounts holds the majority of uninsured cash.
So now the "rescue". Billions - hundreds of billions - poured into the system. Who will pay the bill?
- Not the shareholders, since (in most cases) we didn't let the banks collapse.
- Not the majority of retail depositors - they have votes, and enough education to make trouble.
- Not the poor - they have nothing, and are more likely to vote for whoever keeps paying their benefits. That's if they vote at all, but non-voters will become very interested in democracy if their money runs out.
- Not the seriously rich - they have most of their personal wealth safely outside this thieving country and if annoyed, will not only move out but close businesses that employ many voters, which will dump smelly stuff on the heads of the Government and leave a big tax hole to boot.
I can see only two classes of juicy victims: taxpayers, and people who have saved up money.
Very few people understand that the combination of income tax plus National Insurance and employer's NI, is effectively a marginal tax rate on income of over 40% on all but the worst-paid. Raising direct taxation much more will only increase the incentive to give up work altogether, or to lay off employees. And there's only so much benefit to be gained by shipping-in zillions of low-paid foreign immigrants to replace them - that dodge is getting to be a public embarrassment, politically as well as economically.
Indirect taxation tends to be regressive, hitting the poorer worse (as a proportion of their income) - which implies a need to increase their benefits. Not impossible - there's a plan afoot for an extra levy on power bills, to finance heating costs for the poor. Doing it in this roundabout way preserves the illusion that we are a lower-tax economy, and appeals to the sneaky, surreptitious personality of the man currently running the country. There will be other subtle and economically suspect ways to raise tax, and Gordon Brown thought up many during his incumbency as Chancellor of the Exchequer - which, I think, has not yet ended.
And then there's the attack on savers. Means-testing is a good one, yielding a very high effective tax rate. Last time I looked, the combination of minimum income guarantee and savings credit for pensioners worked out to a 40% tax on poor pensioners who'd increased their pension income by voluntary savings.
Inflation is a fruity possibility. The government is going to have to borrow staggering amounts in coming years, to pay for the current bailout and future mass unemployment, so if the returns on its bonds can be lower than inflation it'll help the public finances a bit.
But who's got the money to sub our kleptomaniac Government? Maybe they won't bother to ask the people to trust them any more; maybe they'll just ask the Developing World to buy-in with their sovereign wealth funds. In other words, sell the country, piecemeal.
Isn't that what's happening? The younger generation will be taxed and worked half to death, the older ones will find they're not as wealthy as the illusory boom led them to believe, and meanwhile the New Pan-European Bureau-Aristocracy is selling us all to foreign powers and foreign businessmen, who do not have to answer to the electorate?
I must study the Highland Clearances, and the Flight of the Earls.