Thursday, July 23, 2009

Out of their depth

The first serious, sensible, important piece I've seen from Toby Young, and it's a corker. He reflects on the well-heeled but louche and rackety Bullingdon Club, of which David Cameron and Boris Johnson were members:

... the theatrical element of Oxford's secret clubs and societies, the fact that so much of their activity seemed designed to dazzle and mystify bemused onlookers, is precisely what makes them such ideal training grounds for British public life.

... you don't have to be to the manor born to become a member of Britain's ruling class - or even particularly clever. You don't need charisma or sexual confidence or a sense of entitlement. All you need is the wherewithal to pretend to be someone who has these qualities. Provided you can do a reasonable impression of a person with the right stuff - and provided you wear the right uniform - that's enough to propel you to the top.

... The discovery that all these young pretenders make when they take their seats at the Cabinet table, or become QCs, or pocket £100million on a complicated land deal, is that the people at the very pinnacle of British society - the people pulling the levers of power - are exactly like them.

There is no such thing as the real McCoy, just a bunch of schoolboys parading around in the contents of the dressing-up box. They don't feel like frauds, because everyone else in this elite little club is as fraudulent as they are.

And when all is well, they get away with it. But when it comes to an emergency, a crisis needing skill, grit and sacrifice?

My father served his 25 in the British Army, and my mother used to say, "Thank God for civilians," i.e. the experienced people that would come in on callup when war broke out. Doubtless it's different now, with our much reduced and far more battle-experienced Armed Services, but in my father's career he met more than a few "educated idiots." Does the current crop of politicians and bankers have what it takes, including the moral fibre, to get us out of this mess? Or when it gets too tough, will they jump, like "Lord Jim" Blair, leaving us to our fate?

We're going to find out sooner than we'd like, if Denninger is right. He's looking at new Treasury debt issuance of $235 billion in the next week alone, and is busily folding his kitchen foil into a helmet:

Folks, this is how you get detonation of a nation's monetary and political system. Timing the "event" it is not easy, but the certainty of outcome given this sort of outrageously irresponsible activity is not in doubt.
I'm increasing my stock of things that "will never go to zero" and keeping my ear to the ground. The "short the phone book but make sure you get out fast before you get trampled" moment approaches - mark my words.


James Higham said...

You once asked about Them. These of the Bollinger are part of Them.

Sackerson said...

Spoiled darlings, clever and amoral self-pleasers, but not Fu Manchus, I think.

Paddington said...

I have met my full share of 'educated idiots' in university faculty and administration. In my experience, they are concentrated in psychology, economics, sociology, urban studies, political science, history, english, management, marketing, education and law. That is, the disciplines in which opinion matters more than results, and post facto analysis is more common than prediction.

Those in engineering and the hard sciences seem to be politically naive, but more hesitant in their opinions (except me), which fits the idea that all scientific models are tentative.

It helps, of course, that the American media and society treat lawyers and doctors as all-knowing wise men, which is why we elect so many of the former.

My gripe, as always, is that their cushy life is made possible by the hard work of the 'geeks' that they despise and devalue.

OldSouth said...

Thanks for this post--it explains much about what is happening, on both sides of the pond.

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