Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Deconstructing Boris Johnson: a challenge

Mr Johnson is a very clever man, classically trained and a highly skilled rhetorician.

But then so was Enoch Powell. In the 1960s, my (politically Liberal Party) English teacher had us précis and critique the latter's "Rivers of blood" speech and when coldly analysed it could be seen for the meretricious, tendentious and inflammatory propaganda that it was.

Public speaking is not at all the same as logical argument. It is about persuasion rather than a path to the truth. Socrates criticised the rhetoric-teacher Gorgias for that reason, saying, as Wikipedia puts it, "Morality is not inherent in rhetoric and that without philosophy, rhetoric is simply used to persuade for personal gain."

Clearly the speech of a couple of days ago was yet another stab at demonstrating why Boris should be the Conservative Party's leader in due course, and it is not impossible that some of what he said was more a twitch of the skirt to his audience than a platform in which every plank would remain should such a promotion come to pass; but this is all the more reason to examine his publicly espoused ideology.

Whether you are for or against capitalism, inequality, globalism, Mrs Thatcher or Mr Johnson himself, I invite you to study BoJo's argument, extract the relevant logical points and assertions of fact, and see for yourself what principles it proposes and whether, when drily dissected, it stands to reason.

(The text is from the Daily Telegraph of 28 November 2013.)

"The amazing thing about the funeral of Baroness Thatcher was the size of the crowds, and the next amazing thing was that they were so relatively well behaved. The BBC had done its best to foment an uprising.

 With habitual good taste, they played Ding Dong the witch is dead on taxpayer-public radio. Asked to find some commentators to give an instant reaction to the death of Britain’s greatest post-war prime minister – an event that was not exactly unforeseen –they reached instinctively for Gerry Adams and Ken Livingstone, two of her bitterest foes – if you exclude the Tory wets, that is.
As her cortege wound its way from St Brides to St Paul’s there were a few people so stupid that they heckled the mortal remains of an 87 year old woman. A few turned their backs. Some wore twerpish Guy Fawkes masks or carried signs saying“Boo”. But the mass of humanity was on her side, and when the dissenters erupted they were swiftly drowned by cries of shhh or calculated volleys of applause.

 I know all this partly from media accounts and partly because I walked through the crowds and I saw how various her mourners were. There were some tweedy types and some suited thrusters, and people who would generally not look out of place at a Tory party conference.
But there were also people from all over London, immigrants of every race and colour – people that the BBC might not have marked down, perhaps, as natural Thatcherites – and yet who had come to pay their respects to a woman who spoke to them and spoke for them as no other politician has done.

The Thatcher backers commanded the crowd, and some young people were frankly taken aback. I read an excellent blog post by Lucy Sheriff pointing this out.
 She interviewed two students, from UCL, who had plainly come hoping for a bit of the old G20-type argy-bargy. "We are pretty surprised at the lack of protesting," said one of them.

 "Considering she was such a divisive figure there's been very little on that front."
 "And,” the second one admitted, “we're a bit disappointed."

Well it is easy to see how anyone who had been exposed to the educational curriculum in most UK schools would form a low opinion of Margaret Thatcher. Look at the questions they set for politics A level. I have the papers for the last couple of years.
 “The industrial disputes of the 1980s were primarily the result of Mrs Thatcher’s desire to destroy the power of the trade unions.” (45 marks).

 “Decline in support for the Conservatives and their continued electoral unpopularity were due to the legacy of Margaret Thatcher” (45 marks);
 “Margaret Thatcher’s achievements as Prime Minister in the years 1979 to 1990 were limited” (45 marks). And so on.

I wonder how many candidates got 45 marks by dissenting vigorously from any of these ludicrous assertions? For millions of poor misinformed students she is simply a name to hiss – a byword for selfishness and bigotry; and yet I don’t blame young people.
 All they have to go on is Russell Brand and the BBC and what their teachers tell them. They weren’t around in the 1970s. I was, and I remember what it was like and how this country was seen. Our food was boiled and our teeth were awful and our cars wouldn’t work and our politicians were so hopeless that they couldn’t even keep the lights on because the coal miners were constantly out on strike, as were the train drivers and the grave-diggers, and the man who was really in charge seemed to be called Jack Jones.

 I remember how deserted London seemed, as people fled to Essex or elsewhere, and the stringy grass and the spangles wrappers and the bleached white dog turds in the park, and the gust of Watneys pale ale from the scuzzy pubs.
 I even did a painting to express my feelings about this country. It is modelled on the old advertisements you used to find at Taunton station – “Welcome to Taunton, home of Van Heusen shirts”. My landscape was a bleak and uninviting vista of the white cliffs of Dover, in the rain, with a few runty-looking gulls.

 The caption said, “Welcome to England, home of the economic crisis.” I produced this meisterwerk in January 1975, so you can see that I was already a pretty irritating 9 year old.
 Four years later things were even worse as Red Robbo paralyzed what was left of our car industry and the country went into an ecstasy of uselessness called the winter of discontent: women were forced to give birth by candle-light, Prime Minister’s Questions was lit by paraffin lamp and Blue Peter was all about how to put newspaper in blankets for extra insulation.

 In March that year Sir Nicholas Henderson was retiring from Paris and writing his traditional valedictory letter to the Foreign Secretary. “Our economic decline has been such as to sap the foundations of our diplomacy”, he lamented.
 “Today we are not only no longer a world power, but we are in the first rank even as a European one.” Two months later Margaret Thatcher had won her first majority, and began the process of reversing that view of Britain, in this country and around the world. In 1981 she took on the expert opinion of 364 economists who wrote a pompous letter to the Times, calling for a U-turn on her budgetary policies; and she routed them by delivering a supply-side revolution in Britain whose benefits we enjoy to this day.

 In 1982 she showed positively Churchillian pluck by deciding to tell the Americans and the Peruvians to stuff their peace plan, and she sent the navy half way round the world on a spectacularly risky venture; and by the end of the year Galtieri was gone and the military junta was no more, and the principle of the Falklanders’ right to self-determination had been vindicated.
 In 1983 she took on Neil Kinnock and gave Labour an epic drubbing. In 1984 she squared up to the miners all right – but she didn’t provoke the confrontation, to answer the A level question. She was facing a challenge from a Marxist demagogue who had no real interest in the welfare of his miners and who had refused even to call a ballot before a strike whose avowed purpose was to bring down the elected government of the country.

 She took on the European Community over UK contributions to the budget – and won. in 1986 she took on the member for Henley (always a risky venture) over some question about helicopters; and though she won that round on points, she sowed the seeds of her future destruction.
 By the time she was eventually felled by her own MPs – cravenly hoping that they would save their own seats – her achievements were not limited; they were colossal, and they were in many cases irreversible. She had introduced millions of people to the satisfaction of owning their own home; she had widened share ownership immensely; she had tamed the power of the unions and she had given back to management the power to manage.

 She had also done something less tangible and far more important: she had changed the self-image of the country. To grasp what she did, you have to remember how far we felt we had fallen. Our country – Britain - used to rule the world – almost literally.
 Of the 193 present members of the UN, we have conquered or at least invaded 171 – that is 90 per cent. The only countries that seem to have escaped were places like Andorra and the Vatican City. In the period 1750 to 1865 we were by far the most politically and economically powerful country on earth.

 And then we were overtaken by America, and then by Germany, and then we had the world wars – and we ended up so relatively weakened that the ruling classes succumbed to a deep spiritual morosity that bordered on self-loathing, and we gave in to the reverse of the fallacy that gripped the Victorian imperialists.
 The Victorians were so vain as to believe that because they had managed to extend their dominions so far, and because the map was pink from east to west, that this must somehow reflect the reality of divine providence: that God saw a special virtue in the British people, and appointed them to rule the waves.

 And because they had grown up reading such tosh the post-war establishment drew the logical but equally absurd conclusion that the shrinking of Britain must also represent a moral verdict on them all, but in this case the opposite – that we were now decadent, and that decline had set in with all the ineluctability of death watch beetle in the church tower.
 Thatcher changed all that. She put a stop to the talk of decline and she made it possible for people to speak without complete embarrassment of putting the “great” back into Britain. And she gave us a new idea – or revived an old one: that Britain was or could be an enterprising and free-booting sort of culture, with the salt breeze ruffling our hair; a buccaneering environment where there was no shame – quite the reverse – in getting rich.

 She transformed the idea of Britain, the schwerpunkt, the mission statement – from sick man of Europe to bustling and dynamic entrepot. Nowhere was that transformation more extraordinary than in London.
 The other night I was sitting next to the great director and producer Stephen Daldry, who did such an imaginative job with the Olympic ceremonies, and so helped with the most amazing global advertisement this country has ever seen.

 “What’s going on?” he said. “I have just been to Brazil, and all they can talk about is London, London, London. The whole world wants to come here. What’s it all about?” He seemed genuinely amazed; so I mumbled some discreetly self-aggrandising answer about how we were all working very hard to promote the capital abroad, and only afterwards realised what I should have said.
 It is this same Daldry, after all, who was responsible for giving British kids their most vivid and terrifying image of Margaret Thatcher – the evil termagant from Billy Elliott. It was the cast of Billy Elliott the musical who had decided to keep singing one of their biggest hits – in which everyone prays for the death of Margaret Thatcher – on the very day she was laid to rest.

 Had I been thinking faster, I should have pointed out that Margaret Thatcher laid the foundations of the prosperity the city enjoys today. It was she who went for the Big Bang in 1986, unleashed the animal spirits of the Essex men and women who mingled with ever growing numbers of suave American and European bankers and restored London to its Victorian eminence as the financial capital of the world; and it was that 1980s boom in the city that financed the restaurants and the tapas bars and the arts world, including the musicals; and it was that change in the quality of life in London that brought people back to the city.
 We forget how far London had shrunk by the time she became prime minister – down from 9m in 1911 to 6.9 m by 1981. It is now back up to 8.2 m – up 600,000 since I have been mayor. It was Margaret Thatcher – who put in the fixed link to Paris, who pioneered Canary Wharf, who greenlighted the Jubilee Line extension, who turbocharged the city, who cut personal taxation from 83 to 40 per cent, and laid the foundations for modern London’s success.

 That’s what I should have said to Stephen Daldry, and I might have added that it sometimes feels as though the 1980s are about to come round again. I can see it in the cranes on the skyline, in the traffic jams – even though we have heroically increased average traffic speeds from 9.3 to 9.4 mph; I note the queues for restaurants and the house prices, and though I may be wrong my impression is that the vast and intricate machine of the London economy is starting to throb on the launching pad like a Saturn V, and as the vapour starts to jet from the valves I sense a boom in the offing.
 Gerard Lyons, my economic adviser, thinks we could be looking at growth of 4 per cent next year; and so I hope that in many ways it is NOT like the 1980s all over again. I don’t imagine that there will be a return of teddy bear braces and young men and women driving Porsches and bawling into brick sized mobiles. But I also hope that there is no return to that spirit of Loadsamoney heartlessness – figuratively riffling banknotes under the noses of the homeless; and I hope that this time the Gordon Gekkos of London are conspicuous not just for their greed – valid motivator thought greed may be for economic progress – as for what they give and do for the rest of the population, many of whom have experienced real falls in their incomes over the last five years.

 And if there is to be a boom in the 20-teens, I hope it is one that is marked by a genuine sense of community and acts of prodigious philanthropy, and I wish the snob value and prestige that the Americans attach to act of giving would somehow manifest itself here, or manifest itself more vividly.
 But it was Mrs Thatcher who made the essential point about charity, in her famous analysis of the parable of the Good Samaritan. He wouldn’t have been much use to the chap who fell among thieves, she noted, if he had not been rich enough to help; and what has been really striking about the last five or six years is that no one on the left – no one from Paul Krugman to Joe Stiglitz to Will Hutton, let alone Ed Miliband – has come up with any other way for an economy to operate except by capitalism.

 We all waited for the paradigm shift, after the crash of 2008. The left was ushered centre stage, and missed their cue; political history reached a turning point, and failed to turn. Almost a quarter of a century after the collapse of Soviet and European communism – a transformation that Mrs Thatcher did so much to bring about – there has been no intellectual revival of her foes, whose precepts are now conserved only by weird cults in south London.
 Ding dong! Marx is dead. Ding dong! communism’s dead. Ding dong! socialism’s dead! Ding dong! Clause Four is dead, and it is not coming back.

 Like it or not, the free market economy is the only show in town. Britain is competing in an increasingly impatient and globalised economy, in which the competition is getting ever stiffer.
 No one can ignore the harshness of that competition, or the inequality that it inevitably accentuates; and I am afraid that violent economic centrifuge is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability, if not spiritual worth.

 Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests, it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16 per cent of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2 per cent have an IQ above 130. The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.
 And for one reason or another – boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the natural and god-given talent of boardroom inhabitants - the income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever. I stress: I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.

 But we cannot ignore this change in relative economic standing, and the resentment it sometimes brings. Last week I tried to calm people down, by pointing out that the rich paid a much greater share of income tax than they used to.
 When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 they faced a top marginal tax rate of 98 per cent, and the top one per cent of earners contributed 11 per cent of the government’s total revenues from income tax. Today, when taxes have been cut substantially, the top one per cent contributes almost 30 per cent of income tax; and indeed the top 0.1 per cent – just 29,000 people – contribute fully 14 per cent of all taxation.

 That is an awful lot of schools and roads and hospitals that are being paid for by the super-rich. So why, I asked innocently, are they so despicable in the eyes of all decent British people? Surely they should be hailed like the Stakhanovites of Stalin’s Russia, who half-killed themselves, in the name of the people, by mining record tonnages of coal?
 I proposed that we should fete them and decorate them and inaugurate a new class of tax hero, with automatic knighthoods for the top ten per cent. Well, my friends, I am proud to say I have often been accused of being out of touch, but hardly ever have I produced so frenzied and hate-filled a response.

 People aren’t remotely interested in how much tax these characters pay. That does nothing to palliate their primary offence, which is to be so stonkingly and in their view emetically rich.
 The other day I was stopped in the street by a woman who was sobbing with anger, and there were two aspects to her complaint. The first was pay disparity: she worked in accounts in a large UK firm, and over the last 20 years she had seen how salaries at the top end had been pulling away from everyone else. The next was her belief – which I believe is ill-founded, or at least only partly correct – that the London property market is dominated by rich foreigners, and that they had so driven up house prices as to make it impossible for her daughter even to hope of finding somewhere to live in London.

 As I say, I believe this antipathy to foreign investment is very largely misplaced. Yes, there are certainly parts of the city where a large proportion of sales are going overseas, and yes, it would be a good thing if new homes were targeted first at Londoners and not sold off-plan in foreign capitals. But even in the hotspot areas foreign sales are running at the same rate as they were in 1990, and across the city as a whole they are about 6.5 per cent by value – the same as 20 years ago; and as I tried to explain to this woman, it is foreign investment that enables us to go ahead with developments, like Battersea, that would otherwise be stalled forever; and it is those new developments – tens if not hundreds of thousands of new homes –that offer real hope for her and her daughter.
 I think, in the end, I won her round, and I think she could see the logic of some of what I was saying. But sometimes in politics you have to recognise that you are dealing with feeling, not reason. After five years of recession people are feeling this inequality –much greater, after all, than it was in the 1980s – and rightly or wrongly they care about it.

 It seems to me therefore that though it would be wrong to persecute the rich, and madness to try and stifle wealth creation, and futile to try to stamp out inequality, that we should only tolerate this wealth gap on two conditions: one, that we help those who genuinely cannot compete; and, two, that we provide opportunity for those who can.
 To get back to my cornflake packet, I worry that there are too many cornflakes who aren’t being given a good enough chance to rustle and hustle their way to the top. We gave the packet a good shake in the 1960s; and Mrs Thatcher gave it another good shake in the 1980s with the sale of the council houses.

 Since then there has been a lot of evidence of a decline in social mobility, as Sir John Major has trenchantly pointed out – and as some people may know, it is one of the many black marks against me that I went to the same school as the party leader: Primrose Hill primary school, Camden, alma mater of me and Ed Miliband.
 There are many explanations for this decline in social mobility, this apparent freezing of the canals of opportunity. Some put it down to assortative mating –the process by which the massive expansion of the female population in higher education has meant an intensification of marriages and partnerships between university-educated couples, and an increase in their economic advantages.

 Some say it is a function of work ethic, and draw unflattering comparisons between the get-up-and-go of indigenous kids and many migrants from EU accession countries. Some say it is all to do with the abolition of the grammar schools; and here we must sorrowfully acknowledge that the record of our heroine was very far from perfect.
 Indeed, she closed more grammar schools than Tony Crosland. But the question I am asking today is not what did Maggie do then, but WHAT WOULD MAGGIE DO NOW?, because I think she would have taken the question of social mobility very seriously indeed.

 I think she would want to help smart and hardworking kids everywhere. She was a grammar school girl herself, and she knew what it was like to be up against the kind of smug, sleek men who never dreamed that she would be Prime Minister, never thought she would have the guts to sack posh public school chaps like them.
 I think she would have instantly brought back the assisted places scheme, that helped 75,000 pupils find excellent education in the fee-paying sector. She might not have flooded the place with grammar schools, not under that name, because that would have been a U-turn, and we know what she thought of U-turns; but I hope that she would have found some way of making far wider use of that most powerful utensil of academic improvement – and that is academic competition between children themselves.

 I remember once sitting in a meeting of the Tory shadow education team and listening with mounting disbelief to a conversation in which we all agreed solemnly that it would be political madness to try to bring back the Grammar schools – while I happened to know that most of the people in that room were about to make use, as parents, of some of the most viciously selective schools in the country.
 I might be wrong, but I hope she would find a way to use that device, to help bright children everywhere to overcome their background; and even if I am wrong, I feel sure that she would direct a beam of maternal and terrifying devotion upon Michael Gove and everything he does.

 If we haven’t quite restored academic competition between pupils, there is a new spirit of competition between those who are the driving force behind the academies. Talk to the hedge fund kings who are supporting this new breed of maintained sector school, and they will rave about how their school has just been rated Ofsted outstanding in every category with the joy of the Queen beholding her horse win the Derby.
 I think Mrs Thatcher would approve of this spirit of rivalrous emulation, as a means of driving up standards, just as she would approve of apprenticeships and every other means of giving young people the cunning and confidence to succeed in a place of work. She would have understood that the best hope of social mobility is an open and flexible labour market where people can move from one career to the next, as they do in America, and where business is always creating new jobs.

 As we come now to the juddering climax of our discussion, I realise that there may be some confusion in my prescriptions between what I would do, what Maggie would do, and what the government is about to do or is indeed already doing, did we but know it.
 I don’t think it much matters, because the three are likely to turn out to be one and the same.

 What would she do about tax and spending? What is the right approach to the economy? I hope it is not too obvious to say that she would cut the cost of government wherever she could, and she would cut spending as the economy recovers and she would cut taxes such as business rates and she would ensure that our personal taxation was at least competitive with the rest of Europe.
 What would Maggie do on housing? She would recognise the squeeze on her core voters, their desperate shortage of homes; she would revive her great mission of a property-owning democracy and encourage the creation of hundreds of thousands of new homes in which people had at least a share of the equity themselves; and she would remember the lessons of Baldwin and Macmillan and Thatcher – that Tories are most successful when they help middle Britain to find the housing they need.

 What would she do about the infrastructure that a growing economy depends on? There are some who remember her hostility to rail, born of her conflict with chaps like Jimmy Knapp, her preference for catnapping in the back of her Jag.
 She would certainly want to upgrade the roads but we are talking here of the Thatcher who gave Britain its first and only High speed rail, not to mention the DLR. I think she would understand the capacity argument for HS2, though she might get it cheaper and get a bigger contribution from business. As for our aviation capacity, let me remind you of what Nico Henderson said in that valedictory letter I have already cited, on the eve of her accession.

 “So far as the management of major capital projects by government is concerned our vision appears limited and our purpose changeable…We started work on two large plans, the third London airport and the Channel Tunnel, only to cancel both.”
 Does anyone doubt that she would have the cojones to rectify that second mistake, and give this country the 24 hour hub airport, with four runways, that it needs? When she was in power there were flights from Heathrow to more destinations than from any other European airport.

Would she sit back and watch the rest of them eat our lunch – the French and the Dutch and the Spanish, the Finns, for heaven’s sake, who now send more flights to China than we do? She would understand that the plane is the 21st century means of travel, and the vital importance of connectivity to her vision of Britain: open, free-trading, as turned to Asia and Latin America as it is to its traditional markets.

She would see that the best place to build that airport would be to the east of the city, which is, indeed, the area with the biggest potential for new homes.
 What would Maggie do about the rest of the country; what about regional policy? I think she would now be fighting like a lioness for the union, and that she would comfortably see off Salmond, as she saw off so many smart alecs, because she would have instinctively identified the heart of the matter: that this isn’t about whether or not the Scots will be £800 per year worse off per head.

 This is about the demolition of Britain, about taking the blue background from the union flag, lopping the top off the most successful political union in history. It would diminish both Scotland and England, and it would be no consolation to her that the loss of Britain, as a concept, might also mean the end of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
 She would win the case for the union; but she would also recognise that England has been so far short-changed by devolution. So I like to think that she would look at what is happening in the great cities of England, where the population is also rising and changing, and a London effect is noticeable as people flee the high costs of the capital and start dynamic new businesses in tech and other sectors.

 I hope that she would remember the municipal Conservatism of Joe Chamberlain and indeed Alderman Roberts and give those cities more powers to raise locally the taxes they spend locally; give the politicians an incentive to go for policies that promote growth; and give the electorate an incentive to kick them out if they fail, and instal Conservatives.
 What, finally, amigos, would she do about Europe? Last year we heard Charles Moore tell us that she had decided to pull out, and since Charles has papal infallibility, I accept that – though it is obviously one of those things that is a bit easier to say to your trusty biographer when you are out of office and you aren’t immediately besieged by a panic-stricken foreign office and CBI and nervous international investors and the White House on line one saying you are out of your mind, lady.

 As it happens, I don’t think she would pull out of the single market that she helped to create; not like that, not if she was now the tenant of Number Ten. I think she would recognise that there is a chance to get a better deal. It’s time to sort out the immigration system so that we end the madness.
 At the moment we are claiming to have capped immigration by having a 60 per cent reduction in New Zealanders, when we can do nothing to stop the entire population of Transylvania – charming though most of them may be - from trying to pitch camp at Marble Arch.

 David Cameron is right. about giving countries more flexibility over the time-lag before other nationals may claim benefits, and I can’t believe he is alone among EU leaders. It is time we ended the Soviet absurdities of the CAP, time we sorted out the working time directive and time we generally persuaded the Eurocrats to stop trying to tell us what to do.
 First they make us pay in our taxes for Greek olive groves, many of which probably don’t exist. Then they say we can’t dip our bread in olive oil in restaurants. We didn’t join the Common Market – betraying the New Zealanders and their butter – in order to be told when, where and how we must eat the olive oil we have been forced to subsidise. Talk about giving us the pip, folks.

 Mrs Thatcher would never have put up with it. I reckon she would get a better deal for Britain and indeed the rest of Europe, and simultaneously keep Britain in the internal market council.
 But at the back of her mind, during the negotiations, would be this comforting truth: that the stakes are lower than they were. The EU has shrunk to only 19 per cent of the global economy, compared to 29 per cent when she was in power. The big growth markets lie elsewhere, and there is a paradox in our relations with the EU. We joined in the early 1970s in what I have described as a mood of weakness and defeatism, and since then things have changed.

 It is not just that we stayed out of the euro – another thing she got completely right – or that we are recovering fast while the eurozone is a still a microclimate of gloom. Consider the demographics.
 By 2050 Britain will be the second biggest country in the EU, and by 2060 – when I fully intend to be alive – we will have more people than Germany. And yes, I can see you gulp, and no, I don’t know exactly where they will all go either; though when I drive through the cities of the north I see plenty of depopulated space.

 Nor can I easily tell you what it will be like for us suddenly to be the biggest and most economically powerful country in Europe – but I will chance my arm and make some prophecies. By the middle of this century we will still have a crown, we will still have a union, we will have a dynamic, diverse, globalised economy and we will have dealt eupeptically and by the normal romantic human processes with the recent period of mass immigration so that our cities are not just proudly British but also boast a vast mongrel energy.
 As for London, it will have lengthened its lead as the financial, artistic and cultural capital of the world, with more banks than New York, with more Michelin starred restaurants than Paris, less rainfall than Rome, more green space than any other European city – all true now, as it happens. We will have Crossrail two linking Hackney and Chelsea and Crossrail three taking you out to Margaret Thatcher international airport in the estuary.

 Some things will still be the same: we will still have parks and pubs and the Tower of London and Julian Assange holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy, wasting police time and resources.
 But one thing will have gone forever – and that is the myth of British decline. Here in London we already lead in law, in universities, we have the largest tech sector and biotech sector in Europe, we export TV shows around the world. Five of the last 6 best-selling music albums were made in London and we have exported Piers Morgan to America.

 We may not have many gunboats any more, but we hardly need them, because we are already fulfilling our destiny as the soft power capital of the world – and that is thanks to a woman who knew all about soft power and the deep Freudian terror that every man has for the inner recesses of a handbag. It was her fundamentally positive and can-do vision that turned this country around and that we should remember today.
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Friday, November 29, 2013

"Biased BBC": Kirsty Wark's Newsnight

Is there some reason why Kirsty Wark's survey of tomorrow's front pages tonight, left out the most-read newspaper in Britain, the Daily Mail?

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kenya backs away from wind

From Bloomberg we hear Kenya is finding wind power too expensive :-

Kenya suspended issuing new licenses for wind farms and solar plants until 2017 as it prioritizes development of cheaper fuel-based sources to help cut electricity prices, Energy Secretary Davis Chirchir said.

The East African government plans to add at least 5,500 megawatts of power supply in the 40 months from September, more than quadrupling output from current installed capacity of about 1,700 megawatts mainly from rain-fed hydropower plants.

About 80 percent of that additional output will be tapped from facilities powered by coal, liquefied natural gas, and geothermal, Chirchir said in a phone interview on Nov. 25 from Nairobi, the capital. Wind and solar power will contribute a maximum of 15 percent of new supplies and projects already under way have filled that quota. Hydropower and diesel-fired sources will comprise the remainder, he said.

“The planned energy mix is what will give us the tariff and reliability of supply we want,” Chirchir said.


Energy Secretary Davis Chirchir has acted swiftly, at least compared to our lot here in the UK. Back in April when he was appointed to the post, Mr Chirchir said :-

Kenya is a country of great opportunities. We can’t be competitive if the cost of power is what it is today,” Mr Chirchir said Thursday after his nomination. “We shall ensure the power we give to Kenya is cheaper for them to be competitive.”

So - how do we swap Ed Davey for Davis Chirchir when the transfer window comes round? Obviously the UK would have to pay a substantial transfer fee, but how much? One hundred million sounds reasonable to me - cheap even.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The weirdness of unreason II

Another World - M C Escher - from Wikipedia

Have you ever tangled with the vexed problem of obviousness? Are some things so glaringly obvious as to leave you baffled when someone transcends the bounds of reason by taking a view contrary to your own? 

Do you occasionally find this kind of thing a little odd – even weird? We are after all, the same species. One might think we'd respond to reality in much the same way.

So in true Hollywood style, this is the second post of my weirdness of unreason franchise. By the way, why is a cinematic rehash called a franchise?

Anyhow, the first post was a kind of write-it-and-see test to see if reasons, concepts, ideas, explanations and arguments can be equated to allegiances. I think they can is the sense that something useful emerges from the idea even though our allegiances are bound to get in the way of knowing that useful something.

I suspect we cannot form ideas without framing them within some kind of validating allegiance.

Take politics for example. Those people with no particular allegiance to political abstractions will find it difficult to frame political opinions. Their vote will be dictated by other allegiances, however frustrating that may be for those who happen to have political allegiances.

Similarly with climate change. It isn’t so much a technical or scientific issue, as an issue about allegiance to abstractions within which the debate is always framed. Those who don’t share those allegiances tend to sit on the fence and see the issue as too complex for them to resolve. Maybe they merely lack framing allegiances.

So let us keep the focus on our allegiance to abstractions because they already have a well-known framing role.

We obviously have allegiances to numerous abstractions such as science, logic, equality, honesty, justice, peace, politics, beauty, reason, education, style, fashion, social mores, religion, what Mum always said, politeness, aesthetics, the rule of law and so on.

Unfortunately many claimed allegiances are false as we all know too well. Ideas supposedly bolstered by some authoritative allegiance but framed within in a different, covert allegiance designed to hide our endless primary allegiances to the usual suspects.

Me.
My career.
My inner circle.
My outer circle ...these are a few of my favourite things!

A good example is David Cameron’s strikingly crude offer of an EU referendum after the next election. His idea is far too obviously framed by allegiance to his future career while claiming a false allegiance to democratic ideals.

Claimed allegiance to abstractions is where the prim, prissy, supercilious, devious, dishonest and shamelessly unworthy frameworks of so many manipulative debates come from. Those we have to cope with every day of our lives.

As ever, behaviour highlights the deceit. As ever it isn’t enough if the deceit has powerful backing as we so often know to our cost.

A life not dominated by allegiances is an ideal never realised in the grit and grind of the real world. Maybe a life without allegiance would be akin to nirvana. Or maybe it would offer a glimpse of the eternal as Spinoza envisaged a blessed state of purely disinterested knowledge.

Unfortunately, in daily life every idea we have is framed by some allegiance or other. Including this one.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Picture quiz


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Friday, November 22, 2013

A passive disciple


A bear, who had worn himself out walking from one end of his cage to the other, addressed his keeper thus: 

“I say, friend, if you don’t procure me a shorter cage I shall have to give up zoology; it is about the most wearing pursuit I ever engaged in. I favour the advancement of science, but the mechanical part of it is a trifle severe, and ought to be done by contract.”

“You are quite right, my hearty,” said the keeper, “it is severe; and there have been several excellent plans proposed to lighten the drudgery. Pending the adoption of some of them, you would find a partial relief in lying down and keeping quiet.”

“It won’t do — it won’t do!” replied the bear,  with a mournful shake of the head, “it’s not the orthodox thing. Inaction may do for professors, collectors, and others connected with the ornamental part of the noble science; but for us, we must keep moving, or zoology would soon revert to the crude guesses and mistaken theories of the azoic period. 

And yet,” continued the beast, after the keeper had gone, “there is something novel and ingenious in what the underling suggests. I must remember that; and when I have leisure, give it a trial.” 

It was noted next day that the noble science had lost an active apostle, and gained a passive disciple.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sparrowhawk kill



Spotted on the lawn this morning, a sparrowhawk standing in the remains of its breakfast, probably a dove.

Not a great picture, but I only have a cheap camera. 

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Co-operative: an announcement

Organisers of the Co-op's funeral service have asked for no Flowers. Donations may be made to a number of uncharitable funds instead.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Monday, November 18, 2013

North Korea chic

From telegraph.co.uk

From Elle magazine

North Korea Chic

Some iteration of the military trend stomps the runways every few seasons. This time, it's edgier, even dangerous, with sharp buckles and clasps and take-no-prisoners tailoring.

What does one say? Are they taking the p*ss?

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Selecting the shameless

Is it the case that only shameless spivs and crooks are able to withstand the intense, manipulative scrutiny of the internet age?

If so, is the internet weeding out principled people in favour of the shameless?

Maybe by our endless, web-enabled scrutiny of public life we are deselecting anyone with an ounce of moral awareness or a scintilla of self-knowledge. They are too wary of the ghastly, furtive dishonesty of it all.

The hide of a rhinoceros and the moral compass of a rattlesnake may not be what we want from our leaders, but perhaps the internet is ensuring we get exactly that. Or more than we had before at least.

The subtle power of a web-enabled selection process could have dangerous consequences if we don’t sharpen up in time for the dwindling number of meaningful elections we have left.

How many is that by the way? One? Two?

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EU for the confused

As we lurch ponderously towards another General Election - John Ward thinks it might be called early by the Tories - doubtless there will be renewed efforts to paint UKIP and other Eurosceptics as haters of foreigners, European culture etc. This infographic may help clear up the confusion:


And if the term "Little Englander" (original meaning: anti-Imperialist) is misused yet again, please apply the following test of discrimination to the offender:


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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Does economic recovery require inflation?

"Employing more folks who earn more produces inflation," says John Ward, and it's a brave man who takes him on... but... can I offer this and duck my head?

In the course of researching a piece last month about inflation, I came across this chart:


http://www.hist.umn.edu/~ruggles/hist5011/phelps-brown%20and%20hopkins.pdf

... and this information:

But the money system stabilised again by the late 17th century. The Bank of England's website has a page that lets you calculate cumulative inflation for any period from 1750 onwards. According to them, a basket of goods and services costing £1 in 1750 would have cost (the equivalent of) £1.80 in 1900 - an average annual inflation rate of 0.3%.

... from which I surmised:

That period covers the tremendous increase in productivity introduced by the Industrial Revolution and further late-nineteenth-century scientific and technological developments, so inflation is not needed for business and prosperity.

Indeed, it's possible that much of that 80% cumulative inflation over 150 years (1750 - 1900) could be attributed to war financing and profiteering e.g. during the conflicts with France.

So, do we need inflation at all?

More people making and selling more stuff and services may turn over more money, but then there's more for that money to buy, and more income and spending on which taxes can be levied.

So isn't deflation more about (a) wealth trickling - or rather gushing - up the social scale and then being socked away in investments rather than spent to stimulate domestic demand, and (b) the offshoring of production, whereby the poor of other countries do the work and the middlemen here (via entities that may be also sited offshore) taking much of the turnover as their profit, which leads us not back to doh but to (a)?

I tried to graph these putative connections in June last year as a reckless simultaneous opening of all the lock gates, thus:




Well, maybe I'm wrong.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stockmarkets: when will the third shoe drop?

Pic source: http://thebeltwayboys.blogspot.co.uk/2005/06/waiting-for-other-shoe-to-drop.html

The stockmarket (Dow, FTSE) has halved twice since the beginning of 2000, bottoming in 2003 and 2009. Earlier this year I wondered when the next drop would come ("Killing the Small Investor",  28 June).

Since then I have read that banks are being asked to consider the effects on them of a 50% drop in equities; and now John Hussman (htp: Zero Hedge) is saying the same thing:

"I continue to believe that it is plausible to expect the S&P 500 to lose 40-55% of its value over the completion of the present cycle, and suspect that whatever further gains the market enjoys from this point will be surrendered in the first few complacent weeks following the market’s peak."

I have long been of that view, and in fact having worked for 20 years in the financial services industry my mindset now is that I don't trust it as far as I can throw it. The politicians have allowed - encouraged - the banks to pillage the economy with debt bubbles that give the temporary impression of prosperity, and now we're maxed-out, so after fraud will come outright robbery by inflation, confiscation or whatever.

Which is why the Chinese are piling up gold and Chinese rich are diverting their wealth into portable assets like fine art. In the short term - when the panic is on - these assets, too, may decline in value, but sooner or later the wretched, crooked game of pneumatic prices will resume.

Smart, daring, quick-handed investors may make a killing in the disruption - just selling at peak and buying at trough would have quadrupled the value of your equity holding since 2000 - but when the game is on some of the players may find they're not so fast and smart after all. Remember Jesse Livermore.

This is why I continue to campaign for a safe, government-guaranteed store of value, such as National Savings Index-Linked Certificates. There should - must, if government is to have any moral authority - be an option for those who don't wish to gamble and so cannot fairly be expected to suffer loss. US investors still have TIPS available. Even then, we shall have to watch out for attempts by the thieving swine to misrepresent price inflation.

They say you shouldn't give a price forecast and a time frame at the same time, but I'm getting the feeling from what I'm reading that the third shoe will drop to the bedroom floor within the next year.

Maybe that's why the intelligence services are spying on us all so assiduously. If you can't control the problem, control the customer.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Council blocks payday loan websites


From the Derbyshire Times we learn:

A decision to block payday loan websites from all of a council’s 7000 computers has been met with approval.

Anyone trying to access lending sites from any of Derbyshire County Councils computers will instead be re-directed to sources of safe, affordable loans such as Credit Unions, financial support services and welfare rights advice.

The move will affect all of the computers owned by the council across the county including those in libraries and those used by its employees.


Well they are council-owned computers so it's up to them what they allow and what they block even though they are blocking access to a legal activity. 

Even so, I've no problem with it per se. It's the mission creep I don't like. It never ends, slithering into every nook and cranny of daily life.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The weirdness of unreason

Another World - M C Escher - from Wikipedia

Have you ever been in a meeting where certain people seem absolutely set on dredging up every irrational argument they can think of?

Yes?

And apart from the frustration, do you ever find irrational ideas a little weird? How do we explain them for example - how do we picture what is going on in the irrational head?

Instead of thinking in terms of rational and irrational ideas, suppose we think in terms of allegiance - a personal allegiance to some social situation, trend, norm, cause or whatever. That something could be allegiance to a person, social group, project, profession, institution, fashion or any one of countless other possibilities.

It may be an allegiance to Arsenal Football Club, holistic therapy, quantum theory, yoga or a political party. There is no difference – it is all allegiance.

So there are no rational or irrational structures inside our heads. Reasons are essentially tactical and strategic. Beliefs may feel like a nexus of rational ideas but are nothing of the kind. Our beliefs and ideas are merely our allegiances expressed in all their infinite variety.

We are not rational, but merely complex, subtle, resourceful and often covert in expressing our allegiances. Reason is how we raise, gauge and foster support for those allegiances, but that’s all. There is no structure to reason other than the structure of allegiance. That’s why your reason can be my unreason.

We have differing allegiances – that’s all.

So we don’t think rationally or irrationally, but merely offer our allegiance to different social norms, situations and events from the trivial to the essentials of daily life. The central influences over these allegiances are numerous, from language to our personal welfare and the welfare of family, friends, business interests and so on and so on.

However, when it comes to less central concerns, many of us do not seem to have strong allegiances and are willing to probe them. Yet this probing, this apparent vacillation can seem odd and obstructive to those with a strong allegiance to a particular narrative or agenda. In my view this explains human intransigence quite well where the notion of reason and unreason does not.

Maybe this is the value of those of us who mistakenly see ourselves as rational. We are not so much rational as able to see the allegiances others skate over in their pursuit of an agenda. By not having strong allegiances ourselves, we are able to weigh their various claims, especially where popular allegiances are neither as beneficial nor as harmless as commonly assumed.

So rational behaviour is not so much an ability to apply reason, whatever that might be, as a reluctance to offer one’s allegiance without weighing the consequences. Often not even then.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Aqueduct Cottage

Aqueduct Cottage by Brian Cass

By the side of Cromford canal in Derbyshire is Aqueduct Cottage, a derelict canal keeper’s cottage occupied until the late fifties or early sixties.

The location is attractive, but there is no nearby road, no water, sewage services, electricity or gas supply. In other words, the cottage isn’t worthless because it is derelict, but derelict because by modern standards it is has become worthless.

In bygone times, the canal keeper who lived in Aqueduct Cottage would probably have used candles for lighting and logs from nearby woods for cooking and heating. He may also have bought supplies from passing boats and his water may have come from the nearby river. I don’t know about sewage disposal though – the canal?

Now the boats are gone and picturesque as this mode of life might be, it only appeals from the safe distance of modern comforts.

While out walking I’ve seen one or two derelict stone cottages in a similar condition and with similar problems. They became derelict because they are now worthless, not worthless because they are derelict.

It underlines how much the value of our homes depends on those essential services. Remove them and the value disappears as completely as it did for Aqueduct Cottage. Here it is in 1905 looking like a chocolate box idyll.



From Friends of Cromford Canal/Julie Simpson

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Upper class crime dwarfs underclass crime


In the last two posts, I hope I've shown that the incompetence and greed of the financial sector has recently cost more in money than all the crime in the UK put together, and thousands of innocent lives to boot. I don't suppose that the deaths were intentional, but there is such a thing as criminal negligence, and if bankers and traders don't understand what they're doing they shouldn't be doing it, any more than useless paediatric surgeons.

Why are there not mass trials for corporate manslaughter, and utterly crushing fines and compensation claims against the "too-big-to-fail" banks and their senior employees and directors? And why are they too big to fail? I don't see why we couldn't set up entirely new banks to do what the old ones did well, and not do the things they shouldn't have done. It's only the hope of future employment with these moral idiots that seems to stay the hand of the politicians.

So we now turn to the politicians, who directly or indirectly have given instruction and encouragement to the banks to simulate prosperity by inflating the money supply for decades. Let's compare murder rates, shall we?

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime counted 5,096 intentional homicides in the United Kingdom for the years 2004-2009. But as Peter Hitchens has often pointed out, the murder rate would have been much higher had it not been for great improvements in emergency medical treatment since the 1960s (when the death penalty was abolished), so let's boost this figure, say, tenfold, to 50,960.

Compare that with the toll of the Iraq invasion. Wikipedia gives a range of estimates, the lowest of which is 109,032 for the same period, i.e. 2004 - 2009 (the highest is over a million). Two-thirds of them are civilian, by the way.

Who bears the responsibility?

It's tempting to spread the blame - in Britain, the Cabinet and media boxwallahs like Alastair Campbell could be tarred with the same brush - but perhaps it helps narrow down the liability when you consider what might have happened had Prime Minister Blair told President Bush that the UK was not going to support military intervention. (Instead, as Peter McKay tells us today, "25 notes from then-president George W. Bush to Blair — and some 200 Cabinet- level discussions — have been withheld by No 10", so we are forced to draw our own inferences).

It's quite possible that absent Blair's buddyship, Bush might have stayed his hand. After all, look what happened when President Obama's finger had taken the trigger on Syria to first pressure but Prime Minister Cameron "got it" when his consultation of Parliament resulted in a "no". Gosh, how quickly the world's attention turned to other things, such as Miley Cyrus' arse.

So let's argue that Blair and Bush are jointly guilty of the low-estimate six-figure deaths. That makes 54,516 corpses each (assuming you don't accept that these politicians are jointly and severally guilty, which would double their butcher's bill).

Not intentional homicide? Whoever heard of a bloodless invasion of a major, modern-equipped Middle Eastern country? If B&B had been in the UK in the 1950s and killed a householder while burgling, they'd have swung. It's why criminals used to be very hard on any of their number who brought a shooter on a blag.

And that's just overt action. I suppose we'll never find out the whole truth about the covert operations that caused Arab nations, latterly Syria, to erupt in multivarious civil wars.

Blair - whose full name anagrammatizes satisfyingly as "born actor; lethally nannyish" - is a posh boy who went to a very posh school, where he learned how to escape the consequences of his actions by enlisting guardians. Bush is a millionaire former oilman and the son of a former US President. Leaving office and an economy heading for ruin, he handed what in rugby is known a "hospital pass" to the new guy (so which of them is the dumb one?)

So when reading or re-reading "Freakonomics", ponder who does more harm, the children of the poor or the scions of the Establishment.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Max Keiser's "financial terrorists": some statistics

Giotto: "Massacre of the Innocents" (1305)

Ever since 2008, econo shock jock Max Keiser has famously - and repeatedly - called bankers "financial terrorists". It's hard to assess the exact cost in human life because the causal chain is complex, but be assured that white-collar thieving and financial manipulation is not victimless.

For example, a study published this summer in the British Medical Journal estimates that nearly 5,000 suicides are indirectly attributable to the economic downturn.

Also this year, a paper by Friedman Schady at the World Bank looked at infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, and concluded that in 2009 alone there were an additional 28,000 - 50,000 infant deaths - mostly girls, by the way - because of the "bankers' global financial crisis". That's only one region, in only one year.

The Germans have a phrase: "Wehe, wehe!" - "Woe, woe!" - a lament, but also a warning.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Abort the ruling class!

One of the more controversial chapters in "Freakonomics" (2005) suggested that abortion among the lower classes helped to reduce crime by killing off potential offenders in the womb (though pro-lifers now argue the opposite case). The authors hastened to repudiate the implication that this should influence public policy, but people do now sometimes cite that vicious factoid as a ho-ho response to the problems of our economy; if we were to take them seriously, then like King Herod, they would be prepared to kill a whole town's infants in order to nail the future threat represented by a single child.

But when considering crime and social class, we run into difficulties of definition with respect to crime. If the underlying principle of the common law is "do no harm", then whether by incompetence or callous negligence, far greater crimes have been committed by financial manipulators than by common criminals - and the former are not only unpunished, but continue to be unbelievably well-rewarded for it. Indeed during the emergency bailouts, some bankers got bumper bonuses because they included the bailout money as part of the turnover on which their payouts were based.

Looking at conventional crime, a Home Office study issued in 2000 estimated the total economic cost to the UK at £59.9 billion p.a (about £1,000 per head of population).:


http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110218135832/rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/hors217.pdf
 
http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110218135832/rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/hors217.pdf

Compare that with the IMF's 2009 estimate of the cost to the UK of the 2008 banking crisis: £1,227 billion; the equivalent of some £20,500 per man, woman and child in this country - in one year! Not to mention the £375 billion p.a. "quantitative easing" still ongoing.

We can also ask, how do we define cost? John Mortimer's fictional barrister Horace Rumpole points out that criminals make a good living for professionals like himself. GDP, employment and tax revenues (though not real net wealth) are increased by all this economic "activity". But how much prosperity and employment did the financial rescue create? Not that it is actually a rescue: I suspect that disaster has merely been deferred, and possibly exacerbated to boot.

I do not support abortion; but if I did, I should rather be looking to terminate potential bankers than potential burglars.

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.