Sunday, October 31, 2010

He who pays the piper

Why do we talk about British freedom and independence when our political and business leaders have sold the country from under us?

Germany's Deutsche Bahn has owned the Royal Train since 2007 and has now just sacked the manager despite his 30 years' service. Follow the money, and you'll see that you have to pay a Frenchman to get from England to Wales across the Severn. The Frogs also own British Energy. Cadbury's is now American, HP Sauce Dutch, Coca-Cola has just closed down Malvern Water, even the UK's tax offices are owned by a property company based in Bermuda... Banking, car manufacture (or rather, assembly), we could go on. It would be far easier to list the few major enterprises that are still (as ultimate beneficiary) British-owned.

A new book by Matt Taibbi reveals that the same is now going on in America.

Will it eventually become a war of the people against their rulers?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

UK banking system overconcentrated

According to the advert on the left of this article, the USA has 7,830 banks of which 437 are judged to be in immediate danger of failing. Assuming that happens, that leaves 7,393 banks servicing a population of 310,592,000 - equivalent to a little over 42,000 people per bank.

The UK has "about 400" banks and building societies (FSA list here) to service a population of 62,008,049 - equivalent to over 155,000 per bank.

In other words, the US has about 3.69 times the number of banks per million head of population - a much smaller average customer base, but a correspondingly larger reserve of lesser-sized organisations to take up the slack if one or more of the big ones goes down.

This suggests that it is even more important for the UK to consider breaking up the biggest outfits, because the fall of one of our greatest trees would create a much bigger clearing in our forest than it would in the States.

Pulling the wool, or something

Is there any evidence that the EU seriously expected to get a 6% increase in its budget? Wasn't this merely a headline figure for the punters, so that Europhile leaders could go back to their nations claiming a bargaining victory?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Politician requiring tuition

Alan Johnson has said he'll need to buy a book on economics now he's been made Shadow Chancellor. He's not alone, as it seems most of political class know nothing about the subject, even though many must have read PPE at Porterhouse.

What one book would you recommend politicians should read before we let them play with the toy train set of our economy?

I think a new Ladybird book would be a wonderful help - they used to be so clear and concise. So much better than turgid, shut-you-out academic and wrong.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is there such a thing as law? How about the EU?

James Higham draws our attention to a presentation by "Captain Ranty" in which the latter asserts that any law passed by our rulers has no validity without our specific individual consent.

This position has its attractions for those of us who deny that we ever consented to rule by the EU, but philosophically it has its dangers and I think we'd do better to declare that certain decisions by Parliament are ultra vires, especially the concession of any part of national sovereignty, since this is a form of dilution or abolition of the franchise that legitimises the House of Commons itself.

I attempt a doubtless flawed riposte to the freedom-loving Captain, as follows:

If you're going to take what is I think essentially an existentialist position, then remember that Sartre said (in effect) not only are you free but you cannot choose otherwise than to be free. Canonising Jean Genet means that as far as the laws and taxes are concerned, you merely note the consequences of possible actions and then decide to do whatever you're going to do. Externally you are still ruled, but presumably there is an internal change in that while you accept that some have power over you, you no longer concede them the right. There must be some sense of relief, some conservation of psychic energy in that.

But that position is not a collectivist one, for pace Sartre's aberration during the 1968 riots, otherwise he maintained there is no collective freedom. You say "Soon it will be. Soon there will be a million of us. But long before we get those kind of numbers we will have won." We? Win what? There is no "we" and far from a future victory, freedom is an inescapable initial condition. Existence precedes essence.

I believe Sartre said that you could choose to give up your freedom, but I don't think the logic of his position dictates that we should be bound by a previous decision of a past self, any more than by the diktat of another. "I've changed my mind", you'll smile.

Tiptoeing away from this road to chaos, may I suggest that Americans (which group now includes my brother) might do well to reaffirm the Constitution in all its words and guiding spirit. What wisdom your Founding Fathers had, to set down such a massive and beautifully-carved stone as the basis for the nation; we in Britain are much more vulnerable to top-down plutocratic / neo-aristocratic / bureaucratic corruption and revolution, for here the system merely smiles and tells you it's changed its mind.

Monday, October 11, 2010

One law for them...

"Insider-trading laws don't apply to Congress" - reports Denninger. Is that also true for Parliament?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Just for a laugh

Candidate's exam response, reported in a Monmouthshire village magazine:

Q. What is artificial insemination?

A. When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Gold is merely the thermometer of inflation?

The vitally important inflation / deflation debate continues. In my last post, I relayed one view, which is that the very rich and powerful will not permit runaway inflation, because it erodes the value of money and the rich have most of the money.

As a corrective, I give below the latest video from the National Inflation Association (NIA), a US group that has warned about credit growth and inflation for a long time. Their motivation appears to be patriotic - a return to sound money as part of what makes individual prosperity and freedom possible.

The NIA argues that the rise in the price of gold is not because of mass speculation, for although a lot of gold has been bought recently, a lot has also been sold. What may be happening now is a transfer of privately-held gold from relatively poor people who need to raise money, to investors who are looking ahead to a time when cash will rapidly depreciate. Think of all those gold-buying outlets (or inlets) you now see on your High Street. As someone said a while ago, the mania will be when those shops start selling you gold instead of buying it from you.

As many have now said, trading nations around the world are devaluing their currencies to keep pace with one another, for fear that their exports will be hit if they don't. So the soaring value of precious metals can be seen as a better indication of inflation than currency exchange rates.

You may think that if currencies are depreciating, then surely prices of goods and services in general must also increase rapidly, and we don't see this yet. But we are in a recession and the threat of unemployment is keeping down wage demands; the self-employed are willing to lower their rates, perhaps especially if paid in cash; and traders in items such as cars and computers are offering discounts to clear stock and keep paying their overheads.

However, the NIA and others say there will come a time when the system begins to crack. Governments are buying their own debt, or lending money to banks to do it for them, to maintain the appearance of normality and control; this can't go on forever. The prediction is that we will get either default or hyperinflation. So the gold bugs say buy gold, silver, maybe oil and agricultural commodities etc - anything tangible that can't be multiplied at will.

I don't think (feel) that the turning point is imminent, because of recession and the attempts by some governments (such as the UK) to retrench. But I fear that these last-ditch attempts are untimately doomed to partial or complete failure. In that case, the gold bugs will probably be vindicated.

The other thing I'd say, as I've said before, is that if the system really does come under severe strain, the price of gold may not be the most important of your concerns. If you accept the inflationists' thesis, you will be quietly making preparations to cope with emergencies of different kinds.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Down with the Bolligarchs!

"Governing is quite simple, really," remarked Kameronski. "It's merely a matter of knouting the krestyan and taxing the burzhuaznyĭ. Some," and he looked about him meaningfully as a dread silence enveloped the room, "fail to understand the necessity of firmness."

The figure on the right in the last image is that of the hapless Osbornski, purged with other moderates and revisionists in the ensuing Party reorganisation. His wilier successor Clarkov, known as "old Stone-Liver", survived until the latter half of the decade.