Wednesday, September 09, 2009


'Business as Usual' in World of Finance a Disgrace to Democratic Government

Don't know about you, but I've been gradually been getting furious about the 'business as usual' return to normal in the financial world. Reading George Monbiot's article yesterday managed to escalate my mood to something approaching 'incensed'. In the imediate aftermath of the meltdown there seemed a universal resolve to curb the bonus culture, break up banks 'too big to fail' and prevent trade in derivatives from returning as a hostage to fortune for all our futures. Perhaps Monbiot is over-reacting a little in blaming so much on Gordon Brown but there does seem to be a fair degree of culpability.

In 2004 he told an audience of bankers that "in budget after budget I want us to do even more to encourage the risk takers". In 2007 he boasted that the City's success was the result of the government "enhancing a risk-based regulatory approach, as we did in resisting pressure for a British Sarbannes-Oxley after Enron and Worldcom".

At the G20 meeting last Saturday in London, moves to reduce bonuses were effectively curtailed. Brown and Darling had already scuppered the Sarkozy-Merkel initiative to apply a cap to bonuses. It was as if their City advisers had said to them:

'You have to realise the bottom line is that the world of finance is fuelled by greed. Unless you allow traders and top bankers to earn more money than they can possibly spend in their lifetimes, the system just won't work and all our finance talent will bugger off somewhere else.'

The result is that City bonuses this year will probably top £4bn. Monbiot commets:

Nothing has been learned, because governments are not prepared to teach them a lesson. The only firm response to the crisis so far has been to give our money to the people who caused it... But, timid as they might be, all the proposals put forward so far have been dismissed out of hand by a government terrified of confronting the City's misbegotten might.

And, at the end of the day, one wonders what the City actually does that is socially useful? Monbiot reckons the much vaunted tax take from its activities amounts to a mere £12.4bn per year in corporation tax from an actual liability of £1.2 trillion because of clever tax avoidance. Most of what the City does anyway is effectively to gamble with existing money; it does not create wealth in the way manufacturing does for example. Most voters are appalled at how the major beneficiaries from the recent implosion of international finance have proved to be the very perpetrators of that disaster. I never thought I'd say this, after the seventies, but it really is enough to make one look again at the prescriptions of the revolutionary socialists.

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