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Showing posts from December, 2008

The British State: the biggest Ponzi scheme in history

Perhaps the oldest fraud in the financial system is the Pyramid scheme, a fraudulent operation that pays returns to investors out of the money paid by subsequent investors rather than from profit. In America, the Pyramid is known a the Ponzi scheme, after the name of one high profile fraudster of the 1920s. The principle is simple: the scheme usually offers abnormally high returns in order to entice new investors. The perpetuation of the high returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises and pays requires an ever-increasing flow of money from investors in order to keep the scheme going. Yet the system is destined to collapse because the earnings, are less than the payments. Normally the authorities intervene, although in the case of the latest pyramid scandal- that of the "funds" run by Bernard Madoff - the scale of the losses is truly vast: an estimated $ 36 billion. Yet, despite the scale of Mr. Madoff's alleged crimes, there is an even bigger Ponzi scheme, much closer to home

Gaps in time

Well a periodic return to the UK for Christmas has left me nursing a dose of the flu- hence blogging silence. When on the mend I shall renew normal service.

Learning the wrong lessons from the Crash

The scale of the financial and economic crisis that we now face, across the globe, is exceptional. It not just the absolute numbers- which, in a growing economy increase anyway- but the relative numbers which now look eye-popping. The scale of capital destruction is now even beyond the levels of the 1930s. There is no measure that we can grasp that means anything. Many assets- like your house- are unsaleable at any reasonable price, possibly at any price at all. Meanwhile, Britain is choosing to take on the unlimited liabilities of the banking sector, and thus nearly doubling long term government debt and massively increasing state control over the economy. The idea of bank nationalisation- rejected by socialists in the past as too radical- is now embraced across much of the political spectrum. Government investment and even control is regarded as vital. Er... hang on a minute. It is not freedom or the free market that got us into this mess. It was the fervent belief by bankers that

More Migrationwatch twaddle

I have never had much time for Andrew Green - the absurd extrapolations of questionable statistics that his "Migration Watch" group publish periodically serve only to get a few scare story headlines rather than actually contributing to the debate on migration. Since Mayor Boris Johnson- a figure who increasingly impresses me- mused publicly about the idea of an amnesty for illegal immigrants, it was only a matter of time before Green would publish some swivel-eyed nonsense. The scare story headline was that "legalising" illegals would cost £4 billion. However even before we start, we find that half of this is somehow attributable to the partners and families of illegals- many of whom are actually already legal British tax payers. So even on Mw's numbers, then the cost falls by half to the still eye-popping £2 billion. Then you look at the assumptions. Essentially Migration Watch assume that those who are working would not only not pay tax, but would instead beco

De Mortuis....

A principle said to have been first recorded by Chilon of Sparta, but more usually given in Latin is " de mortuis nil nisi bonum decendum est "- "Of the dead speak nothing unless good", or rather, do not speak ill of the dead. Yet there are those where it is very hard to adhere completely to this rule. I don't mean such obvious villains like Stalin, but more nuanced figures. Such a figure is the late Russian Orthodox Patriarch, Alexius II. His death at 79, announced on December 5 th , came after a long illness. In its wake came a raft of obituaries and even the conventional obsequies hinted that there was perhaps rather more to this man than a conventional prelate. Alexey Ridiger was not born in Russia, but in independent Estonia in 1929. he was the child of a German Baltic baron and a Russian mother. Although his family had fled to Tallinn to escape persecution, he was not a figure likely to be friendly to his birthplace. Nevertheless even after the

The Speaker: on and on and...?

Mr. Speaker Martin is holed below the waterline. His attempt to brazen out his crisis by placing sufficient blame on the Sarjeant at Arms to distract attention from his own personal culpability in allowing Police to search the Parliamentary office of Damian Green MP at best strained credulity and at worst was simply contemptible cowardice. The support he is receiving from such figures as Peter Mandelson demonstrates the scale of the Speaker's failure: his performance has become a matter of party politics. Now, we understand, the Speaker intends not only to remain in office until the next election, which might have been tolerated even by a House of Commons that has been severely shaken by his incompetence and cowardice, but even to stay in office after the next election. This is simply not acceptable. The next election could lead to a hung Parliament, with Labour losing the popular vote and yet still gain the larger number of seats. In such circumstances the country must have confid

The Self Server self serves.

All opponants of this Labour government will now need to be adamantine in their discipline this afternoon. The disgraceful intervention by the poisonous figure of Lord Mandelson is a deliberate attempt to pour petrol on the flames of justified indignation over the detention and arrest of Damian Green MP. To accuse those who are already extremely angry at the contempt of Parliament that the executive has shown of being "self-serving" is outrageous. It is also a deliberate attempt to wind up the opposition and ensure that the effectiveness of their attack on the partisan and incompetent Mr Speaker Martin is blunted. It is a classic of the Mandelsonian oeuvre of political wickedness. I think the agenda of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and those Labour MPs who are also deeply concerned about what has happened needs to be to protect Parliament above all else. After that, if the Speaker is culpable, then he must face severe censure and consider his position. As for the c

Defining Liberalism

Stephen Tall, in a terrific post at Lib Dem voice , has made a challenge: to sum up the idea of the Liberal Democrats in a single phrase or sentence. He points out that Conservatives can sum themselves up as supporters of "wealth creation", and Socialists as supporters of "equality". It is of course very difficult and may be pointless to try to sum up the richness and power of liberal ideology in a single phrase, after all the Wikipedia article on the subject of Liberalism is one of the largest. Nevertheless, in response to challenge from the former Deputy Lord Mayor of Oxford, I will give it a go: "Liberals believe in the perfect right of the individual to control their own destiny"

Nick Clegg: Time to listen as well as talk

The latest gossipy nonsense published by the Sunday Mirror reporting comments that Nick Clegg made in a conversation with Danny Alexander on the flight to Inverness that were overheard by a journalist are no more than the trivia of political backstabbing. They can - of themselves- be safely ignored, however embarrassing they may be. However, as with the unfortunate interview where Nick gave a -no doubt truthful- account of his sexual experience, and his rather weird comments recently about what his family are doing to face the credit crunch (not much), the fact is that he has again been rather too loose-lipped in public. Although I do not know Nick Clegg personally, I have known several past leaders of the Liberal Democrats quite closely: Charles Kennedy is a long time family friend for example, and as a former Scottish activist, I have also been on friendly terms with Ming (and Elspeth) Campbell. Paddy Ashdown remains a personal hero of mine. I am very well aware of the problems, both

The Speaker for The Constitution

The arrest and detention of Damian Green MP marks a point where executive power has been deployed against the very legislature to which it is supposed to be accountable . Rightly, figures amongst all parties have expressed profound concern. The badly drafted and anti-liberal terrorism legislation that MPs agreed, despite widespread public misgivings and the deep opposition of Liberal Democrats, has actually been deployed against one of their own members. In fact it appears that the Parliamentary authorities actually agreed to permit the Police to search Mr. Green's Office. There are two responses. Firstly it is now quite clear that supposedly "anti-terrorist" legislation is being used as a catch-all. The seizure of the assets of Iceland: a friendly power and fellow NATO member, and the arrest of Mr. Green demonstrates that much of this legislation has far too broad an application. The measures should at the very least be redrafted to permit only a specific scope, or -bett