Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday 26 September 2008

PM wants what he calls 'financial responsibility'

... and according to this report he considers a part of that to be support for the USD700bn bail-out of the US financial sector currently wending its way, with some difficulty, through the US Congress.

Personally I'm with some of those ordinary Americans I saw in news reports tonight who said that market forces should be allowed to run their course; those finance houses that have loaned money badly should be allowed to go to the wall and should not be bailed-out. It that were to happen it would be excruciatingly painful of course and undoubtedly a lot of people would suffer in the short term, but until this happens we are only storing up yet more painful disasters in the future. The same goes for the UK of course - Northern Rock should have been allowed to fail and public money (i.e. the money taxpayers have had extorted out of them by governments) should not be used to bail out comemrcial failure.

I believe in capitalism, but for it to work efficiently governments need to get out of the habit of manipulating markets. That's the only way that commercial firms, whether borrowers or lenders, will begin to take responsibility for their own decisions, rather than expect tax-payers to bail them out when things go wrong. Of course ordinary citizens need to be reminded that they too need to act responsibly when contracting to borrow money; if people have borrowed too much when interest rates were at historic lows, with an inadequate margin of equity to back-up their borrowing, then they should have realised the dangers they were running. Perhaps lenders were greedy, but it takes two to make a contract and borrowers (commercial or retail) should not be allowed to feel they do not share a part of the blame for their own predicament.

For years and years 'consumers' in wealthy countries have grown used to having luxuries now, without saving for them, or even without saving enough to contribute even a small part of the equity when acquiring major assets such as a house, or even cars or on non-asset based expenditure such as foreign holidays to exotic locations. Politicians have pandered to the rampant borrowing culture most of us live in because, to put it crudely, there are votes in it.

Now these politicians want to apply yet more sticking-plaster to the wounds our financial system has suffered - because they fear the reactions of electorates when their votes are required. The bail-out which G W Bush is pleading for Congress to approve, and which our Prime Minister is said to support, is largely based on a fear of the electoral back-lash which is likely to occur if the bail-out doesn't go through; it is shocking, but not surprising that both McCain and Obama apparently support the bail-out, too. No one wants to face what needs to be done. Ever since he became President, Bush 43 has proved that he does not, in practice, believe in 'small government', whatever his rhetoric might say, but of course there has never ever been any doubt that Gordon Brown does not believe in small government.

Years of uncontrolled and largely unfunded consumption across the capitalist world is now coming home to roost, but the markets would given half a chance enforce a natural corrective mechanism. If the markets had not been systematically perverted by government fiscal manipulation over the past several decades then the correction that would now ne necessary would have been a lot less severe, because a lot of the excesses that have grown common in recent years would never have happened if the markets had known that governments wouldn't almost always step in to save them from their own folly.

I think I have now ranted on long enough about what is going on in our economies. To summarise, one day the markets will force a correction - if not this weekend then in a few years time when the present crisis seems like a 'blip' and our economic resources have been further depleted to the extent that our governments can no longer apply sticky-plaster to the damage.

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