Sunday, January 04, 2009

It's all someone else's fault

It's 2009, and still no politician (and precious few media commentators) seem to be aware of and properly acknowledging the fundamental effects of instantaneous global communication on every aspect of human endeavour.

Too much reference to historical economic precedents to look for pointers to solutions for the current shambles will be dangerously misleading. This is starting to look all too reminiscent of those "experienced" World War One generals sending in the cavalry to deal with tanks and machine guns. The 40/50 "somethings" in charge of politics and commerce generally don't fully understand technology and its implications - and the 20/30 somethings that understand technology have scant sense of political or commercial perspective. They have no concept of the rather more expansive and entrepreneurial scope and breadth of commercial life before the mountain of red tape and insidious political correctness dumbed us all down to where we are now. They probably also don't understand what it is like to have distinct choices in politics after the relatively sterile and homogeneous experience of the past 17 years or so.

There was once talk of the information superhighway providing a transparency in all things such that all markets would be level playing fields and there could never be any more big surprises arising from "obscured information". Ho ho...

Our Beloved Leader always makes reference to this being the first crisis of the "global era", but doesn't seem to understand what the words actually mean. His next remark is invariably to try and pin the blame on the USA (always failing to note that it was Clinton's Democrats and their market-bending political intervention to buy votes that lies at the root, although some go further back and suggest Nixon's cash printing to pay for the Vietnam war actually began the rot when the gold standard was abandoned). Broon's interview today with Andrew Marr was yet another tour de force of never answering the question - so why does the BBC bend over backwards to give the Auld Caledonian Fraud such a lavish and cosy a platform for his speeches?

Events like the motor car, telephone, radio and TV are all attributed with making structural changes to society and the way just about everything works. All those events were basically about "communication", and yet the most massive communication revolution of all time remains largely misrepresented and woefully misunderstood. Abuse of its possibilities has been used to good effect by slick bankers wrapping up toxic loans and then manipulating other dumber bankers using herd tactics - something that online instant communication driven by the fear of being a millisecond behind the market, supports extremely well.

The strength of the Internet always was (and will be) is ability to promote resilience through diversity - and to allow smaller and more agile operations a far more level playing field with the likes of BP and Tesco than could have been conceived of prior to its adoption. Hence the ongoing efforts of larger companies to try and crowd out and stifle competition when trying to remind government that it's simpler to manage a few huge relationships than try and manage the unruly mass of UK's smaller and more enterprising businesses. Gordon can pick up the phone to Sir Terry Leahy at Tesco and "do a deal" with the bloke running 25% of UK consumer spending; why would he want to have to try and work with 10,000 independent shopkeepers?

David Cameron is hinting at the potential for a redistribution of authority back to the people in many ways ranging from schools, to healthcare and councils. He needs to be encouraged, and commentators need to pursue him for detail, because herein lies possibly the one and only long term and viable route out of the present process-bound chaotic shambles. It is only through enabling and encouraging new small businesses that the unemployment tsunami currently gathering pace can be absorbed.

Pointless gestures like a 2.5% VAT cuts are complete smokescreen nonsense when the currency has been devalued 30-50% .

Telling bankers to lend money just after they took the biggest hit in all eternity from imprudent lending seems unlikely to get a favourable reception; especially since Broon himself is keen to absolve them of responsibility, forever blaming toxic US loans. If Broon properly attributed responsibility and tagged the many culpable UK bankers, then he would have to accept the blame as the ultimate regulator of the UK economy for the past 11 years.

We all know bankers have no imagination or capacity for analysis, so reminding them that the toxic loans were mostly not the result of mostly honest UK borrowers doesn't change their desire to protect their own jobs and pensions by clinging onto all the cash that they can. We should all be looking at paradigm-shifting ideas that operate at the core of the economy with ideas like the network-leverage of social lending schemes of Zopa.

Unless we can come up with some radical new ideas and leadership that understands where and how the world has changed, it's increasingly looking like the alternative is that we will find ourselves trapped ever more in Field Marshal Broon's grim version of WW1, and waiting for him to blow the next whistle to send more cannon fodder over the top.

It is not a cheery thought.


Joe Slavko said...

No mention of MPs voting to ensure that their expenses aren't available under the Freedom of Information Act?

Joe Slavko said...

No mention of MPs voting to ensure their expenses aren't available via the Freedom of Information Act?