Sunday, May 10, 2009

Still no ideas, Will?

The Guardian writer and BBC's favourite jouryneman economic guru, Will Hutton, is still stuck bemused in his cosy socialist world where the fairy money once grew on trees, and is still struggling to come to temrs with a world that is collapsing around his ears. Like everyone else, he can offer almost no useful and practical suggestions.

"We need to create a network of public/private banks to support industrial and infrastructure investment and we need a wholesale transformation in the short-term, risk-averse way in which British banks have treated manufacturing companies for more than a century."

Despite Armageddon, we still seem to be up to our arses in bankers, bankers and financial this-that-and-the-others. Doubtless because of Will's "form", this would all be much better under state management and control, since all he has to offer are some historic references to deluded irrelevant precedents.

"British banks [around the time of WW2] were cajoled into supporting new industries and restructuring old ones."

One thing Hutton gets right is to observer that this mess is still mostly about confidence. And by far the biggest problem is the long term crisis of confidence brought on by the government's denial of the presence of the mammoth in the room: far too much public spending and unbelievably huge amounts of public debt.

Inspiring confidence is generally about leadership, a quality that is currently absent in every sense of the word in government, and scarily also in wider society. Brown's period of "leadership" is clearly over, so no one is taking him seriously any longer - especially as his own party jostles for position in the inevitable leadership contests ahead.

The media and the electronic communication age have discouraged anyone of any quality from sticking their head above any parapet - especially when they can see examples of how easily even great talents such as Hutton [yes. we are being ironic], can be exposed to scrutiny and ridicule - and made to look naive and foolish. The present humiliation of MPs' expenses is possibly the single biggest and most sustained exposure of clay feet in the history of mankind.

Current UK "leaders" (in all walks) are almost entirely talent-free, and seem driven by nothing other than their towering greed or hubris - or both. Amongst all the banking disasters, Lloyd's Chairman, Victor Blank, stands out as a fine example of how this double jeopardy can play out.

Anyone of any quality observing the current leadership crises in finance, government, the metropolitan police and just about anywhere else that long lenses, email and Google can pry, cannot be blamed for not wanting to get involved. Yet we are headed into a puritanical frenzy of transparency and accountability that would probably be able to find and dish the dirt on St Francis or Mother Teresa. Only those who have never done anything faintly interesting in their dull grey lives will be able to survive examination under the arc lights of the New Inquisition.

So overall, this seems to be a rather bigger issue and problem than even a bloke of Hutton's immense talents and track record in solving the nation's problem can cope with.

The leaders that got us out of holes in the past tended not to be motivated purely by small scale money like fiddled expenses. Rarely did they allow a bean-counter's take on the world to get between them and their visions. Quite often, these people were obsessive about proving a point and willing to risk everything.

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