Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The invisible hand

Last night's Dispatches, How the Banks Bet Your Money and Lost, on Channel 4 was a masterfully edited (OK, by my film making nephew) documentary that clearly explained the credit crunch, Northern Rock and other dodgy aspects of finance for a lay audience. For once, it concentrated on the main losers. No, not listeners to Radio 4's Money Box, but poor, working class Americans who have lost their homes and neighbourhoods.

Watching it, it struck me that, in this case, Adam Smith's famous aphorism should read,

... he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which dumps millions of other people in the shit whilst he keeps the million pound bonuses he is paid for creating the whole mess.


Larkers said...

I agree the programme was timely but badly dramatised; camera locations looming over the city and a 'Hollywood' feel to it. This is partly because the programme makers have lost faith in factual exposition.

My real quibble with programme was over the allocation of responsibility. This was laid at Gordon Brown's feet. This I find hard to understand. I am not a believer in conspiracy theories (cock up, yes) but Brown's name or face is now always associated with failings and mishaps as de riguer. I fear the media have turned against him and no weight of evidence can change their view of him.

Northern Rock is the consequence of Thatcher's liberalisation and demutualisation policies. Her Chancellor Nigel Lawson's attempted comparison with his own actions taken as a consequence of the Johnson Matthey Bank collapse is risible. I did not ever see a branch of that bank anywhere; Northern Rock branches are a familiar High Street sight. Had the government simply allowed 'market forces' to operate then the consequences would have indeed been grave. "If you touch it it is yours" operates here. The responsibility of Northern Rock, its Board, auditors and shareholders are being sidelined for attacks on Brown.

Many in the industry (Nicola Horlick for one) were and are confident that Northern Rock's core business is sound with a good mortgage book. In this they were stoutly opposed by the self-effacing Vince 'The Knife' Cable who was of the opinion that the country was facing financial catastrophe, much to the annoyance of one City type I heard.

But I have to agree, it was sobering to see the destructive waste (criminal comes to mind) that has been inflicted on blue collar Americans by this wild greedy scam.

Daniel Owen said...

I posted a really ace vid about capitalist banking on my blog, here:


Good stuff. If you're researching the history of anarchism, good on you! I'm a revolutionary syndicalist.

-- Daniel Owen