Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guest blog: Ed Reynolds (1 of 2)

Gordon Brown has declared that he must act with "vision and courage" (no really) to end "The Age of Irresponsibility".

But Gord, who was it who:
- Put taxes up to record levels.
- Borrowed at record amounts (10-figures).
- Presided over a boom built on debt (10-figures).
- Has the biggest budget deficit in the G8 and almost all the developed world.
- Sold our gold reserves at the bottom of the market.
- Taxed to oblivion the pension fund which in '97 had more than the rest of Europe put together, sending many private funds broke and leaving people destitute in retirement.
- Clobbered students.
- Masked unemployment by rapidly expanding the size of the state, put everyone on final-salary pensions worth 5x that of those in the private sector.
- Spent the fund to pay public sector pensions!

It's unbelievable to me that he's got away with this. Well, now of course, it's too late. He hasn't just spent the money, but he's spent the money for nearly a century to come.

Just think about the enormity of that. Everything of value he's cashed in; every bill he's shoved under the mat for the next guy.

He's hardwired poverty into the British national DNA for generations.


Bush is nearly as bad -- his only saving grace is that at least the American stock market grew under him so there was some money being generated to make up for the money he was pissing up the wall; and he offered a timely tax rebate. But he's carried on like a big government maniac on his tinpot projects to socially engineer a country full of right little Bushes and Dicks.

See, suddenly everyone is talking sagely in revential tones about the failure of the free market. No. This is on governments.

We expect bankers to behave like, well, complete bankers because that's their job to be ruthless to generate money -- money which as well as lining their bonuses also ultimately pays for health and education and so on. I didn't see the Senate Banking Committee grumble as they were cut all those hefty cheques for their election campaigns from the mortgage giants. Nor did I see the Senate Banking Committee tapping their generous benefactors on the shoulder and saying "oi, oi" BEFORE the thing collapsed. I'm sure of course, that bail-out they arrange for their benefactors is going to be quite the slap on the wrist...

But obviously everyone screams "regulate!" as though this is a magic bullet.

Regulating the market into oblivion didn't help after Enron -- it just pushed business out of the USA. Gordon Brown's corpulent FSA, in eye-poppingly lush Canary Wharf offices, do nothing but regulate. Their last go at "pensions simplification" increased the size of the rulebook. But did it do any good? No -- our stockmarket has more or less flatlined for the last 11 years.

The FSA spent millions on thousand-page rulebooks but still couldn't tell Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley that 100% mortgages are a colossally stupid idea.

The problem is the culture, the lack of integrity, the "spend today, worry tomorrow" attitude and that comes from the top, from both Bush (where are the GOP's budget hawks?!) and Brown.

The free market works because bad businesses fail and good businesses survive. Regulation, which will clobber everyone, is counter-productive and largely pointless without a culture of integrity and responsibility from those at the top. It's for the government to say, in effect, "you break it, you buy it" way ahead of time.

When people actually carry the can for their failures, it concentrates the mind wonderfully.

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