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The Financial Times

I do not often look at, and never buy, the Financial Times newspaper. Partly, and perhaps unfairly, because of the Marxists it used to employ and partly because the main relatively free market voice in the newspaper is that of Samuel Britton – a man who supported the exchange rate fixing ERM of the European Union. A very bitter political dispute in Britain some years ago, about which people on opposite sides still carry a lot hatred to this day – well if they are unforgiving people like me they do.

However, I happened to see a copy of the Financial Times a few days ago and had a brief look at it.

There was an article by Lawrence Summers suggesting three steps to avoid an American recession. The three steps were basically “more subsides, more subsidies and more subsides”. People who owned money on their houses were to be helped by the government (via various “private” entities it controls), the banks who are suffering a “credit crunch” were to be helped as well, and the whole system was to get more money also.

Why not just print the money and throw it into the streets at random? Or if computers must be used, just tell everyone they have ten per cent more money in their bank accounts?

Perhaps because following a Major Douglas style approach is too open and public. The political merit of complex and private subsidies, as supported by Lord Keynes, is that it both gets powerful private special interests on the side of the credit-money expansion and keeps things from the attention of the general public. Of course one must not ask too many questions about what caused the credit money bubble in the first place – just a bit of vague talk about “animal spirits” or “speculation” will do. As Mr Summers says “the time to worry about bad debts is over” – we must “keep the credit flowing”.

So the way to deal with a credit-money bubble is to increase the amount of credit-money. Well the Federal Reserve, and the rest of the system, have been playing this game a long time – the last serious effort to let the system clear itself out was in the early 1980’s when Paul Volker was head of the Fed. And with the basic situation, the entitlement programs and so on, so vulnerable now I do not see much chance of people of power accepting a clear out – till it is forced on them by events.

As for the Financial Times, articles like the one by Mr Summers reminded me why it is a good idea not to buy it.

I did look at the article directly below Mr Summers’ article. It was about how the Democrats should not give any “hint” that they are hoping for defeat in Iraq – which is odd as many of the Democrats have been doing everything short of conducting a Black Mass to Satan in the hope of that there would be defeat in Iraq. The article also said that the Democrats have a “winner” in their idea of the United States government organizing health care for 300 million people.

Enough said.

5 comments to The Financial Times

  • Elisabeth

    There was also a terrible puff-piece about Germany’s courageous stand against ‘global warming’ and how happily Vaterstaat now decides how I may be allowed to heat my house.

    The data they supplied to back up the effectiveness of German ecological measures, of course, used 1990 as a baseline. An 18% percent drop in emissions would amound to the introduction of unleaded gasoline, the politically-possible shutdown of a few coal plants and the transformation from oil and coal heating systems to those that suck on Gasoprom’s gassy breasts. Seems about right to me.

    It looks as if the Ossis did bring something to the party, after all.

    “Germany has cut emissions by 18 per cent since 1990, compared with a 50 per cent increase in Spain and a 25 per cent rise in Ireland according to DIW, a German think-tank.”

  • Johnathan Pearce

    This is hardly a new observation, but a good one. The FT has been at best a half-hearted supporter of red-blooded capitalism for years; it is corporatist in its overall tilt, rather than pro-entrepreneurial. Partly this reflects the fact that its core readership – so it thinks – are investors in listed companies rather than creators of business startups. It tends, therefore, to take a not-very-hostile view of regulation, of the whole Green movement, of Labour, of taxes, etc. It is moderately Keynsian. Even on free trade, it tends to assume that the best way to operate is via supra-national organisations.

    None of this, as I said, is very surprising. However, now that Murdoch owns the Wall Street Journal and its affiliates, the FT faces a potential business killer in the form of the WSJ, which is more robustly laissez faire, more robustly in favour of low, flat taxes, etc.

    Also, the pages of the Telegraphs (daily and Sunday) are more emphatically pro-free enterprise these days; the Economist is a bit like the FT, The Business, sister publication to the Spectator, is probably the most pro-laissez-faire publication of the lot.

  • Paul Marks

    I agree about “The Business” Johnathan.

    On the “Wall Street Journal”, R.M. has a taken a risk – he paid a high price.

    The “Wall Street Journal Editorial Report” is a good show – but it was on Fox News anyway. Hopefully W.S.J. people will leave MSNBC and go over to Fox Business Network – but I believe that the contract with MSNBC still has some time to run.

    So the idea is to make WSJ a player in the newspaper market in every major area of the country (not just available, but a player) and perhaps overseas also.

    Only then will the investment really work – relying on internet stuff on its own will not do the job.

    I would love to see the idea work – their needs to be real competition in the American newspaper workld not these boring (and declining) unofficial monopoly newspapers in so many of the big cities.

    However, I am not a businessman and I just do not know whether it will work.

    One thing he does have in his favour – there is no need to print the WSJ in New York and transport it all over the county.

    The internet means (and has meant for some time) that one can simply transmit the copy electronically and then print and distribute locally.

    Perhaps with local ads for different parts of the country.

  • Sunfish

    If the WSJ were able to buy local news from local sources and incorporate it into market-specific editions, I’d buy it. I’d subscribe even at an increased price to cover the cost.

    Let’s say they bought the Denver and Colorado news from the Rocky Mountain News, I’d be all over that. (Reading this, Mr. Murdoch? I got your $200 or so/year just waiting)

  • R. Richard Schweitzer

    You overlook Martin Wolf