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A Bit More News for Gordon Brown and his party

Last night I watched Have I Got a Bit More News for You?, which is the extended Saturday night version of the BBC’s popular current affairs and comedy quizz show. Something interesting was said, and even more interestingly, not contradicted. HIGN4Y regular Ian Hislop was commenting on the Mini- Pre- Budget that isn’t really a Budget, but really is. He said that the country had got into terrible trouble because of everyone borrowing too much money. And the government’s answer is that the government is going to borrow lots more money. General derision, and no contradictions from anybody. I don’t know what Germaine Greer’s economic policy prejudices are, but going by her other opinions, I thought maybe she might make some attempt to defend the government’s economic policy, if only by quickly changing the subject. No. Nothing like that.

Come to think of it, I have all this on my telly hard disc. Bear with me. Yes, here we go:

Hislop: “It’s a whole package of measures to save us all! We’ve got into terrible trouble for years by excess borrowing, so we’re going to … borrow!!!!!” Derisive hand gesture. Derisive laughter from studio audience. “That’s it, that’s the whole report.”

Young Comedian sitting next to Hislop: “Isn’t it that we’re going to be a trillion pounds in debt, after this?”

Hislop: “Yes.”

Young Comedian: “That is an awful lot … If you bring up your bank balance and it says that, you’ll feel pretty crushed, I think.”

Hislop: “It’s bad, isn’t it?”

Young Comedian: “I don’t know how I’m going to make that back, Ian.”

Hislop: “Well, you’re young enough that you will have to make it back. We’ll all be dead.”

Young Comedian: “I suppose so. I thought no one else looked as worried about it as I was. What was Damien Hirst doing in the middle of that?”

Damien Hirst has been laying off art workers. When the silly price of silly art slumps, you know the economy is tanking. Later, they had a reference to the fact that the bail-out is costing us twice what World War 1 cost us. Paul Merton said that this won’t be over by Christmas either, to general laughter. And, as I say, not a peep out of Germaine G about this catastrophe.

The central point is this. We borrowed far too much – Now the government says we must borrow far too much more thereby making our children and grandchildren into tax serfs – How idiotic is that? This is fast becoming the Grand Narrative here. If so, and given that the Conservatives are saying this too, that Labour melt-down is becoming a real possibility.

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10 comments to A Bit More News for Gordon Brown and his party

  • Midwesterner

    Brian,

    I don’t know how this is being handled in the UK but an as yet unanswerable question that concerns me re the US is whether this bail-out/rescue/stimulus (helicopter money) will be billed to the taxpayers or to holders of dollars. It comes down to whether or not the the ‘loan’ is payed back and if not, is it covered with newly created money (devaluing existing dollars) or with money extracted from the tax payers. The third option would be for the gov to default on its own debts but I don’t see that happening. They would just create new money if it came to that strait.

    I assume there is a similar question with regard to the UK/Brown bail-out/rescue/stimulus package(s). If the inflationary money creating approach is taken and the pound fails as a currency, the consequences are much different than if the dollar fails. The UK would be forced into the Euro and all that that entails. I recommend watching the usual suspect Europhiles and the EU directives for any deliberate pound trashing activities. Quite likely some sort of euros for pounds swap will be proposed. One more way to soak the UK to fund the continent.

  • Michael Taylor

    Brian, it’s not ‘a narrative’, it’s the truth.

    There is all the difference in the world.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes the “I have news for you” crowd may be media types with, normally, off-the-peg “progressive” opinoion. But they are also (and this I am often guilty of forgetting) intelligent people with a lot of common sense when it comes to organizing their own lives and work.

    So when these men look at the idea that vast debts (often created by funny money that had no real existance as savings in the first place) can be dealt with by yet more “lending” (i.e. more “expansion of the money supply”) such things as “the hair of the dog” in relation to the problems with booze, or “one more score”, in relation to the withdrawing from drugs spring to mind.

    Milton Friedman actually pointed this out – but (tragically) he was a trained mainstream economist who had been taught from his most early years that it was the duty of government to bailout financial markets in a time of crises.

    The many years of training (training in things that are just not true) is something that the “I have news for you” people do not have.

    Their common sense tells them that if one man borrows then another man must save (not consume) this amount of borrowing – not just a bit of the borrowing (otherwise “where did the money come from that was borrowed” – where indeed).

    And their common sense also tells them that if someone lends money (in some very complex way) to people who do not pay them back, then the lender goes bankrupt.

    He does not stay on the Board – as (for example) Robert Rubin has at Citigroup. In spite of the two TRILLION Dollars of “toxic assets” that has been gathered due to Mr Rubin’s advice (Mr Rubin has been involved in such tricks since he used his influence with the Clinton Administration to get Enron’s debt problems covered up.

    To someone from “Private Eye” Robert Rubin would seem like a crook (because he is a crook) – not a “leading intellectual and titan of finance”.

  • Michael Taylor,

    “Brian, it’s not ‘a narrative’, it’s the truth.”

    But the narrative often does not reflect the truth, particularly so in the last few decades.

    I believe that one of the functions of Samizdata is to help establish a narrative that does reflect the truth.

  • TT

    Your “But” should surely be an “And”.

    MT

    Narratives can be true. Sherlock Holmes would often say to a client something like: “Madam, pray continue with your narrative.” There was no implication that what Madam was saying was untrue.

    Just because the lit critics who like narratives also hate truth, that doesn’t mean that the rest of us should just surrender the word to them, and allow it to mean only made-up nonsense.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Given that HIGNFY is a leftist show in its general tilt and choice of guests, this is quite significant.

    This has been a terrible week for the government. Excellent.

  • Michael Taylor

    My point was this: that the term ‘narrative’ in the political context has become indistinguishable from the whatever damned lies the political/media class feels like peddling at any particular moment. C.f. the entire output of the BBC.

    The truth, by contrast, is unchangeable, unalterable, and when perceived, the most powerful political force that exists. We have had a moment of truth here, and things will never be the same.

    So less narrative, more truth.

    Also Brian, I don’t buy your appeal to Sherlock Holmes: he does indeed place fantastic faith in the power of his own extensively-imagined ‘narrative’. But then he was a junky, so a certain amount of over-confidence might at some points be expected. More to the point, A Conon Doyle made it up, you know. . . .

    PS. I’ve just read ‘A Study in Scarlet’. Do existing British laws still allow its publication? I’d have thought it would make the Mormons very unhappy – even if not necessarily murderously so.

  • Paul,
    Your drugs and booze analogies are good but I can think of a better one. It is gambling. Brown and Co have already thrown the car-keys and the deeds to the house into the pot and are desperately hoping that the next card revealed makes their straight flush…

    There is a simple rule with gambling. If you have a few quid on the hip then dropping it for a night’s amusement at the dog-track (and heck you might actually win!) is fine and dandy. If i’s the bloody mortgage or the kid’s next visit to the dentist then don’t do it.

    This simple truth doesn’t occur to the likes of Brown. Like the poker player facing penury if the next card isn’t the 8 of hearts they have to win. There confidence is based upon this. They have to win otherwise the consequences are unimaginably awful. Of course that need is not necessarily reflected in the inscrutable laws of probability anymore than Bodger and Badger’s need is reflected in the laws of economics.

    They are gambling far beyond their means and all they can say is “We have to win”. Well, grow up children. Just because you really, really want something to happen don’t make it so.

    I am not erudite in economics. I don’t actually think you need to be. I recall in the 80s the howling about Maggie T’s economics being based on her Dad’s corner-shop. And that this was a bad thing forgetting of course that Mr Roberts ran a successful corner-shop and quite frankly that’s a better thing to do than run a tanking conglomerate.

    Seared into the brains of every chancellor, banker, PM and whatnot should be the eternal words of wisdom that Mr Dicken’s put into the mouth of Mr Micawber:

    “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”

    It is that bloody simple. Of course it’s not particularly big or clever and it certainly ain’t “Neo-Classical Endogenous Growth Theory” or whatever wank Ed Balls wrote for the now thoroughly rusted Iron Chancellor but… Fuck me! Being right is sometimes just common-bastarding-sense.

  • Midwesterner

    They are gambling far beyond their means . . .

    They are gambling far beyond their our means . . .

    There. Fixed.

  • Brian,

    You will love this Fred Thompson bit: No Little Screw Ups Will Be Rewarded from the Former Colonies.

    It is hilarious. Also true.

    Evidently it is a world wide mania.