The Irish Financial Crisis

One of the main lessons that economists claim we have learnt from the 1930 crash and the subsequent depression that lasted most of the decade (and arguably contributed to the war that followed), was that the beggar thy neighbour policy of competitive currency devaluations was a major cause and should never be repeated.

How is it that the Eurosceptics in their smug gloating over the problems of the Euro, have completely ignored (or are ignorant of) this lesson.  Just because England is not in a fixed currency regime with Europe, does not mean that the rest of the world will give us Carte Blanche to get out of our problems by making theirs worse.

Who can we trust in business?

I was recently sent the results of a survey by T-Mobile (see bottom of the post) which says that most people will turn to their spouse for advise rather than any professional advisor.

Personally I think this is an entirely rational response.

When I see Bank advertising that one should go to their Bank Manager for help with life’s problems, it makes me want to report them to the to the Advertising Standards body for being misleading.  We all know that the Bank Manager has a very clear agenda controlled by the Bank and it is carefully designed to benefit the Bank irrespective of the interests of the customer.

Most professionals can be identified by the way in which their terms and conditions carefully absolve them from any responsibility under any circumstances.

Anybody with any savings knows that the financial services industry has been great at delivering fantastical fees to itself, but very poor at delivering any benefit to savers.

If people now are very cautious about entering the shark infested waters where advise come with fees attached that the average person can never aspire too, that is probably to the good.

Research attributed to T-Mobile (I cannot vouch for this)

Small business owners are more likely to trust their spouses over accountants or bank managers to give open business advice, a new report has discovered.

The research found that over half of the UK’s small business bosses will turn to their husband, wife or partner at the first instance to receive honest and straight-talking business advice.

According to the national survey of 2,000 small company owners, 51% preferred to talk to their spouse or partner than accountants at 22%. Only 3% said they would prefer to approach trade bodies or other local businesses and a mere 2% said they would expect candid advice from their bank manager.

Martin Lyne, director of SME marketing at T-Mobile, who conducted the survey, said: “80% of the small businesses we polled stated they take advice from people who will give them the truth and will tell it to them straight. As a supplier, we need to take a straight talking approach, offering small business owners uncomplicated products and services that simply help them get on with what they do best. The last thing we want to do is waste their time.”

The survey also revealed that the trend was greatest in the north, with nearly six out of 10 small business owners in Liverpool and Newcastle (58%) turning to their wives and husbands over accountants. Furthermore, Londoners were the least trusting of bank managers, with only 1% turning to them for clear guidance.

Judi James, one of the UK’s leading behavioral experts, said: “This research from T-Mobile highlights how highly we value those who get to the point and give it to us straight when discussing business issues.

It’s understandable that we tend to turn to our partners for this honest and clear advice – they have the same goals as us and understand the complexities of the possible answers to our problems. Unlike other advisors, they have no hidden agenda and aren’t trying to impress us to secure a contract.”

The next banking crisis

British banks have lendings of £7bn which is about 5 times the British GDP; and that is far worse than the ratio that precipitated the banking crisis that is devastating the Irish economy.

The risk is that at some time in the next few months or years there will be another British Banking crisis, probably precipitated by the market deciding that British asset values are about to collapse and that the Bank balance sheets are vulnerable to attack – after all nothing has changed since the last banking crisis.  The difference this time round will be that the government will not be able to bail out the banks.

So then it will be up to an EU and IMF to devise a $ and € support package, and they will insist that we do not use competitive devaluations to export our way out of trouble.

Are the banks and government doing enough to avoid this outcome? I really doubt it!

If the world had only 100 people:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere
8 Africans
52 females
30 whites
70 non-Christians
11 homosexuals
6 Americans possessing over half of all the wealth
80 living in substandard housing
70 who wouldn’t know how to read
50 suffering from malnutrition
1 near death
1 near birth
1 with a college education
1 with a computer

Chaos theory and economics

This was an article I wrote in 2001, but it seems appropriate to repeat it…

I have been following your articles on the various arguments between those (American) economists who demand greater transparency in financial markets as a solution to recent instability, and those who believe in a supra-national regulator.  (Gordon Brown, yourself, me).

It reminded me of the description of Physics at the beginning of James Gleick’s book on Chaos theory.  “Physics”, he said, “has been going down a reductionist cul de sac in which more and more is known about less and less.”  The insight of chaos theory is that in the ‘natural’ world, there are things that are inherently unknowable because small changes have large effects in conditions of instability.

It therefore follows that during periods of economic instability one will never be able to disclose sufficient information to overcome the danger of the system running out of control.  Only regulatory institutions with the power to manage periodic crises can give us the security we all crave.

The high speed rail link

All three major political parties have endorsed the plan to invest £60bn in a high speed rail link that will shave minutes off the journey time of a few very rich people travelling between London and Scotland.

The alternative would be to invest that same amount amount of money to enable the UK to implement Optic fibre Internet to about 96% of all homes and businesses.

Now at the moment, a typical ADSL internet connection will deliver about 5Mbps downloads and a measly 0.8 Mbps.  With an optic fibre network we would be able to get something around 50Mbps upload and download speeds.  What impact would that have?

  • Suddenly we can have high quality video conferencing to a large HD screens without any lagging on the sound.
  • Cloud computing becomes a reality and that will create yet another technology revolution.
  • VPN and all sorts of desk top sharing applications that currently have to compromise quality because of bandwidth, would alter the way we manage our businesses and undertake learning.
  • Interconnected appliances
  • and of course, instant downloadable TV
  • Plus many other advantages that we cannot even imagine yet

There are countries that are already well advanced in creating an Optic Fibre infrastructure, like South Korea and Scandinavia.  But in these times of austerity the British government has decided to invest heavily in the infrastructure that made that made us great at the time of the Victorian Empire.

This is being done in our name, but it should be stopped.