Gordon Brown’s on the office TV, injecting another £37bn into Britain’s banks and taking shares in them.
I have an odd feeling about this, because I understand the situation on two levels. The MBA part of me realises that a working banking sector is essential to a networked economy, and the capitalist part of me (that’s nearly all of me, actually) accepts that with government proffering cash, they’re not going to take responsibility for their errors since that’d mean accepting more strings attached. All of this I understand.
But part of me is a populist rabble-rouser, and that part wants me to head for Speaker’s Corner and yell the obvious: that the incredible £500bn value put at risk by Brown on Thursday didn’t work. It didn’t ungum the interbank market; it didn’t reassure investors. On Friday, the FTSE fell another 8%. We’re getting Black Mondays every week at the moment.
Just how much taxpayers’ money is it going to take for Britain’s bankers to start doing their damn jobs?
What these bankers did is far, far worse than simply making bad decisions. Their lack of understanding of the most fundamental risk factor of all – does it feel right? – has resulted in a loss of confidence in capitalism itself. All over the world, government is taking stakes in banks and says on boards. (Brown states government shareholdings will be at ‘arms’ length’; fine, he can believe that if he wants to. Public ownership always leads to meddling by public officials, and in this case, they’d seem to have every right to do so.)
We’re heading back to the 1970s, of Red unions and nationalised industries, mass unemployment, phenomenal taxes and work-to-rule. The British economy has just been put back 30 years. Let’s just hope Cameron is a new Thatcher.