At the End of the Day

The worst ideas in history were CNN and investment banking

Life is all about ups and downs, but having them every few minutes can be tiring after a while. ‘US stocks rise on EU solution hopes’ headlined Reuters this afternoon GMT, but one click away was the Bloomberg site telling us ‘Bank warnings of EU unraveling intensify’. It must be hell living with a stocks trader. He goes into the kitchen and the headline is ‘Drink futures up on fridge sighting’. He opens the fridge door, and there’s a new headline: ‘Bears in play on negative can sighting’.

Investment banking ideas are mad, but 24/7 news makes them mad, bad and dangerous to read.

Would so much have gone wrong in the last four years if we didn’t have 24/7 news, and tickertape hadn’t been replaced by pc screens telling us the price of shrimps in Manila? Indeed, how much ‘news’ is actually just following events around – while completely failing to understand WTF is going on?

An example at the minute is Gary Speed’s tragic death. I say tragic, because he was a nice, talented and genuine man whose mind was troubled – but nobody noticed. That latter sentence is, on the big canvas, more central than his death – although of course, not for his family. Equally fulfilling would be a piece about why Gary felt he couldn’t discuss his depression with anyone. For the conspiracy theorists, an investigative piece about why such a jolly bloke couldn’t have killed himself might also illuminate things still more.

Talk to hacks about this these days, and they will often wax lyrical about the speed of events and the stark truth that sensational breaking events generate more hits than analyses. I would have two answers to that argument: it is far from true; and the existence of round-the-clock news is what helps generate the speed in the first place.

Speed as a market dictate not only reduces analysis, it also puts pressure on key decision-makers in public life. Speed in the context of media obsession becomes haste. My own view for years has been that most decisions taken in haste are bad ones. If you look at the eurocrisis for much of this year, while the general picture seems to be one of snail’s pace progress and empty spin, a great deal of the process has consisted of pointless attempts to keep the media quiet….from fear that they in turn will wind up the markets. Never in the field of human bollocks did so much haste cause so much anxiety to so many – to so little effect on on so few problems.

And there are – oh yes there are – far fewer problems than we imagine. The difficulties come when people suggest these problems are (a) many and (b) intractable. But they aren’t really. I can now exclusively reveal that that there are but three problems in the world:

1. Bankers

2. Politicians in the pockets of bankers

3. 24/7 news

That’s it. Take out 1 & 3, and life suddenly becomes so much simpler. Because with far less wealth and the minimum of news, all we’re left with is a few fabulously rich politicians with a guilty sense of social responsibility – and the sense that they might have the best part of a century to sort society’s problems out.

From 1215 to 1965 in Britain – a period of 750 years, aka 37 generations – this produced a stable culture which (despite the minute size of our island) had a ridiculously massive effect on planetary affairs, and produced a stability here at home that we would die to have today. For 95% of that period, bankers were boring people called Mainwaring, and breaking news concerned the relief of Mullah strongholds several weeks earlier.

So we need only abolish television, satellites, computers and digital technology in order to reduce our problems as a species to just one: politicians.

That’s not too difficult to achieve, is it?

(Trolls please note: this bulletin contains flash irony)

27 thoughts on “At the End of the Day

  1. Tres drole, but Captain Mainwaring is the sort of banker we need: solid, reliable, trustworthy and unimaginative. Like many people I thought, until these modern events, that all banks ran on similar lines to his one. The other, destructive & amoral sort of banker should be called something else – a Dementor perhaps?

  2. Would so much have gone wrong in the last four years if we didn’t have 24/7 news, and tickertape hadn’t been replaced by pc screens telling us the price of shrimps in Manila?

    Of course some of the problem is that a fair part of the “dealings” are done automatically by machine on detection of certain trends that apparently just can’t be stopped to apply common sense

    Another large problem with 24/7 news, is that, that which would have been forgotten about in the past now gets the same importance often to keep the available space filled

  3. In 1980, I had a dilemma of being offered two jobs at the same time (I was young enough to be head-hunted). One person I consulted was my local bank manager, whose wisdom was decisive (and free). I don’t even know the name of my current bank manager, but I suspect he’s circa 20, being ‘groomed’ for great things and doesn’t give a toss for his community or his colleagues.

    RIP Gary. Depression is like deafness in that no one cansee it, therefore cares. Tragedies such as his will continue, alas.

  4. Banking and brewing, in the Victorian era(pre ‘globalisation’),when Britain had established an empire,involved hundreds of players.29 banks failed in ten years from 1880.The show went on.There were 1400 brewers in 1945,give or take.If industries are allowed to concentrate excessively(4 banks,4 big brewers),the end result is less choice and then too big to fail.That being said,if ‘Wolfgang 10 days to save the euro Munchau’ is right, 10 years of ‘equities are a waste of time’ might thankfully be ending.

  5. Depression indeed is a debilitating condition made worse by the stigma attached to it, it’s getting better now but, a slow pace, people who are by nature happy go lucky find it hard to emphasise, if for arguements sake, at a job interview you declare that you suffer from occasional tendonitis, you get shown sympathy, if on the other hand you declare you suffer from depression you get shown the door.
    Fortunately there are new and more effective medications on the market now, it’s just the primary care trusts that are making it difficult for some to access these medications, and also for anxiety which in many cases is a precursor for depression in many people, Pregabalin is one such medication but, because it is not primarily for generalised anxiety disorder is difficult to get on prescription but, works a treat for the condition.
    As a side to the article, I also think television should be banned outright as a health hazard!

    • kfc1404
      “Depression indeed is a debilitating condition”, I have suffered from this and anxiety attacks – not very pleasant at all! Was prescribed citalopram, calmed me down a bit but seemed to shutdown my bedroom functionality. Gave them up after six months feel fine now and the Wife is happier if you know what I mean? My condition, I believe had been a result of trauma and bereavement amongst many family and friends over a short period and working for employers during that time that had no appreciation or sympathy in the fact that you may need to take time off for a funeral or to help some person in serious need

  6. We are all about to pay the proper price for our folly, and it ain’t gonna be easy. We have enjoyed huge, but temporary benefits, both individually and as a society, by ignoring the real. We embraced the ‘never never’ despite the guidance and wisdom of our elders and betters. Guess what: reality, as is its want, is making its presence felt, and is bitting us on our cosseted derrieres. It’s gonna get messy.

  7. The more problem we have in the world, the more people will turn to 24/7 news networks to get the scoop. The more people turn to CNN, FOX, etc.., the more commercial air-times they sell. There’s a genuine interest in having a world loaded with all kinds of problems!

  8. You’re starting to see the world through my eyes John Ward.

    Except I have no delusions that any group of “fabulously wealthy politicians” have any sense of responsibility – let alone a social concious.

    Which would leave us with a clean slate – so I’d be more inclined to get rid of 1 & 2, which would effectively put the chattering classes, the punditocracy and echo chamber journalists out of a job.

    Meanwhile those who’re interested can use the technology get on with building the Next New World Utopian Order. And the proletariat can spend their time Virtual Dancing with the Brollywood Glitterati :)

    What happened in 1965 that you think changed things, for me it was Dylan Going Electric (yes !!). And of course the death of Churchill.

    But our reality is, what Sonia says it is at the close of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya

    SONIA. What can we do? We must live our lives. [A pause] Yes, we shall live, Uncle Vanya. We shall live through the long procession of days before us, and through the long evenings; we shall patiently bear the trials that fate imposes on us; we shall work for others without rest, both now and when we are old; and when our last hour comes we shall meet it humbly, and there, beyond the grave, we shall say that we have suffered and wept, that our life was bitter, and God will have pity on us. Ah, then dear, dear Uncle, we shall see that bright and beautiful life; we shall rejoice and look back upon our sorrow here; a tender smile–and–we shall rest. I have faith, Uncle, fervent, passionate faith. [SONIA kneels down before her uncle and lays her head on his hands. She speaks in a weary voice. We shall rest. [TELEGIN plays softly on the guitar] We shall rest. We shall hear the angels. We shall see heaven shining like a jewel. We shall see all evil and all our pain sink away in the great compassion that shall enfold the world. Our life will be as peaceful and tender and sweet as a caress. I have faith; I have faith. [She wipes away her tears] My poor, poor Uncle Vanya, you are crying! You have never known what happiness was, but wait, Uncle Vanya, wait! We shall rest. [She embraces him] We shall rest. [The WATCHMAN'S rattle is heard in the garden; TELEGIN plays softly; MME. VOITSKAYA writes something on the margin of her pamphlet; MARINA knits her stocking] We shall rest.

    Is it enough to make you weep too ?

    • It does indeed RP, and may I add a little Shakespeare to put today’s problems into perspective.
      “Out, out, brief candle! Life´s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

  9. JW

    The bankers are ruthless businessmen acting in their own interests and getting away with what they can.

    They are only a symptom of the real problem which is politicians.

    If banks were properly regulated and allowed to go bust when they f*cked up we would not be in this mess. if politicians hadn’t convinced themselves that the euro was feasible and necessary and its saving was worth the enslavement of hundreds of millions of people we would not be in this mess. If politicians did not believe that firehosing taxpayers’ money in the pursuit of so-called (usually by the 24 hr media) fairness then we would not be in this mess.

    A little anecdote which may elp to illustrate what I mean, one of my dogs a year and a half old or so labrador/setter cross named Jack is just the most delightful dog very affectionate, not enormously intelligent but a Good Dog – on Sunday found himself in the garden at the same time as one of my hens. I now have one hen less – it took about 5 seconds. Why did he do it? instinct, that’s what dogs do especially young, energetic ones. Whose fault is it? Not Jack’s but mine, I failed to create a suitable regulatory environment and the poor old hen paid the price. jack was just doing his job within the constraints or lack of them that he was given.

    The investment bankers are no different. The problem is government and in particular the brand of weak ignorant faux-statemen we are cursed with at present whose only response is to take our money and give it to whomever takes their fancy.

    And why do we put up with them? because unfortunately a majority of the population are happy enough to be mollycoddled with other people’s money, and the level of political debate is shockingly low.

    At least in the US there is some sort of debate about the proper size of government. Over here it seems to be taken for granted that government has to have a response to everything and that is totally wrong.

    And this is why I believe Gove’s free schools reform could in the long term be highly significant, because there is just a chance we might get a generation of children not brought up on this statist junk.

    Sorry for long rambling post.

    • @Cuffley
      what an analogy between your dog and the banks!

      This has been said before by me, but the eurozone problems are more to do with loose banking regulation in the Latin half, and strict banking regulation in the German half.

    • Quote…”And why do we put up with them? because unfortunately a majority of the population are happy enough to be mollycoddled with other people’s money, and the level of political debate is shockingly low”.

      @Cuffley… And that my friend nails the problem. Comfy apathy.

  10. I’m sixty now and have lived most of those years leading what one would call an ‘unconventional life’. The adult part of it anyway. I’m now living a pretty frugal life on my sailing boat in Cornwall. Don’t have a TV and only listen to the radio when I want to…pretty selective. I refuse to get drawn in to the 24/7 news addiction. The majority of it is regurgitated drivel and totally unnecessary. It’s an excellent tool to keep the populace both dumbed down and hyped up at the same time…

    • But what would prevent them from continuing to spewing out misinformation like they do now – war speculation would get all the attention, which could make things worse

      But it wont happen, GS has been around since 18??, Parliaments will continue to sit, the media will continue to pollute

      Heres good laff, in Australia a state opposition went AWOL today, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-11-29/qld-opposition-absent-from-parliament/3701994 – so the Queensland government passed 3 bills, including one for extra public holidays next year :lol: And the leader of the Qld opposition doesn’t even have a seat in parliament, what a circus.

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