In the Financial Times this morning, Christopher Caldwell writes casually that ‘in central banking, it is sometimes necessary to mislead’. The observation is ethically challenged, but empirically accurate if you rephrase it as ‘politicians and central bankers always lie when they’ve screwed up’.
One’s always in danger of being prissy about such matters, but this isn’t The Slog turning suddenly sanctimonious: I genuinely do believe that that no news is a good thing at times – for example, Churchill and the Coventry attack in 1943. But for Caldwell to dismiss 3000 years worth of moral philosophy on the grounds of money is at best dumb, and at worst an encouragement to those who don’t need any. There is no defence in heaven or on earth for what Trichet, Bernanke & Co are up to at the moment.
On the same paper’s front page was another look-sideways-and-close-one-eye piece, speciously headed ‘Britain to lose £500M as Hedge Fund managers leave’. The sub-head asserted ‘Managers seek predictability’. But not transparency, presumably.
The line is specious because we will not ‘lose’ £500Million: we will lose the charges on whatever grubby light-speed dark liquidity trades these bright barbarians might make. We certainly won’t lose any tax – and the air will smell fresher afterwards.
That sort of observation in higher quarters usually gets a torrent of ‘how dare you’ back from the Banker apologists….Vince Cable’s outburst the week before last being the obvious example. There is a belief in the milieu these days that ethics are a sign of stupidity. But this sort of daft cynicism really only hides the naivety of defending the indefensible: in 1947 when first applied widely as insurance against investment sector ups and downs, hedging was a good idea making a contribution to social savings and capital investment. In 2010 it rarely does either except for huge multinationals and the bizarrely rich.
Morals are not for wimps. Morals are designed to stop the planet having to pay $23 trillion for those who have none. And then tripping merrily onwards to Crash 2.