At the End of the Day

It is very often the case that, no matter how mad the editorial or proprietorial view is inside a newspaper, the financial pages are still worth looking at. This is because editors and owners often know shag-all about fiscal economics. It is definitely true of the Daily Mail; and while the Daily Telegraph sadly gets worse and worse since the arrival of myriad former Daily Mail boat-people over the last two years, its financial opinion leaders Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and Liam Halligan are – if nothing else – still planted firmly on planet Earth.

Which is why I find this extract from the Telegraph’s Debt crisis coverage today so compelling and yet depressing:

‘Although the Greek buyback plan exceeded its target of €30bn, attracting €31.8bn worth of tenders by midday today, the higher than expected cost of buying the bonds mean Athens will not manage to bring its debt down to the IMF goal of 124pc of GDP, according to reports by Reuters citing a eurozone source. Instead the bond buyback programme will erode debt to 126.6pc of GDP, and would require a further €450m to make up the shortfall.’

If I can just put into words what this is saying, a Troika plan to make the Greeks buy their own debt was successful, but too costly to bring down the massive level of their debt, and so once more they are in a short-term hole of half a billion euros of debt.

As you can see there, the debt thing plays a central role in the narrative. If David Icke wrote sh*t like that, nobody would believe him. And if that doesn’t put this pavane into some kind of perspective, then nothing will.

I can sense that, on seeing that word ‘pavane’, thousands of Google pages are opening in a frantic attempt to repair ignorance and thus avoid chatterati shame. In fact, the only reason I know it is because there was a fascinating altered-history book of this name that sold well some 45 years ago. The word means ‘a mannered dance’, and dates back to 16th century England, where at Court it was a style of dancing on a popularity par with the Twist in 1961. This isn’t really important: I mention it solely because, over the following 200 years, its usage morphed into a meaning roughly ‘a merry-go-round that is archaic and profoundly daft’.

The theme of the novel Pavane was that the Renaissance and the Reformation never happened, and so humanity went into the Twentieth century as dominated by the Church of Rome as it was in 1322 or thereabouts. It was out of print for a while, but today the 1968 epic by Keith Roberts (published by Rupert Hart-Davis) is thought of as a cult classic. Roberts himself died twelve years ago, but his book had a very profound effect on the 21 year-old and only just kissed Slog. It wasn’t the start of my fascination with Time and the ‘what-if’ bit of the future, but it certainly acted as a catalyst in the process.

In the book, for example, everyone drives around on steam-driven trucks built from wood because both internal combustion engines and smelting are seen as works of the Devil by the Papacy. But on the other hand, of course, there is no smog over LA.

The central thought in this – ‘everything can be a curse and a mixed blessing’ – is directly relevant to what’s going on in ClubMed at the moment. So in altered history terms, had Milt Friedman been painfully shy, and thus spent his entire life as an unsuccessful insurance salesman in White Plains New York, none of this eurozone madness would be happening. But at the same time, Reagan would never have become President, he and Thatcher wouldn’t have put the same pressure on the USSR, and most of Europe today might well be run by octogenarian Marxists in the Kremlin.

For me, the obvious extrapolation is that if roughly 12% of the human species are extreme opinion-leaders, only random events decide which form of extremity the other 88% are forced to tolerate. The puzzling part is why the 12 continue to lord it over the 88. As Stalin correctly remarked, “History is made by those who turn up”. But even this can’t entirely explain why nine out of ten people would rather watch the tedious antics of Simon Cowell than fire the one idiot responsible for Simon Cowell being the only thing to watch at 8.00pm on a Saturday.

At the moment, respectable Greek citizens are chucking petrol bombs at police, voting for Golden Dawn, getting anonymous electrical engineers to illegally re-connect them to the mains electricity supply, and dying of medication withdrawal because of the hugely flawed ideas of one little Jewish bloke, the insane greed of the investment banking community, and the both morally and financially bankrupt belief systems of the West’s political class. And that’s also why the Alice in Wonderland fiscal bollocks of the EU can be recorded in a serious newspaper like the Daily Telegraph without even a hint of irony.

One of the most overworked and misunderstood phrases of the last thirty years is ‘the wisdom of crowds’. The intentional irony of it is lost on all those who pronounce the words ‘political correctness’ as if they might be anything other than the result of unalloyed Nazi thought processes. The truth is that the wisdom of crowds is 100% correlated with the ethics, experience, humanity and principles of our leaders….and the willingness of our media set to transmit their views without the finger-marked fuzziness of proprietorial monsters being smeared all over our spectacles.

Paul Dacre and his disciples at the Daily Mail see the Coalition as revisionist traitors, and campaigning Labour MPs as closet Marxists. But their financial pages are written by more grounded individuals with better skills. I’m returning now to where I started all those paragraphs ago, in some kind of half-blind attempt to make the point – which is this: unelected technocrats are a bad thing, and unelected bureaucrats even worse. But being elected doesn’t make ignorant dictators any better. If anything, it puts them roughly halfway between the other two evils.

How wonderful it might be – in theory – if Plato’s dream of 3000 years ago could be realised. That is, a fully informed electorate voting for rounded technocrats who had a specialist genius, and a First in social anthropology. But that’s the trouble with Utopian theory: it has a nasty habit of turning into Dystopian practice.

Earlier today at The Slog: The Leveson hijackers go from strength to strength.