Monday night’s BBC TV programme, “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace“, was interesting on Ayn Rand and her connection with Alan Greenspan. This was made the platform for a discussion of how President Clinton was persuaded to reverse public spending, cut taxes and unleash the forces of the market; hinc illae lachrymae. (By the way, Rand claimed that her philosophy of selfishness was entirely her own and only Aristotle had had any influence on her; I think she may have overlooked Adam Smith’s comment in “The Wealth of Nations” that the complex economic edifice that brought us so many things was based on the self-interest of all the players involved.)
It’s funny how the right wing is so hot on reining in public debt, but entirely sanguine about the monstrously larger growth of private liabilities, particularly since 1980. The economy and the stock market have had two heart attacks in the last decade as a result, and we are supposed to believe that all will be well as long as the doctors have ready access to the defibrillator in the form of quantitative easing.
I mention the above programme because it told me one thing I hadn’t picked up on back in the Asian market collapse of 1998: the involvement of the IMF in 1997. No sooner had a large “rescue” loan to Indonesia been agreed and the banks refilled with money, than Westerners took the opportunity to withdraw their investment; leaving the country both busted and much more greatly in debt than before. (I recall that veteran market commentator Christopher Fildes observed of emerging markets that they are so named because it is difficult to emerge from them; seemingly the IMF provided a helpful smear of goosefat to assist the extraction.)
Which leads me to wonder whether QE, QE2 and its possible successor/s are not intended to save the system, but merely to delay the collapse for long enough for the elite to pull out and consolidate.
The second programme I’d like to mention here is tonight’s (26 May) BBC Culture Show broadcast (see from minute 46 on) about psychopaths. John Ronson’s new book, The Psychopath Test, estimates that about 1% of the population falls into that category – but it is a category that includes many business and political leaders.
I was asking friends early on in the first Blair government whether TB was mad, and Clarissa Dickson-Wright (who knew him from his Chambers days) has since described him as a “mimsy psychopath”. This Culture Show segment lists about 20 characteristics that help define the type and the first 8 or so sounded like nails being hammered into a plank when I thought about our dear ex-leader (and I couldn’t read quickly enough to get all the rest of the list); but the frightening thought is that the whole system is being driven by these types. Hank Paulson strikes me as another out of the same mould, though possibly without the superficial charm.
Can it really be, that the world’s elite take, with Ayn Rand, this fragmentary Greek motto?:
When I am dead let fire destroy the world;
It matters not to me, for I am safe.
(For the original, see footnote on page 201 here.)
I fear so.