Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Short-termism : financial and political

In the financial sphere it has long been the case that investors are more interested in making a fast buck than in long term investment to generate growth and streams of revenue in the future. Harold Wilson put it succinctly 50 years ago when he said; "It is easier in this county to make money rather than to earn it." That remains true today, except that the speculators have now demonstrated their ability to lose money quite dramatically, and then expect the much derided state to bail them out.

One banking reform we urgently need is some banks dedicated to providing funds at modest rates of interest for long term investment. I believe Germany has these and they have contributed greatly to Germany's pre-eminence in manufacturing. There is no mention of such a provision in yesterday's proposed reforms. Perhaps a future for RBS?

In the political sphere the same short-termism predominates: the vision of our politicians is limited to the next election and rarely beyond. We desperately need some "statesmen/women" with the capacity to see beyond the next few years and the courage and honesty to tell us the truth. The proposal discussed in yesterday's blog, of "recall" would, if adopted, make such far-sightedness even less likely.


  1. Peter, belated anniversary greetings on KL's first birthday. I've been reading your posts regularly, but have not as you say commented recently (nothing to disagree with?). I have been rather distracted writing a chapter for a forthcoming political counter-factual book (the third in the series edited by Duncan Brack & Iain Dale). It compares the 1931 crisis and formation of the National Government with 2010 and the Con-Lib coalition and looks especially at the role that Lloyd George might have played if he had been in better health. There are many fascinating parallels in the political and economic context of both episodes and the political arguments deployed by politicians at the time. Recommended reading for anyone wishing to explore further: P Williamson 'National Crisis and National Government: British Politics, the Economy and the Empire 1926-32'; G Stewart 'Burying Caesar: Churchill, Chamberlain and the Battle for the Tory Party'; F Trentmann 'Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption & Civil Society in Modern Britain; and more specifically on the debate over the nature of the economic crisis and Keynes's contribution to the debate: P Clarke 'The Keynesian Revolution in the Making 1924-36'. I think you would find the last one especially interesting.

  2. Thanks for re-surfacing, Jaime. I'm pleased you're still reading the posts and flattered that you don't find much to disagree with. I've made a list of the books you recommnend and shall make a start with P Clarke's. However, at the moment all my spare time is taken up with delivering leaflets asking for a "Yes" vote on AV. Very good for the health and keeping down the weight.

    Do let me know whan the counter-factual book is published. It sounds fascinating.