This, this, all of this all of the time

My bankster buddy Dan has an excellent post on Crooked Timber about how the venal British middle class are basically blaming the disaster they created, caused and voted for, on the small subset of the venal British middle class who are actually bankers – rather than on their own stupid and venal decisions. If you disagree, you’re either actually poor, in which case man the guillotines and wise up to the fact that when Mrs Thatcher and her ideological successors fucked the unions, which meant “everyone who works for a wage”, or you’re blaming the bankers for the fact that you’re a venal twat yourself.

Yorkshire Alex’s comment is the best take on the 2000s ever:

In the UK and Ireland, and as far as I know elsewhere, the property boom was an era of absolutely repellent, piggish greed that was actually open to you! It was a culture of speculation that was participatory and all the uglier for it. All sorts of people got the opportunity to behave like caricature bankers, right down to the horrible politics, and they did.

In other news, people who think that Blairy-Browny-Labour was a left-wing party are still mentally ill.

19 thoughts on “This, this, all of this all of the time”

  1. Fair summary.

    It all boils down to Home-Owner-Ism, if you ask me.

    Quite who is the guiltiest part – the actual home owners, the bankers or the Labour government (not that the Lib-Cons are any better) – is open to question, but the victims of all this are an easily identifiable group.

  2. I'm not sure how far I go along with this.

    I go some way: I've almost ground my teeth to stumps in response to people talking about bankers and banks as homogenous entities, and spewing bile and sanctimony with apparently very little idea what the financial sector does and a breathtaking lack of awareness of that [1]. It is certainly true that the great majority of bankers had nothing to do with what happened.

    But I don't buy this "macro problems have macro causes" line. The banking sector did not need to get itself into a position where a housing bubble would bring down the system. I don't think all the arguments concerning the dysfunctional behaviour of the financial system can be dismissed so easily. Plus I think there probably were cases of variants of toxic, fraudulent behaviour by individual banks and bankers, happily trousering big bonuses whilst sowing seeds of disaster. And people like Jamie Dimon contine to cover themselves in ignomy. I think there are plenty of beefs to be had with bankers and banking.

    I'm not sure about the middle class housing thing either. What proportion of the middle classes indulged in speculative property investment? Maybe my friends and acquiantances are unrepresentative, but I only know one person who did. And is making money from property really stupid and venal? This guy bought houses, did them up, and rented or sold them. I don't see this means we have no business getting angry with (a subset of) bankers.

    Lastly, I don't quite follow how tolerating/encouraging a housing bubble (to the extent they recognised that it was) means Labour was not left wing. I'm sure you could call them not left wing for many reasons, but I'm not sure about this one.

    [1] I like to think that the internet serves up people who like to opine on matters they know nothing about, in far greater proportion that exist in the general population.

  3. "is making money from property really stupid and venal"

    Kirstie-and-Philistinism is. Individual actions collectively become stupid and venal movements.

  4. I like the last sentence of the post. Very clever irony. There's the hilarious implication that the Old Labour left isn't just a venal grab for other people's money. Then there's the notion that someone who holds the mainstream view of left/right positioning is mentally ill – a piece of slanderous hyperbole that could only come from someone thus afflicted.

    I'm not sure everyone has seen the wit, though. One or two of the commenters above seem to have taken the post seriously.,

  5. By the way, some people seem to have taken this to mean I think the bankers aren't to blame. I don't agree with Daniel Davies about this and I do think banks and bankers bear significant culpability – I went into considerable detail about this on AFOE – as do quite a few politicians and officials in the EU, the US, and the European central institutions.

  6. That said, I note that after Godwinning by comment no. 65 and Stalin-ing by 115, the thread has moved on to a demand for the elimination of genetically inferior life by 364…

  7. Alex, you zipped right past the slave trader bit at no. 83 (as you know CT's comment numbering system is messed up and I can't find the 115 and 364 you refer to).

  8. @Alex
    Hey, man, you don't talk to Dsquared. You listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet warrior in the classic sense. I mean sometimes he'll… uh… well, you'll say "hello" to him, right? And he'll just walk right by you. He won't even notice you. And suddenly he'll grab you, and he'll throw you in a corner, and he'll say, "Do you know that 'if' is the middle word in life? If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you"… I mean I'm… no, I can't… I'm a little man, I'm a little man, he's… he's a great man! I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas…

  9. @Barry Freed
    Oi, Burroughs, I've warned you about using false names in my comments section before.

    That also goes for you, Thompson: stop making trolly posts on my blog when you're liquored up and pretending they're from me. I should never have given you my login.

  10. @hellblazer
    Yes, Prufrock IIRC. I knew someone once, my stepfather-in-law (1st ex-wife), a retired school administrator and a drunken old fool who had it the whole thing memorized and would recite it to you unbidden when he was deep in his cups. Which was most days. It was just about the only Culture he had.

  11. Not all the unions. I laughed myself sick at the sight of a (poor )teacher due to retire with a pension pot literally worth about £1000,000 who bought a house in the 70s and is worth another £500,000 out of that. She was protesting about the cuts and blaming the bankers.
    Mean while families are unhoused, have no pension and are trying to have children who will be paying for her idle useless over -rewarded life in perpetuity.

  12. The Libertarian position in a nutshell: bubbles are caused by governments creating money, which leads to bad incentives in the marketplace. Whether people who respond to those incentives are evil, greedy, naive, easily led, whatever, is kind of irrelevant. It's a bit like handing out cream cakes then blaming the people who eat them for getting fat.

    My own position? Yeah, from a moral standpoint it's greed. From a practical standpoint, greed is inevitable when the opportunity presents itself. It's useless hoping to eradicate selfishness from the human condition. You may as well be asking the handsome, successful man to not take all the pretty girls so everyone else gets a go. It won't happen.

    So, if you want to stop this kind of thing, stop pumping money into the system to "stimulate" it. It doesn't stimulate anything useful, just a mud-wrestling bout at the top to get hold of it. Because- even if you do the decent thing and try to pump the money in at the bottom, among the needy, within a couple of transactions it's in the City and that's that for helping the poor. Try lowering the poor's costs instead. That actually works.

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