Category Archives: debt

Dalrymple’s twin laws of political economy

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 08.54.52The existential problem of indebtedness

To restate the Dalrympian laws of public and private finance, they are:

Memories are short and lessons are never learned.

and

Sufficient unto the day is the credit thereof.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 08.23.03Dalrymple writes that

a profound change in culture and character has taken place in my lifetime. People not very much older than myself prided themselves that, poor as they were, at least they were not in debt; not to be indebted was for them a matter of pride and self-respect. What they could not buy outright, they were content to do without. Whether or not this was a good thing for the economy as a whole I cannot say; but I think it was good for the character. It encouraged self-control and also a probity that is now uncommon.

Governments

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 09.15.54are under political pressure to indebt themselves

while ordinary people

are under some other type of pressure or compulsion that is internal to them and resistible but not resisted. They judge themselves and others by their modes and quantities of consumption, which give meaning to life in the absence of any other meaning. Spending, whether or not they can afford it, is affirmation that their life has a purpose.

Indebtedness

is an existential problem. Spendthrifts hope, if they give any thought to the matter at all, that the economics will take care of themselves. Sufficient unto the day is the credit thereof. At least until the next credit crunch.

 

 

Britain’s election disaster

Lynton Crosby: political engineer

Winner: political engineer Lynton Crosby

The worst possible outcome for the Greece of the North Sea

Examining the results of the 2015 UK general election, Dalrymple notes that now,

to all Britain’s intractable problems — low productivity, abysmal cultural level, addiction to debt — have been added political instability and the prospect of chaos.

The poll, he writes, was both one of the most important, and one of the most boring, for many years.

It was important because

Winner: Nicola Sturgeon resembles an efficient and dedicated but bossy and unpleasant schoolmistress

Winner: Nicola Sturgeon resembles an efficient and dedicated but bossy and unpleasant schoolmistress

it destroyed Britain’s reputation for political stability. This is of enormous significance for a country that is so heavily dependent on financial services, having little else to offer the world, for money doesn’t like political turmoil. Half a trillion dollars has left and might not come back.

It was boring because

all the candidates were boring. Apart from Nicola Sturgeon, who looked like an efficient and dedicated but bossy and unpleasant schoolmistress, all the three main candidates contrived to look the same. They had smooth, characterless faces and often eschewed [neck-] ties for fear of intimidating with smartness the slobs and slatterns who are one of the country’s largest constituencies.

Loser

Loser: conflict and chaos are coming

The candidates looked less like people than

products designed by political engineers.

Neither David Cameron nor Nick Clegg nor Ed Miliband ever cracked a joke,

at least not knowingly. No one in Britain can tell any longer the difference between earnestness and seriousness. A joke will only get you into trouble — someone will take it literally and be offended. It is best not to make one, even if you are capable of it, which in these three cases is doubtful.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 23.59.36Cameron remains prime minister, but that is

not the same thing as political stability.

Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 11.19.59was workable and not grotesquely unfair when there were two overwhelmingly preponderant parties, but with the balkanisation of the political scene, the system is unworkable. The British now live in an unrepresentative democracy which produces gross distortions in parliament.

3.9m votes = 1 seat; 1.4m votes = 56 seats

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 23.58.23The biggest swing was to the UK Independence Party. It received 12.6% of the votes and one seat, compared with the Scottish National Party’s 4.7% of the votes and 56 seats. Dalrymple concludes:

No system that produces such a result can retain its legitimacy.

The system has given the SNP a near-monopoly of Scottish seats, so that

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 00.04.41the representation of Scotland in parliament would be worthy of the results of a Soviet election.

Moreover, for as long as the threat of Scottish independence remains,

stability cannot return to Britain. Chaos and conflict are just around the corner.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 08.18.12Britain’s one

indisputably successful and world-beating economic activity [apart from binge-drinking], namely financial skulduggery, might contract or collapse, because such skulduggery needs an environment of political stability.

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 10.34.06Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 23.18.10

House of cards

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 07.45.57Britain’s fragile, debt-ridden economy

British socialists are determined to

put an end to government ‘austerity’—that is, the policy of reducing the budget deficit from 10 percent of GDP to 5 percent, which has taken seven years to accomplish.

The British

live by the grace and favour of foreign lenders content to buy the country’s bonds at low interest rates.

However, lenders’ confidence that Britain is, to a degree, a haven

could easily change. The country would then have to earn its current standard of living, which it is in poor shape to do; and a sharp decline could lead to social unrest, leading to a further collapse of confidence.

The men of brains shall be slaves — slaves to the men of character

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 01.14.21This was the credo of those tasked with recruiting for the Colonial Service. It is the theme of the 1931 Maugham tale ‘The Door of Opportunity’ (to be found in the 1933 collection Ah King).

Dalrymple touches on the theme in a discussion of a newspaper headline he came across that read: ‘Young people’s money woes are down to lack of education.’

He points out:

The problem is not one of education but of character.

The indebted

know that nothing much will happen to them as a result of their default, nor is there any shame or social stigma attached to living above one’s means. Certainly no government, or no public employee, feels such shame.

The article, he says, was

an example of the overestimate of the importance of formal education by the overeducated. They assume that everyone can be taught to behave in the same way that everyone, more or less, can be taught to read. Prudence, providence and probity, however, are character and cultural traits more than they are intellectual accomplishments. It is not that people don’t know; it is that they don’t care.

Slaves to their appetites: the infantile, improvident English

Britons lack self-control, says Dalrymple. At Christmas they take on even more debt than normal so that they can buy their brats

expensive, yet cheap, rubbish to make up for the neglectful way they bring them up.

Those failed materialists, the fat, debt-ridden, vulgar, degraded and dishonourable British

The British, writes Dalrymple,

consume without discrimination what they have not earned: which is why many of them are so fat as well as so indebted. There is scarcely any kind of debt or deficit to which Britain has not resorted in order to continue on its vulgar and degraded way. A nation that behaves thus is without honour or self-respect, collective or individual.

Britain

has sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.