Category Archives: improvidence

Financial drug-pushers

What banks were like when Dalrymple was a boy

Today’s bankers

Some argue that banks

are up to their old tricks again, lending riskily with abandon, selling on their risky debts to those who have not the faintest idea of what they are buying, having learned from the last crash that when push comes to shove, they will be rescued from the consequences of their improvidence. But this time the banks will not be bailed out; we, the account holders, will be bailed in. The bankers are greedy and insouciant.

The doctor-writer observes that in his lifetime, bankers

seem to have changed in nature, or at least in image.

When Dalrymple was a boy in the 1890s,

bankers were rather respectable, dull persons who acted like the financial guilty conscience of their customers.

Consols Transfer Office, Bank of England, 1894

Looming economic collapse

There is the sense, writes Dalrymple, of

the approach of yet another economic crisis, as my late dog sensed the approach of a thunderstorm.

Perhaps, he says, the crisis to come

will be even greater and more devastating than the last, being the consequence of our almost universal imprudence and improvidence, and our determination to learn nothing from experience.

The free-born Englishman

The person, writes Dalrymple,

who is supposed to be viscerally and hereditarily attached to his freedom in a way that distinguishes him from his continental opposite number, thanks to the common-law tradition, conceives of it mostly as the freedom to

  • be drunk in public
  • take whatever drugs he likes
  • be sexually promiscuous

Meanwhile the more intellectual portion of the population

increasingly sees freedom as the right to suppress the opinions of those of whom they strongly disapprove.

And the greatest freedom, the one most ardently desired, is the freedom

to be protected from the consequences of one’s improvidence and foolishness.

Van de wal in de sloot belanden

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 07.51.26Dalrymple schrijft:

Alle huidige nationalistische partijen van kleine volken in Europa – de Schotten, de Welshmen, de Basken, de Catalanen, de Vlamingen – zijn grote voorstanders van lidmaatschap van de Europese Unie, dat toegewijd is aan, en zelfs gegrond op, het verdwijnen van nationale soevereiniteit. Je zou denken dat deze partijen op zijn minst nationale soevereiniteit wilden. De tegenstrijdigheid is zo schril, dat ze vraagt om een verklaring.

De menselijke geest is geen perfect berekenende machine, en zonder twijfel spreken we onszelf allemaal wel eens tegen. Volmaakte consistentie is dikwijls verontrustend, maar dat geldt ook voor schrille inconsistentie. Het is mogelijk dat de leiders van de nationalistische partijen de tegenstrijdigheid niet zien, dat ze zo verblind zijn door ideologie dat ze het simpelweg niet opmerken. Maar er bestaat ook een andere mogelijke verklaring: door hun nominaal onafhankelijke landen te leiden, zullen ze tot in lengte van dagen in staat zijn als een varken te voederen aan de volle Brusselse trog en op cliëntelistische wijze hiervan uit te delen. De nationalistische leiders leiden hun volk, zeker, maar ze hebben het bij de neus.

De Schotten, ooit een zeer voorzichtig en vooruitziend volk, menen nu dat zorgeloosheid een grote politieke deugd is, en dat het hun onvervreemdbaar recht is om gigantische begrotingstekorten te laten oplopen omwille van ‘sociale gerechtigheid – dat wil zeggen voor diensten die door een ander betaald worden. Hun minachting voor George Osborne, de Conservatieve minister van Financiën, is tamelijk disproportioneel ten opzichte van zijn onsuccesvolle pogingen om balans in de begroting te krijgen; de Schotten denken dat als ze het Verenigd Koninkrijk verlaten en zich bij de Europese Unie aansluiten, ze in staat zullen zijn het begrotingstekort net zo ver op te laten lopen als ze maar willen.

Het is mogelijk dat de Schotten inderdaad een tijdje steun zullen ontvangen van Europa, al was het maar om ontevreden bevolkingen te laten zien hoe gunstig het is om in de Unie te blijven. (Kort voor het referendum kregen de Grieken zonder veel gedoe meer geld, want nog een Griekse crisis had de Britse stem kunnen beïnvloeden.) Maar deze periode van vrijgevigheid zal niet aanhouden. Het zal niet lang duren of de Schotten zullen gedwongen worden binnen hun middelen te gaan leven – of ten minste ongeveer daarbinnen, terwijl de drang om aan deze noodzakelijkheid te ontkomen nu juist de aantrekkingskracht van de Europese Unie uitmaakte.

Vreemd genoeg heb ik in de pers niets vernomen over de tegenstrijdigheid tussen het huidige nationalisme en steun voor het in de Europese Unie blijven, hoewel ik natuurlijk niet iedere krant in iedere taal lees. Maar dit zal toch één van de eerste keren in de geschiedenis zijn dat de uitdrukking Van de wal in de sloot belanden (‘Out of the frying pan into the fire’) geen waarschuwing meer is, maar een omschrijving van wat grote delen van hele bevolkingen lijken te willen.

Abasement before Brussels

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 08.26.22Dalrymple writes that all the nationalist parties

of small nations in Europe—the Scots, the Welsh, the Basques, the Catalans, the Flemings—strongly support membership in the EU, which is predicated upon the extinction of national sovereignty.

It is possible, he says, that

the nationalist parties’ leaders don’t perceive the contradiction, being blinded by ideology.

But there is another explanation.

By leading their nominally independent countries, they forever will be able to feed at the great trough of Brussels and distribute its largesse in true clientelistic fashion. The nationalist leaders certainly lead their people, but by the nose.

The Scots,

once the canniest and most provident of people, now believe that improvidence is the greatest of political virtues, and that it is their inalienable right to run huge budgetary deficits for the sake of ‘social justice’—that is, for services paid for by someone else. The Scots think that if they leave the UK and join Europe, they will be allowed to run any deficits they like.

But

before long, the Scots will be constrained to live approximately within their means.

It is one of the first times in history that ‘Out of the frying pan into the fire’

has become not a warning, but the desired destination of substantial proportions of whole populations.

Het groote tafereel der dwaasheid

Detail of the frontispiece illustration of an edition of the 1720 Pieter Langendijk farce Arlequin Actionist

Detail of the frontispiece illustration of an edition of the 1720 Pieter Langendijk farce Arlequin Actionist

Prudence is foolishness and foolishness prudence

Speculation, writes Dalrymple,

is necessary for all who do not want to end up impoverished, and there can be no such thing as enough, even for those who are not greedy by nature, for money is no longer a store of value. More, more, more is necessary, if you want to keep what little you already have.

Taxpayers in the West

have had a long schooling in low expectations from their taxes: they may pay 40 per cent (80 per cent within living memory) of their income above a certain level in taxes, as well as taxes on everything that they buy or do.

However,

they would not be so foolish as to conclude that therefore their children will be properly educated by the state, or that they will be well looked-after when they are ill.

It does not surprise taxpayers that the state bureaucracy (local and national)

will do anything rather than reduce payments to its staff and hangers-on.

Dalrymple’s diagnosis: fiat money is at the root of this disease. The conjuring of currency out of nothing by the central banks

has accustomed governments to the idea that they can go on borrowing and spending money forever without ever having to pay it back. This alters their attitude to deficit spending, which is not as the occasion requires (as Keynes envisaged), but permanent, the way we live now. And it alters the whole character of the citizenry.

Asset inflation as the principal source of wealth corrodes character

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 00.05.06It not only undermines the traditional bourgeois virtues, writes Dalrymple. It

makes them ridiculous and even reverses them. Prudence becomes imprudence, thrift becomes improvidence, sobriety becomes meanspiritedness, modesty becomes lack of ambition, self-control becomes betrayal of the inner self, patience becomes lack of foresight, steadiness becomes inflexibility: all that was wisdom becomes foolishness. And circumstances force almost everyone to join in the dance….[It] is not an economic problem only, or even mainly, but one that afflicts the human soul.

(2009)

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.