Category Archives: imprudence

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.

What rich geriatric adolescents are reading

Vulgar supplement of a dopey newspaper: Dalrymple writes that How To Spend It, a glossy supplement of the Financial Times newspaper, ‘suggests what most readers are really interested in and what their tastes actually are, or what the editors and advertisers think that most readers are really interested in and what their tastes actually are. Since newspapers are hardly read any longer by anyone under 40, the supposed interests and tastes are those of an ageing, educated, wealthy, liberal-leaning minority’. The supplement is ‘devoted mostly, though not quite entirely, to fashion, a subject of about the same interest to me as the Costa Rican traffic regulations’, with ‘pictures of terminally-pouting, bored-looking, anorexic models’ and of ‘geriatric adolescents—or is it adolescent geriatrics?’

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.


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.


The imprudence of the Financial Times

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 02.56.30The Financial Times, slave to political and economic fashion, voice of the effœte Western European and North American establishment, house journal of the plutocrats, is taken to task by Dalrymple over its tasteless How To Spend It supplement:

Lack of temperance calls forth vulgarity on an epic scale. How To Spend It is a magazine for people whose main difficulty is finding things expensive and luxurious enough. There seems no sense of limitation, of temperance, in its pages; nor, for that matter, of prudence.

In a situation in which

millions of people find it difficult to meet everyday expenses, it is surely not prudent to make it appear that the most important decision in life for a whole class of people already not supremely popular is which wristwatch costing €100,000 to buy: whether it should be the one that automatically tells you what the time is in Reykjavík to the nearest hundredth of a second when you are in Bujumbura, or the one that tells you what the time is to within a thousandth of a second when you are diving in the Caribbean.

Dalrymple adds:

I understand the anger when people see such things.