Category Archives: money

The ludicrous cult of long hours

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 07.50.56Dalrymple’s principle states that

efficiency declines as the number of hours worked grows.

Dalrymple himself is at his best, he explains,

for about two hours a day—shortly after waking—and it is downhill all the way thereafter.

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 07.55.05

The suddenly and unwontedly efficient and alert essayist

Only one thing restores his efficiency or alertness, if not his soul:

the prospect, previously unexpected, of earning a good sum of money. This acts on my brain in the same way as amphetamine.

(Johnson: No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.)

Young lawyers, Dalrymple points out,

are expected to examine documents and research precedents for hours on end, though nothing is easier than to overlook the single key fact in a case in which there are hundreds or thousands of pages of dreary documents.

OBBB (overworked banker behaving badly)

Machismo in the empire of imaginary money

For the macho workers in finance,

their absurdly long hours are a source of pride, a seeming justification for what they earn and an excuse for behaving badly once the pressure is relieved. Perhaps there would be fewer financial crises if financiers and their junior aspirants worked fewer hours.

Dalrymple’s money personality

Giovanni Bellini, Four Allegories: Prudence, c. 1490. Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Giovanni Bellini, Four Allegories: Prudence, c. 1490. Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

High finance, writes Dalrymple,

has never really been my forte or my interest. My attitude to finance is primitive: I spend less than I earn.

When, during the boom, Dalrymple’s bank asked if he wanted a loan,

I naïvely told it that I did not need a loan. The bank’s reaction reminded me of that of a newspaper for which I used sometimes to write when I refused to do an article for it on the basis of information that was self-evidently false. What, they asked, had that got to do with it? And for the bank (at the time), what had not taking a loan got to do with not needing one?

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 09.10.47

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.