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Saturday, 31 January 2009

The two great lessons of the twentieth century

Gordon Brown's latest speech really takes the biscuit:

"This is the first financial crisis of the global age. And there is no clear map that has been set out from past experience to deal with it."

Not so this is straight out of the 1930's. An over-extended and over sophisticated banking system.

"I'm reminded of the story of Titian, who's the great painter, who reached the age of 90, finished the last of his nearly 100 brilliant paintings, and he said at the end of it, 'I'm finally beginning to learn how to paint', and that is where we are."

So the great and good at Davos really want to hear Brown's views on the painter's skill? I doubt it very much.

"We're learning all the time about how to deal with what are real problems for which we have no historical analogies to fall back on, because when the 1930s problems hit them, they did not have the global financial markets that we have today."

The facts are that nothing you have done so far has reversed the economic decline. The precedent in the 1930's is exactly the one you should be following. An over-extension of the banking system led to a general failure of banking and commerce, and was corrected by building up the banking system and keeping its business simple.

The two lessons of the twentieth century are that collective ownership leads to economic stagnation and that whenever regulated banks are allowed to trade with other people's money with low allocations of risk capital, central banks invariably end up bailing them out.

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