Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

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Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Friday, February 03, 2012

By way of an attempt to persuade Chris B to write a blog post I want to read

Hands up if, when you heard that Stephen Hester had "waived his bonus", you hoped for a second that he'd taken two fistfuls of banknotes and done the nutty-walk from Bishopsgate to Whitehall shouting "OI! LOADSAMONEY!! SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!!". A quick survey at work suggests that it wasn't just me.

The joke was presumably on my mind because an email exchange with Chris a couple of weeks ago about banking and its influence on the wider culture, in which I noted that people often forget when thinking about the "Loadsamoney culture" of the 1980s, that Harry Enfield's character wasn't actually a banker, trader or anything else to do with the financial services industry[1]. He was a plasterer - I think that part of what's going on here is that people were maybe a leetle bit more honest in those days about the extent of public participation in and responsibility for the asset bubble, and partly of course, because of EU expansion, the skilled-working-class element of the prosperity created by the bubble tended to go to people who are a bit more invisible in British popular culture.

I'm probably in a poor position to judge the "culture of traders", because although I know a lot of them, I'm generally regarded as an oddball and outlier (specifically, as someone who doesn't tolerate much in the way of boorish behaviour), and so I probably see a different side of people from what they present to the public. But I think that the people in the Guardian Banking Blog who every week do the line about cocaine and lap-dancing clubs (apparently, nobody in finance bothers with any other drugs, or any other kind of club) are missing the bigger picture. Young men are often kind of fucking appalling, as we all know. Finance employs a lot of them, and pays some of them really well. As a result, they've got quite a lot of visibility, particularly in the Central London entertainment districts where journalists also socialize. I don't think there's much more to it than that, and the TV series Nathan Barley suggests to me that other industries can be just as horrible when they get the chance (certainly, the annoying current of crass sexism and laddishness in modern culture seems to me to be one that can't be blamed on us).

My new employer's offices are on the top floor of the building which contains the Apple Store in London, and two floors below us are occupied by a headquarters building for Apple Europe. Which puts me in the quite amusing position every day of being in the lift (as I come back from buying the second coffee of the day and they are arriving at work), with a bunch of people who employ sweatshop labour in the Third World, who are looking down on the employees of an almost totally herbivorous French stockbroking business (which does no lending or capital market activity at all; we just find you some shares if you want to buy some, and find you some buyers if you want to sell some) because we are the unethical ones. I suspect that there are a fair few Nathan Barleys among them too by the look. But I suppose that this too, is prejudice.

Postscript. Lest anyone think that I an whining, or creating strawmen, see this piece by the New Economics Foundation. Apparently every pound paid to someone like me[2] destroys seven pound of value! The way you get this figure, btw, is to add up all the costs of the crisis in terms of GDP, treat the increase in government borrowing as a cost, then attribute it all to a small group of financial sector executives in wholesale banking. The only consolation is that advertising executives are apparently even worse people, as they destroy GBP11 for every pound they get paid, because of "overconsumption", or something. Weirdly, advertising bods seemed to get more blame from the NEF for "overindebtedness" than bankers.

[1] Although the catchphrase was still occasionally used in the City ten years later, usually in the context of someone who had been given the job of settling a large bar bill, and thus was given the Pavlovian stimulus of holding a large wad of banknotes in his hand.

[2] Actually, someone a couple of levels above me because they restrict it to executives earning GBP1m or above. But having used this smaller population to do their calculation, they are then not at all shy in chucking it about indiscriminately, or allowing it to be cited misleadingly, and in general they do want my income to be taxed at 100% so I think it's safe to say that the NEF regard me as being basically intrinsically socially destructive. Say maybe as bad as someone who worked in advertising, but who had a sideline as a nursery nurse.
18 comments this item posted by the management 2/03/2012 01:03:00 AM

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