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Friday, 10th October, 2008

ADMIN USE ONLY | 17:38 UK time, Friday, 10 October 2008

Here's Emily Maitlis and John Wilson with more details of tonight's Newsnight and Newsnight Review:

From Emily:

'The singular feature of the great crash of '29 was that the worst continued to worsen.'
J.K. Galbraith

Yes, we know things look pretty awful today, but tonight - as we bring you the day's events on NEWSNIGHT - we're going BIG with the Newsnight Editors' take on the global economic crisis. This evening we're asking how much has fundamentally been changed in our lives by everything that's happened over the past weeks.

Our Economics Editor will be analysing whether we're on the brink of a system-wide meltdown of the world economy. And, for once, the answer could actually be yes.

Our Political Editor will be analysing why the words - and indeed many of the policies - of the political class now seem remote and out of date.

And our Diplomatic Editor will be looking at the geo-political aftershocks that are likely to arise as a result of what we're seeing this autumn. His defence contacts now tell him 'all options are on the table'.

The Black Swan
Here in the studio I'll be talking to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan. He made money in the 1987 stock market crash, and eventually walked away from Wall Street and hedge funds and turned into an aggressively no-nonsense philosopher. The predictions he makes in his 2006 book are actually coming true right now. And his theory? Throw away the market models. The really big stuff - whether it's war, weather, terrorism or economic crisis - is impossible to predict. I'll let him explain it better. His world view is pretty extraordinary. As one critic wrote of him:
"Had Nassim Taleb been born in any other period, he would have certainly been put to death."

He'll be joined by Harvard economist, Kenneth Rogoff, and global economic expert, Linda Yueh.

We'll have all the latest on the day's developments too, but tonight the programme hopes to ask whether things will ever, truly, get back to normal.

I do hope you join us. You may need a glass in your hand.


From John:

Germaine Greer, John Harris and Paul Morley joined me for a team outing to Chelsea yesterday. King's Road used to be the stomping ground of beatniks and punk rockers, but these days the pavements are filled with WAGs and shoppers in search of the latest to-die-for names. And the hottest brand on the block? Saatchi! The ad-man turned art-collector, Charles Saatchi, has spent millions converting a former Georgian army barracks into his new gallery. After flogging off most of his collection of Brit Art - including Damien Hirst's shark - he's been buying abroad and young Chinese artists (YCAs, anyone?) are the latest to benefit from his patronage. But are they any good?

We've also been to the theatre to see David Walliams swap Little Britain for Harold Pinter's No Man's Land. Walliams plays Foster, a besuited minder to Michael Gambon's booze-soaked writer Hirst. David Bradley is Spooner, who - invited for a drink or ten at Hirst's large house - engages in a game of wits with his host. Bleak, menacing and very, very funny, No Man's Land is classic Pinter. The writer himself applauded the performance on opening night - will the Review team share his enthusiasm?

Gomorrah is a new Italian-language film about the Neapolitan mafia, which controls everything from toxic waste dumping to haute couture tailoring in the Campania region. It's a dense film, shot like a documentary, but has already scooped a prize at Cannes and is nominated as Italy's entry for the foreign language Oscar.

Oasis are back with their seventh studio album, Dig Out Your Soul. Noel Gallagher has promised a more experimental record, one less reliant on the old verse-chorus-bridge formula. But has he finally shaken off his Beatles obsession? Of course not!

We've got John, Paul, Germaine and Ringo on the show (ok, not Ringo) - find out if they're mad for it, as Liam Gallagher would say.

Join us at 11,



  • Comment number 1.

    I will be interested to see if the Black Swan can offer any clues on how to save the Dying Swan of Westeern economic policy?

    I wait with bated breath.

  • Comment number 2.

    Glad to hear that people aren't going to gloss over the problems tonight.

  • Comment number 3.

    Is 2008 turning out to be for the capitalist system what 1989 was
    for Communism after the fall of
    the Berlin Wall? System crash?
    And is that good - or is it bad?

  • Comment number 4.

    if looking at the website wasn't enough then the use of words like platonic fallacy tells me all i need to know about Mr Taleb.

    if you put your hand in a fire 100 times it will get burnt 100 times.

    if you put random words together will you come up with shakespeare?

    Parmenides logically showed through his dialectic that anyone who rejects the idea of the good or the one as the highest term of the mind will fall into nihilism and relativism ie become a randomness worshipper.

  • Comment number 5.


    neilrobertson (#3) Good question. I've long said that the excesses of the last two decades have been just part of a Trotskyite/Anarcho-Capitalist conditioning (Transitional Demandprocess whereby we are made to feel relieved to see the back of the excersses of casino-capitalism whilst the the old Command Economies loosened up a little with SEZs (even in N. Korea).

    We're back to just the G7 for a while even though Russia's pumping billions into its banking system.....

  • Comment number 6.

    So far I've enjoyed both Newsnight and the emails. Today's was a disappointment. A tad Daily Mail if I may say so. "Depression!" "We're all going to die!" Please. Then I wondered what happened to fair and balanced take on the news. One thing comes to mind and is the source of my disappointment. The economic editor's Paul Mason's connections to SWP (Socialist Workers Party) - he spoke at their event only in August ( “People Before Profit”) and again on Sept 21, as well as at their conference in 2007. Oh an his book Live Fighting or Die Trying How the Working Class Went Global was launched at the SWP bookshop.
    He is entitled to his views but I worry that they are leaking into his editorial. There is a hint of wishful "end of capitalism" thinking in the air. An odeur of schadenfreude.
    For shame, for shame. I'd buy the Red Star if I cared for that - I expected better of Newsnight.

  • Comment number 7.

    madamesushi (#6) Look into the Milibands' political history (bottom up 'people's choice' worker's democracy) and see the Michael Young Guardian comment (2001) elsewhere on New Labour's (Miliband's as he wrote the manifestos) abuse of the term 'meritocracy'. Look more critically into the Neocons allegedly 'mugged by reality' (Seltzer is very urbane) and how central the Austrian/Chicago schools have been over recent decades to deregulation which has been peddled as 'freedom' and 'democratisation' i.e. anti-statist Hayekism/Friedmanism or anarchism.

  • Comment number 8.


    Don't worry. SWP types end up forever living in a Life of Brian sketch?

    Comrade Worker 1 : 'Is this the Popular People's Front'?.

    Comrade Worker 2 : 'No its the People's Popular Front'.

    Given the acting editor is some ex labour party activist type its hardly surprising there is a 'cafe hothouse of camden intellectualism'?

    having gained my introduction to revolutionary thought [many years ago] in the People's Republic of Brent Library that was loaded with such books the basic premise is to mobilise the 'people' through mass action and through speeches whip them up with slogans such as 'equality, liberty, anti capitalism etc. So where ever there is a big crowd you'll find them trying to 'mobilise it'.

    It was the reason, when faced with French revolutionary activism, Wellington moved the public meeting place from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park and redesigned central London as a military fort. He narrowed the roads so they could be defended by a few soldiers [ from Wellington Barracks]. He put Parliament with one side to the river so it could not be surrounded and there was an escape/resupply route via the river and the move to Hyde Park meant any mass working class march to parliament had to walk further , past lots of pubs, perhaps in the rain.....

    Of course modern Govt have forgotten all this and moved public rallies back to Trafalgar sq.

    i have noticed recently that the various economic blogs have attracted the suburban anarchists and weekend revolutionaries out and chinese 'students' . They must think its their historical moment and destiny, yada yada.

    but like jihadis one revolutionary's ideas of pure socialism is not the same as another's and so they keep splitting into factions and vendettas.

    also they like using big words no one understands. So let them salute each other's indefatigability ? :)

  • Comment number 9.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb as a self proclaimed philosopher should practice his rants first. It was obvious he did not know how to behave when in front of recording equiptment, never mind TV. o quote him, he understands that he does not understand things, unfortunateley his almost autistic view could be seen in his presentation of himself, and that people do know how to behave on TV whereas he does not. I was looking forward to a stirring discussion, what I got was one deluded idiot with two educated professionals who tried their best not to debate with him lest they be seen in the same light. What a waste of time!

  • Comment number 10.

    Well, I really enjoyed Paul's piece. It's been a hell of a week and it's not like he's the only person to be discussing this stuff. Take John Gray's article in the Observer.

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I have to say, came across really badly. I haven't read his book but I realise I went to the LSE to see him, but left because the room was so full (also he was a terrible communicator).

    It will be interesting to read his book and see how different he is from say Karl Popper, with his law of unintended consequences. It was disappointing Nassim couldn't marshal his intellectual capabilities to even talk about climate change. It makes you suspect he's so focused in the very specific point he's making, it might be making him blind to the greater world, which seems to be the very charge he's making about economists. Likewise surely climate change is one of those outcomes (market failures) theory didn't predict? Curious.

    Time to get out a bit more Nassim move on from the very obvious sentiment that people didn't take your ideas seriously. Reality is moving very quickly at the moment.

  • Comment number 11.

    i see the comrades have been busy tonight trying to storm the Royal Exchange.

    using market unrest to create social unrest is standard revolutionary theory.

  • Comment number 12.

    ....Across the country we need to take to the streets to demand, “No bail out for the bankers – we will not pay for their crisis!” From small acts of resistance we can craft a political force that can knock back those running this destrutive system......

    March on the City
    We won’t bail out the bankers
    Friday 10 October 4-6pm
    Assemble at the Bank of England, Threadneedle St, London EC2R

    we can expect more kookiness. After all its still mercury retrograde....

  • Comment number 13.

    I can't always understand the accents on Newsnight so I put on the subtitles to improve my chances. I heard Harvard economist, Kenneth Rogoff say, "They need to back-stop depositors", then I read the subtitle, "They need to back-stab depositors". Cripes! I believe the subtitles!

  • Comment number 14.

    When the critics had their little tiff about whether it was patronising or not to say that the Chinese artists were aping the British and western artists in general they missed the simple point that this is Saatchi's taste in art, he has found what he always finds, the kind of art he likes. Hardly surprising that in a country so vast he managed to find people doing this kind of thing. I saw a big exhibition in Prague's Rudolfinum about five years back that was a true eye opener, demonstrating the contradictions involved in being an individual artist amid a huge mass culture. But the stuff in Chelsea had more to say about Saatchi's hangups and preoccupaions than about specifically Chinese matters, and that was so predictable, really.

  • Comment number 15.

    My mindless comments on the situation-

    Maybe Today's Concern ?

    "One serious anxiety concerns the auction today to settle liabilities on insurance - or credit default swaps - on debt of the collapsed investment bank, Lehman Brothers."
    (Robert Peston)

    I would of liked to know how this turned out today ?

    I see the Dow picked up from it's early big losses to close only -128 (1.49% down), what is considerably better than previous days losses.

    Maybe some hope for Monday ?

    Think Positive !

    Rewrite regulations -

    I think we will see some sanity return to how to control house prices again(as something went very wrong there) and some controls on bank lending rules, no 130% mortgages in the future(no mortgages speculating on ever increasing house prices) and better controls for self certificated mortgages(they were totally open to abuse).

    Questions -

    Will the FSA survive with it's current remit ?
    Will long term shareholders rights be strengthen (lessons from Enron) ?
    Will any new housing demand controls be enforced on all government policy making in future ?

    Tonight's Program -
    I think your barking up the wrong tree over the "end of capitalism as we know it" and "USA being a busted flush" etc.
    I was very interested in the risk assessments that banks do, shame you did not follow that up.

  • Comment number 16.

    bookhimdano, I enjoy your postings which makes me reach for my "Citizen Smith" berry, Power to the People. (Played by Robert Lindsey)

    Whereas if Paul Mason has ever had a connection to the Socialist Workers party, good on him I say as I used to act and work for the Tory party in the most left wing parts of the industrial north, before my Paulinian Conversion under Thatcher to the "dark side" as you appear to equate socilalists.

    The current crisis was predicted in the early 80's with an excellent series of short books by Pluto Press called "Arguments for Socialism" titled Thatcher and Friends; Making it Public;Take over the City. 3 short books which to be blunt predicted the current crisis.
    However, bookhim, probably a lot of rubbish eminating from Brent library, as reviewers were Tony Benn,, Ken Livingstone, Hilary Wainwright, James Curran(New Socialist) Chris Mullin (Tribune) which should make any good Tory and you splutter into your G & T.

    I enjoy listening to all the "experts" that have now appeared out of the woodwork which has overtaken and superceded the mundane "let's knock Brown" copy. When the crisis is over they will return to that topic- there is a by election coming up. Crisis over???

    I look on this crisis positively for all that it is doing it getting rid of share prices that were just figures plucked out of the air, house inflated prices that were unrealistic and banking and lending practices which were dubious in the least.

    Once everything has bottomed out things will pick up again but hopefully not the speculators and we can start dealing in "real" money and returning to our industrial base instead of flogging off everything to the whole world.

    Now I wonder which party set us down that road? The Dinosaur Socialists of the 80's perhaps had a point.

  • Comment number 17.


    Why do bloggers go on about relative partyism?
    We are governed by Westminster (nuanced from time to time) with its cohort of rosette stands and its dysfunctionality. We are 'led' by the 'Supreme Dysfunctional' whose near-absolute power is a consequence of hierarchy and sycophancy, while his behaviour underlines all the above.

    Any enterprise, other than governance, would steer clear of such an ethos. Party politics is obscenely inefficient, directing most of its energy and vast amounts of money to attack, defence and illusion.

    J Gordon Brown and Blair before him demonstrated just how flawed are the individuals that the current system elevates to a position of power. The title 'Prime Minister' is no proof of anything. PM is as PM does. What Brown - the man - does, is far from reassuring.

  • Comment number 18.

    Barrie, You always make good points and running the risk that as a Labour party worker I am attacking Brown and my party, (gangophone)The Tmes yesterday listed the salaries of the Cabinet plus all the other supporting cast.
    The "flawed individuals", which includes my two MP's on that list, will always produce sycophants. Give me £141,866 plus perks and I will be as sycophantic as anyone!!

    I think we discussed this in the past that the current party system is breaking down to the electorate (but probably not to those with vested interests) and that a whole re-alignment will come after the result of the next election, especially in my party. Why do you think Cruddas and the left wing are currently laying low? No wonder Cameron is promising to repeal the Hunting Act. Blood sports in Labour will be interesting to behold. It will be Clause 4 all over again??

    Many in the party think that if Labour had stuck to its principles we would not be in this mess, but as anyone thinking things through, it is not as simple as that.

    Left-right, Blair-Brown, slogans that solves little for the electorate except give good "copy" for the press and political pundits. Will it be "New Tory" or the old "blue rinse/G & T Tory, watch for that struggle if and when they get in power.

    In the meantime keep up the good work. If I believed everything that I read and our "posters" write then the men in white coats would come knocking.

    "Power to the People" I loved that slogan but as bookhim wrote it was as relevant as the Life of Brian Committee. Sounds good-does nothing.

  • Comment number 19.

    Breaking News:-
    The Origami Bank of Japan has folded!!

  • Comment number 20.

  • Comment number 21.


    Do you think J Gordon will have him on The Team? I see he is a 'Scholar of Randomness' - that about does it for me (as the no-hoper said, in Groundhog Day).

  • Comment number 22.

    #18 Billbradbury

    'The "flawed individuals", which includes my two MP's on that list, will always produce sycophants. Give me £141,866 plus perks and I will be as sycophantic as anyone!!'

    New Labour in a nutshell.

    If only you could persuade Gordon to be this honest though you may not actually be a party activist I suppose.

  • Comment number 23.


    Barrie (#21) Like Credit Default 'Swaps', there are too many people with degrees these days.

    Whilst some of this is interesting reading, the author's OTHER books are surprising, as were some of the endorsements and . Doesn't it make one wonder?

    In #20 I was surprised by the Mandelbrot and Kahneman endorsements, and by the us of the term science given the biography. Reading this reference (which appeared in the FT in 2006) puzzled me as any competent statistician tests his or her data for non-normality (e.g. by using the K-S, Shapiro-Wilk, or Anderson-Darling test) as a sine qua non for using parametric statistics/tests.

    The late 80s were the heyday for Dynamical Systems Theory ('Chaos') and complex systems like the stock markets (and climate), and so more seasoned observers are likely to be wary that much is spun in the financial (and climate change) sector is likely to be black-arts. Elsewhere, in the context of our SATs, GCSE's, USA SATs etc, it's different. Tests there are specifically CREATED to be Gaussian, therein lies their utility and reliabilty despite assertions (and marking fiascos which have nothing to do with the underlying technology) to the contrary.

    One soon learns that spin and science don't mix, but that those trained in maths and the sciences, can and all too often are, abused by the unscrupulous. I've referred to the ubquitous back-arts in modern Lysenkoist education ('Aiming High', 'SEAL', 'SureStart', 'HeadStart', 'Brain-Gym') none of which bear close scrutiny any more than the ads on TV for cosmetics do. This problem si now endemic as many know. But the 'motivational' people behind all these money making fads seemed to get the ear of people like Blair and Balls etc nonetheless....

    I wonder why ;-)

  • Comment number 24.

    errata and #23 missing link:

    Whilst some of this is interesting reading, the author's OTHER books are surprising (a single topical leader (and there are a few about like this in election year) for even more dubious others?), as were some of the endorsements in the links off #20. Doesn't it make one wonder?


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