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America goes Defcon 2 Dental Alert as I host Crunchathon

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Paul Mason | 13:53 UK time, Thursday, 16 October 2008

This week's US edition of Newsnight is a credit crunch special, hosted by me. I am doing the full Dennis Waterman: "star in it, write the theme tune, sing the theme tune".

The Friday 17 October show airs at 6pm ET and again at 10pm, then again on Sunday morning at 10am ET. As this is my American presenting debut, I urge all my friends in the USA to tune in and boost my ratings: as these mainly include people I have met randomly sitting at a bar, I apologise in advance to Jimmy's Corner, the Gold Dust Lounge and similar establishments inbetween for the any resulting loss of trade.

The show includes the whole of "Credit Crunch: The Trial" special, plus a re-tracked version of my thinkpiece on the danger of a slump (retracked to take account of the fact that the whole world has since emulated Gordon Brown's recapitalisation plan and it still hasn't worked).

As there will inevitably be a backlash against my English teeth, I would like to explain that I grew up in the English equivalent of Scranton, Pennsylvania so I am lucky to have any at all. I promise to limit jazz hands to the finale.


  • Comment number 1.

    I know gritty Scranton too, which goes some way towards explaining why ex-Scrantonite Hillary Rodham Clinton can never quite be nailed down in that political coffin.

    I also happened to be walking past Lehmans in NYC a few weeks ago (seems like a different lifetime now) as the ship went down and people started coming out with their cardboard boxes.

    What punters like me would like to know from our economics editors is 'what comes next?' .. you could do a possible range (fantail) of possiblities from benign (at best?) to Armageddon if you want.

    Just as long as we are aware of the possibilities (good to see derivatives discussed last night - more please).

    And nothing too clever like 'unknown unknowns' please.

    PS. This Englishman also avoids smiling in America, the screams of the natives as they glimpse yellowing fangs is too much.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ok...a 'US edition of Newsnight'. Whilst wishing you well some questions do come to mind. Which station hosts and promotes that and who is providing the funding to meet programme costs, broadcast costs, expenses etc and where does this activity fit into the BBC's remit ?

  • Comment number 3.


    I am very worried about you son - you are clearly working too hard..

    On the Justin Webb Blog he has links to TWO BBC folks who are separately tracking Obama and McCain.

    Maybe if there were not so many people over there doing their own thing, you wouldn't be having to do a 'Dennis Waterman' yourself.

    Although you might end up getting married to Rula Lenska, so not all bad news...

  • Comment number 4.

    #2 Good questions! It's hosted/promoted by BBC America, which is part of BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC whose profits are ploughed back into the BBC. There's more about it here:

  • Comment number 5.


    Any chance that you will be able to interview some of the following whilst out in the states:

    Joseph Stiglitz: Not heard too much from him on UK TV lately, but surely someone who may come fairly close to your clarion call for a new JM Keynes??

    Jay Forrester: The founder of systems dynamics. Just saw the following short post where he has given a lucid overview of the causes of the current crisis (and another reference to the Kondratieff Wave...).;id=14515859;articleid=14515859

    The inference being "It's the system stupid".


  • Comment number 6.

    Do we get to see this in the old world?

  • Comment number 7.

    Oh right - just received the email. So Europe's Newsnight is coming live from DC while America gets your version, presumably taped in Europe. I get it - I think - um!

  • Comment number 8.

    Hawkeye Pierce

    Can't fault you on Jay Forrester, a super hero of mine. Will now read your recommendation. Thanks

  • Comment number 9.


    Wrote this in Jan 2006. It's my mum's favourite????

    Use Forrester's counter intuitive policy planning almost straight away.

    The next thing I wrote was the strategy for Scotland to avoid this known and easily predictable economic situation that is now happening. Again a heavy Forrester influence with Adam Smith. Posted last night for Moraymint

  • Comment number 10.


    Hawkeye_Pierce (#5) There are too may elements to this system which suggest self-serving 'conspiracy', except the scare-quotes are there because by all accounts, it looks like what politicians, The Federal Reserve, the investment and commercial banks, the three rating agencies, and many others did was rendered legal by repeal of legislation which was designed to prevent this back in 1933 or by more recent Securities legislation which has been light touch by design. It's all very well for teh FSA to say no more soft regulation, but where do they get their powers and staff?

    That's how it's done these days: venal but legal. Those who suffer most will be those who have a naive faith in the law, and worse still, in ethics/morality.

    But who needs a nanny state when one can have freedom/anarchism?

  • Comment number 11.

    The call for a new Keynes was always the problem. Hawkeye refers to Forrester. I had read some of his work, then Limits to Growth. Then surrounded myself with everything I could find on predictive systems. What I wanted to do was the conceptual leap from Forresters early work.

    Finally after 16 hours a day after three years I got there in 84. Unfortunately I then found not only was it not wanted, it was violently not wanted. Anyone with a system to predict the future will put economic development departments out of work, politicians etc. One local authority told me I was going to have my legs broken.

    When 1991 came, my system predicted that the way society came out of that recession would automatically crash both the economic system and then the ecological. I had the magnitude and the timing. This was based on Forresters counter intuitive, complex systems generating the opposite outcomes. I had discovered why complex systems generate the opposite outcome to intended inputs etc.

    In previous posts I put that the present situation was due to criminal offences. In 98 I was putting a project together to stop this present economic crisis. I was stopped by some of the most serious criminal offences.

    I had been told I was being regarded as probably the best economist in the world. Which was news to me as I was an engineer and ecologist. Some people knew if they could stop me they could they could crash the global economy.

    For those who don't understand how. Watch this. I posted this under the Krakatoa blog.

    For those who suggested I go to the police in England. I used to think that there was something called rule of law. This doesn't exist. There are people who can commit acts of terrorism, murder in fact any serious offence you can think of including economic sabotage, the police will not even consider an investigation. I have had this explained to me, most forcefully. There are people the police allow to kill other people. Reality.

    Despite death threats I enetered the competition in 2001 to run the Dome as a global environmental management centre.

    By focusing on the global environment this would have put £50 billion into the UK economy per year. I got shortlisted but didn't win, despite on the competition criteria the proposal should have.

    My team would have sorted out the present global economic and ecological problems. We weren't given the chance.

    My teams have run some of the best music events in the UK. My teams have run the biggest civil engineering projects in Europe. Ask them.

    Paul: This could have ben a Keynes approach to solving the present economic situation. But public sector investment into a project at the Dome even though it would have generated around £400 billion so far for the UK economy, was a no no.

    This didn't matter people who had access to the money would have invested if the Gov had chosen the project. We would have gone to the large reinsurers to reduce their liabilaties etc. I am not going to detail a £50 billion per year project here.

    Hawkeye: This is a development on Forresters work. By going for the environment, we would have achieved an opposite output and resolved the situation with the economic system.

    The global environment would have been sorted. if there is anyone on the planet who thinlks they know more about planetary ecological systems. Newsnight can arrange a debate between us. 100s have told me I am the best, until I start saying I am the best no one ekse will believe it. There again my portfolio of work is second to none. QED.

    Hawkeye: What you pointed out about Forresters work. Short term benefits v long term losses. What world leaders have done in the last week is destabilise planetary ecological systems, with their £2000,000,000,000. If nothing is done these will collapse in 4 years and more than 6 billion will die as a result.

    Ignore all the nonsense from the Government tonight about an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions. The 2005 G8 agenda of climate change and Africa was derived from my work. I wrote the climate change/ terrorism risk assessment Sir David King, Al Gore and other wold leaders use. This was an introduction to the environment, not the be all and end all.

    World leaders have made a decision this week which will collapse planetary ecological systems. Billions will die as a result. For what? Short term stabilisation of some abstract economy.

    We need to create a better future, not destroy it. It is about life, love, compassion. Not credit crunches, not FTSE, not derivatives or any other dellusion the 'system' tells us is important.

    Have some pride.

    Celtic Lion.

  • Comment number 12.

    Some sharp attention to the trade agreement that the EU signed up yesterday, which includes worker migration into the EU (UK), would be more useful than looking across the Atlantic at this point, even though the latter might be a really exciting career move for you.

  • Comment number 13.

    Celtic Lion,

    An interesting take on the whole climate change vs. the economy dichotomy.

    If I understand you right, the suggestion is then for us to focus on creating a stable, self sustainable ecologically sound socio-economic system first, and let the fiscal / monetary issues flow downstream from this.

    Despite the weight of evidence that many notable academics and commentators may provide to substantiate this as the only real long term solution for the human race, me thinks this could be seen as a retrograde step by the Western World.

    Didn't America defeat the Red Indians??

    (Not that I'm saying that all indigenous populations are squeaky clean - Jarred Diamond's Collapse offers both a deep look at the causes of historical society collapses and some 'not too uncomfortable for the establishment' pointers for the future. Will dust that off the shelf and read it in the current context....)

  • Comment number 14.


    celticlionltd (#11) Any relation?

  • Comment number 15.

    #13 Hawkeye

    Yes thats about the take. its like pulling out of an exchange rate mechanism. Concentrate on priorities eg life and allow the monetary/fiscal sytems evolve to support that.

    In economics the means has become self serving and more important than the ends.

    Define the ends and now reconstruct the means to serve that.

    America did defeat the red indians but in doing sowed the seeds of its own destruction. I refer you back to your post on Forrester.

    No it will not be a retrograde step. All the conversion of ecological stability into the economic system has we have seen, has disappeared into some imaginary black hole.

    very inefficient processing.

    By doing as you/we/others outline socio-ecoconomic/ ecological systems will massively evolve sustainably.

    What world leaders in the last week have done is send us on a evolutionary trajectory to extinction.

    Any species, organisation or system etc will become extinct when there is a thermodynamic instability or inefficiency with respect to the next system it is part of.

  • Comment number 16.

    #12 stayingcool... sadly my career opportunities in the USA were closed down once they cast Daphne Moon's ignorant brother in Frasier. I am looking at trade, migraton and employment.

    # the rest. I will have a look at the questions you pose and see if we can address them in future blogs.

  • Comment number 17.


    Apologies for any confusion in my post #13. I'm not saying that your proposal IS a retrograde step, just that it will be SEEN as one; an anathema in the current worldview (or paradigm as Kuhn would say).

    A bit like Copernicus trying to convince people in the 16th C that it is the earth that goes round the sun.

  • Comment number 18.

    #17 Hawkeye

    No problem.....stable, self sustainable ecologically sound socio-economic systems...

    I had already 'rebranded'. these in the 2001 proposal to run the Millennium Dome as a global environmental management centre as 'ecological life support systems of a spaceship on a journey to the future'.

    Had to sex them up a bit. In trying to create the next paradigm.

    Have got a ditty going on Galbaith, Keynes, Forrester and Adam Smith. Will post later but am between clients.

    Koi carp pond-looking after and some horse muck for a sustainable garden I have just built from a rubble strewn mess.

    Also get a Private Eye to see if my ad is in it.

    Have you got Fundamentals of Ecology, Odum and Odum?

    Celtic Lion

  • Comment number 19.

    celticlionltd (#18) There are quite a few I's in your posts. Have you noticed? That's atypical of scientists/engineers (who are trained to write allocentrically/objectively).

  • Comment number 20.

    Galbaith made some assessments on the 1929 crash and depression that the attempts by Government were after the curve. What they did was a reaction to what had happened, in a way making the situation worse.

    Keynes would see public investment as a method for development.

    Forrester sees that trying to achieve short term benefits can result in long term problems. Also in complex systems an intended action can result in the opposite outcome.

    Adam Smith, well the dualities and paradoxes which could be encountered here.The invisible hand, self interest and moral sentiments. But to me a duality similer to Heisenbergs Uncertainty principle, depends on your view point and what you are looking for.

    The £2,000,000,000,000 input by world governments will not work for similar reason as Galbraith found in the the 1929 crash. By taking this action it will cause long term problems, this will be the destabilisation of ecological systems, in a Forrester type assesssment.

    It is in everyones self interest that we do not crash ecological systems, as this will kill most people. This presents an opportunity which the invisible hand can solve as this is a potential market. Which Smith could appreciate.

    Keynes might consider the aforementioned amount being invested in stabilisation of global ecological systems as a public investment and work programme to stop the tragedy of the (global commons).

    Ecological systems will crash before climate change 'only' scenarios. If anyone wants to disagree I have to say I did contribute to two Nobel prizes last year on climate change. Also before Moraymints comments on peak oil problems.

    The decision by world governments will bring this forward if not corrected.

  • Comment number 21.


    celticlionltd (#20) "Keynes might consider the aforementioned amount being invested in stabilisation of global ecological systems as a public investment and work programme to stop the tragedy of the (global commons)."

    You just don't get it. For decades Liberal-Democracies have voted for light touch governments which abrogate to the markets where capitalists (bankers and shareholders) make money/have control. To get anything done that you romantically aspire to one has to vote in the opposite - i.e. statist (Democratic-Centralist)/fascist/National Socialist command economies.

    But they are the so-called sponsors of 'terrorism'. So we don't.

  • Comment number 22.

    #19 Jadedjean

    That is because here 'I' am expressing an opinion, sometimes based on experiences, such as when 'I' was shortlisted to run the Dome. Also 'I' am trying to do this while trying to do this while 'I' am doing another 10 jobs.

    'l' have also been told that when expressing an opinion it is polite to use the 'I' or in 'my' opinion as one then doesn't convey this is an absolute opinion of universal absolute truth.

    'I' can write in many styles. Mostly 'I' write objectively. How much of my portfolio do you want to see?

    Also consider Forresters work in complex systems. Very often the opposite outcome is viewed.

    Take the analogy of the mirror, the image is laterally inverted and opposite to the object.

    Also 'I. am very simple, though some regard my final draft written work in high regard. For me it is very difficult. Verbal skills present great difficulties, me being happier at the spatial end of the spectrum.

    Also in my opinion you have a tendency to over analysis everything in too greater detail. Me 'I' tend to view with an overall, objective assessment, before descending fractal like into the detail.

    Also expressing information in minimum words. My team, will not only tell you I was part of a team it also tells you 'I' was given supervisor responsibility of that team, in two words.

    The team I was part of, does not.

    May this be recommended, re the use of I. Not only that it was a very accurate political assessment. As you have noticed in the media from other sources. It is my opinion on I, so I have used I.

    From 20th February.

  • Comment number 23.


    Count the 'I's in Paul's intro to this blog subject above.

    Does it apply also to him?

  • Comment number 24.

    #21 JadedJean

    No JadedJean, you are not getting it. It maybe because you call yourself Jaded, have you lost your sparkle?

    As Hawkeye pointed out #17 we are talking about a new paradigm.

    You are talking about Liberal Democracies v statist (Democratic-Centralist)/ fascist /National Socialist command economies.

    Lets look at thesis plus antithesis gives the new synthesis.

    A new way of doing things outside your conventional framework would generate the antithesis. People disillusioned with the political system could look for another way.

    This becomes the thesis in entirety:Liberal Democracies v statist (Democratic-Centralist)/ fascist /National Socialist command economies.

    What the message that has got to get out there is how close we are to anhilation to life on earth. Then we must work as a global team together. If this can not be accomodated within your conventional framework, it must concede or we will all perish.

    Get Gordon or David on Newsnight get the audience/Paxman/ experts in climatology, oceanography, ecology etc to grill them on how to restore the ecological life support systems of the planet.

    Remember the Police song from Koestlers Ghosts in the Machine.

    'There is no political solution'.

    I don't just talk the talk, I will walk the walk. I entered the Dome competition, jumped through the hoops, did the interview.

    I got shortlisted to run the Dome as a £50 billion per year environmental centre. Had the Government followed the competition criteria: we would not have had this present economic situation, the flooding in 2007 would not have happened, there would have ben an alert and early warning system for natural hazards inc Tsunamis.

    Intellectually 'I' could have run a team to have achieved all these things. The biggest thing was the psychological preparation case they had said Do it.

    It is not a romantic notion. It is a practical plan to save my life, my families, your life, another 6 billion and anywhere up to 100 million species of animal and plant that are this Earth.

  • Comment number 25.

    celticlionltd (#22) "How much of my portfolio do you want to see?"

    I (and I suspect many others) have seen more than enough.

  • Comment number 26.

    Glad to see that others are finally picking up on the Kondtratieff wave. I have always had a sneaking suspicion that the data all adds up and was just waiting to see if the crisis came along as predicted, which it did. Now the thing is to see whether governments and the state have a long enough attention span to go on counteracting the downturn for the 10-15 years it is going to take to hit bottom. The more they counteract, the shorter the recession will be. Just as credit spending prolonged the autumn bubble, so state deficit financing can perhaps shorten the downturn. we'll see I guess.

  • Comment number 27.

    #26 Citizen Thompson
    Sorry just put post on Kondratieff on Hellsapoppin. Perhaps Gary Hart has been reading this blog before appearing on Newsnight?

    or morphic resonance? or chance?


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