BBC BLOGS - Newsnight: Paul Mason
« Previous | Main | Next »

Revolutions and the price of bread: 1848 and now

Post categories:

Paul Mason | 12:09 UK time, Thursday, 21 April 2011

breadprices 1848 and now

Sometimes one graph says it all. Here's one that says quite a lot. In the graph above the little blue crosses indicate the price of wheat in certain countries that have experienced social unrest this year. The further to the top right the cross is, the higher the medium and short term price hike the country has suffered: for wheat and therefore for bread.

Saudi and Algeria are stable, Occupied Palestine, Jordan and Egypt are on the high end of the price spike; Tunisia, Yemen, Morocco and Lebanon significantly high. There is, therefore, a rough - but only - rough correlation between bread prices and revolutions. So far.

However the big splodge of colour in the middle concerns a completely different period in history: the revolutionary wave of 1848. In 2000 economists Helge Berger and Mark Spoerer calculated the scale of bread price inflation in key locations of the revolutionary wave in the era of Marx and Metternich.* Economists at Barings have used that data to produce the chart above, and it makes pretty stunning viewing.

The red triangles show violent revolutions: France, Switzerland, Austria, Prussia, Hungary and a host of German principalities saw violent overthrows correllated with a food price spike.

England, famous for the massive damp-squib Chartist demonstration on Kennington Common, and not much else in 1848 apart from some high-spirited Marseillaise singing in Soho, sits where Saudi sits now: almost no food price inflation. The green squares show places which achieved something similar to what's been happening in the Middle East - immediate constitutional reform on the edge of an insurgent's pitchfork.

There's a lot to be written about this, and nobody would be crazy enough to say food prices were in any way a sole causal factor of 1848 or the revolutions today: but they are clearly contributory factors.

The interesting thing, of course, is that neither the food price spike nor the revolutionary wave has yet subsided in the developing world, so the blue cross part of the graph has to be seen as highly interim. As the Barings guys write:

"There were, undoubtedly, deeper seated causes to the Jasmine Wave than the price of a loaf of bread. But to paraphrase Berger and Spoerer's investigation into the economic causes of the revolutions that rocked Europe in 1848, while food inflation does not provide the brains, it does supply the brawn."**

Makes you think.

* Helge Berger & Mark Spoerer, Economic Crises and the European Revolutions of 1848, The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 61, No.2, June 2001, pp293-326.

** Barings Asset Management note: The Sugar Rush and the Jasmine Wave. 20 April 2011.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Which is excatly way Marx said, "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness"

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Interesting but cause and effect? Are the spikes in food prices initiators of revolutionary turmoil or the result?

  • Comment number 4.

  • Comment number 5.

    Whoops!...I left this one out.

    http://fiatsfire.blogspot.com/2011/04/piigs-really-do-fly-greek-debt.html

    'In other news, Apple (will try to herd the sheep with another distraction) will ship out yet another new iPhone in September, meaning Apple has confirmed that the (radioactive) half life of their new product is but only a few weeks rather than months. The new iPhone4.2 is rumoured to have at least two more cameras on each side, so you can view the world like a common house fly. It is also rumoured to come with a built-in printing press for making your own fiat money. Remember, more cameras are good; printing presses are better. You don't want to be caught dead with last month's model! Get in line now.'

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    MALECHICKEN-EYED CONFIGURATION (#4 link2)

    Whether or not they are psychopathic, our 'dominant strata' exhibit PRECISELY the attributes we would rather not see in our spouse, children, friends and colleagues.

    Our hierarchies seem mediated, almost exclusively, by animal imperatives. But that being so, we still look to the elevated ones for feats of cerebral finesse.

    Doh!

  • Comment number 8.

    TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS (#6)

    Drop me a copy on the sub-aether link Sasha.

  • Comment number 9.

    @6 Huh - I regularly post foreign stuff with translation and there's no problem: why different this time? Not amused :-(

    Tom Watts from the Threepeny Opera; "What keeps mankind alive?" (I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to give the German title, as it's in a foreign language.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkQG9MH4HHg

    It's not a brilliant translation, but it appears that I'm not allowed to elaborate.

  • Comment number 10.


    Maybe Americans will be left with only virtual Apples?

    Robert Peston tweeted earliertoday...
    'Extraordinary Apple results at time of insipid growth in rich west - sales up 83% in 3 months, annualised revenues running at $100bn'



    Analysts boost Apple price target on stellar results

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/21/idUSL3E7FL1OV20110421


    $100bn!

  • Comment number 11.

    Perhaps someone in Gov read the Barings report as well and decided to take no chances and came up with resurecting this blatently obvious thing that could and should have been done years ago without needed lord know how many comitees and papers etc etc.

    http://www.packagingnews.co.uk/news/government-moves-to-scrap-sell-by-dates-to-cut-food-waste/


    I wonder how many millions of tonnes of perfectly good food went to rot in landfills to keep the global economic model going while thousands elsewhere starve.

    But now there is a risk the government here may start to get a rough ride as well because of falling incomes..all of a sudden guess what ....you can eat most of the food you usually throw away after all guys.

    I wonder how much the change would have on household incomes. It could be significant, but hey..nobody calculates or publicises the stuff that is actually useful.



  • Comment number 12.

    It is interesting to see a BBC economics blog talking about food price inflation and thanks for the interesting chart Paul. You might want to pass it to Stephanie Flanders who spent ages telling us there were no signs of inflation to be seen....

  • Comment number 13.

    C'mon - somebody say it - you know you want to!

    (But it wasn't Marie Antoinette who first said it: it was, allegedly, her predecessor, Marie-Thérèse.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Theresa_of_Spain

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I (#14)

    Nobley posted museV. The Blogdog taketh away willy-nilly, but can it take away with fine judgement? We shall see.

  • Comment number 16.

    @14

    If you aren't logged in, I think you can refer yourself to the moderators?

  • Comment number 17.

    #16 thank you

  • Comment number 18.

    the price of bread plus a volcanic eruption in Iceland kicked off the French revolution (1789) little things like the price of bread have immense consequences.....

  • Comment number 19.

    LadyEcon - I'd imagine it's hard to notice food price inflation when you are flitting between subsidised BBC cafes and posh restaurants where someone else is paying. Her columns really are just what Auntie ordered.

    There will be no revolution. The majority of voters, who are older, are doing very nicely thanks. Much better than a fairer distribution of wealth. They will quietly sit back and let the state get more oppressive in order to protect their mountains of "stuff". To play this out as "us" (people) vs "them" (banks) is just rubbish. That's not where the line is.

    Let's make the law even more complex so that we can squeeze the next generation whilst smugly thinking it's "justice at work", without looking at the details. Anyone hear that Radio 4 programme the other day on law by Clive Anderson? God that was depressing. Basically 3 lawyers talking about how nobody understood the law.

  • Comment number 20.

    What is bread and surely people prefer cake. What has happened to Libya?

  • Comment number 21.

    CPI and RPI are subsets of data captured here in the UK by the ONS however as an importing nation it is important to look at how prices are rising across the world.

    Some people at MIT are attempting to do something in that vein http://bpp.mit.edu/world-inflation-index/

    Looking at the graphs, I might venture that the dip in UK RPI from 5.8 to 5.4 is a temporary phenomenon and will resume its upward trend in the next set of figures.

    This will put further pressure on Mervyn to raise rates (and in my opinion commit the UK to economic suicide).

    The price of bread will be the least of their worries (as the price of assets comes crashing down)

  • Comment number 22.

    CONTRITION IS NOT IN THE HOUSE RULES (#16 & 17)

    I tried that route, on behalf of museV, Sasha, but Blogdog said: "Further to your complaint about some of the content on a BBC blog (reference number P31472005), we have decided that it does not contravene the House Rules and are going to leave it on site."

    Did I not say: THIS IS THE AGE OF PERVERSITY?

  • Comment number 23.

    BobRocket:

    "The price of bread will be the least of their worries (as the price of assets comes crashing down)"

    What else can happen? Assets are hopelessly overvalued. This is really like debating how we can best avoid a train crash where the emergency services are watching a video of the crash that happened 30 minutes ago, discussing when to brake, whilst people lie injured on the tracks. The last decade was a fantasy ponzi scheme. During that time instead of making money people made up money. We now have to pay for this through the debasement of our currency (and other western currencies). It's double-bubble because we have to adjust from fantasy to reality +and+ pay back some of the debt incurred during the fantasy period.

    People fall into three categories:

    1. Young people who are in masses of debt and cannot secure a safe future no matter how hard they work. By virtue of their youth most will not understand the wider system.

    2. People who don't understand or think about being part of a wider system but who have, due to their date of birth, benefited massively from the last 15 years. They will not understand why "their right" to a great standard of living has gone. This is by far the largest segment.

    3. People who understand the system and actively exploit it for their own gain. This is not a big group as a percentage.

    1 and 2 will probably want to stove the heads in of 3 even though they are only part of the problem, because 1 and 2 don't understand the system. Then once group 3 have either moved abroad or otherwise been removed 1 and 2 can get down to business. At this point they may be compelled to think about how we intend to fund people retiring for 30 years and how a housing market with no new entrants can stay afloat. What happens then could ultimately be messy for group 2. If 1 and 2 put their brains in gear they might come up with a sustainable system that means we can make it work. I won't hold my breath as this would require some kind of reconciliation from 2 and they don't give away +anything+ for free.

  • Comment number 24.

    I seem to recall that not many of the 1848 revolutions led to lasting change. It didn't take long for the status quo to reappear. Rather like what's happening in Syria in fact, some window dressing followed by the ruling elite remaining precisely where they are.

  • Comment number 25.

    #23

    Sad, very sad, but the most likely to be true.

    For those who can see it, it is unbearable to watch, it is all so pityful and unecesarry.

    It can be turned around but the chances are we wont unless people start believing in magic again. If human nature governs the ultimate outcome then it will not be good, yet anything that is beyond human nature nowadays is actively frowned upon.

    AC Grayling may have good intensions but he is wasting his time.

    An Aetheist Bible by AC Grayling. What is the first comandment in his work..I take it it is not ' modesty is a virtue'. He fails at the front cover, human nature having got the better of him, and few will venture beyond it.

  • Comment number 26.

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that I got the link to the MIT World Inflation Index from a link on the very well written site FiatsFire that museV linked to in #5

    Ben, there is another category, those of a certain age group who didn't benefit, they make up the majority of that age group, the ones who benefitted most were the gamblers and shysters that 'we' (as taxpayers) bailed out when they should have been left to go broke.

    'They will not understand why "their right" to a great standard of living has gone. This is by far the largest segment.'

    Their future, like yours has been stolen (gifted away), they got ripped off just like you, it is just that they don't know it yet. (the shiny bright future was mis-sold)

  • Comment number 27.

  • Comment number 28.

    It all boils down to the same thing really.

    1) Most normal people are risk averse and will not take positive action (like a revolution) despite some rather obvious gross injustices until a certain threshold of suffering is breached.

    As suggested in your post that threshold seems to revolve around actual physical hunger, or perhaps it could apply to fuel for heating as well in the modern world in a cold climate. Hence the expression '' every civilised society is only about 6 meals away from chaos' or '' afew days of gas shortage in the winter as well now I would say.

    I dont know why anyone needed to spend money on a research project to figure that one out...I didn't..

    Due to technology the buffer we now have for injustice to build up in the system unchecked is massive. A few hundred years ago most of human labour ( 60% I believe)was spent feeding ourselves and meeting our modest energy needs of the time now it is a fraction of that (about 7% I believe).

    There is so much fat in the system that can be cut out to prevent a serious uprising now, for example, the recent emergence of the idea of getting rid of sell by dates on food which contributes to 6 billion quid worth being thrown away (but big profits for supermarkets). I guess government are more afraid of the people now than they are of lobbying from supermarkets so this 'no brianer' is now back on the agenda.


    The other part of the dynamic is motivation. As I said before, if you are not making progress you are either not suffereing enough (covered above) or you are not motivated enough.

    Most (not all) seriously motivated people (without needing to starve to be so) are actually a bit psychologically imbalanced in some way. The hunger which drives normal people to extraordinary acts is replaced by some other driving force, hence we get a lot of imbalanced people in high places governing 'normal well balanced people' . That is until such time as the nutters mess it up sufficiently for the normal people to get suffering and therefore get motivated to change things.

    Simple as.

    Thats the awful part of it, all the mess to come could be avoided, but it probably will not be because of the above and nothing we say here is likely to change that.

    We will be forced into a more balanced and sustainable throughput economy at some point by force of massive suffering and physical neccesity on a finite planet but there is nothing to stop us doing it now and people would live a much more satisfying life in%2

  • Comment number 29.

    #28 continued.

    the rest got chopped off, lost in the ether now but it was something about...ahh why do I bother.

    Just banging my head against abrick wall

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    Readers may find this related post on food and revolution of interest:

    http://8020vision.com/2011/02/05/what-feeds-a-revolution/

    As the Spanish proverb says: "Civilization and anarchy are only seven meals apart."

  • Comment number 32.

    I think Mr Mason is being deliberately mischievous here.

    It's a nice graph, but the raw data is needed to validate the conclusion. A link to the raw data should have been included. Possible problems with this graph include (but are not limited to):

    The type of averaging is not specified. (mode, median, mean?)

    The periods over which the average is applied vary, and regardless of the timescale all of them cover a significant period of time and could potentially cover important features of the data.

    It's not specified whether the prices are adjusted for inflation (specifically, wage inflation - if prices rise at the same rate as wages then the price rise in the cost of bread is meaningless, because it remains as affordable as ever).

    The historical and contemporary examples are not directly comparable, thanks to 1) different periods of averaging and 2) inflation in the price of bread is less important today than it was in the past.

    Some figures compare "the price of wheat", whilst others compare the peak price of wheat over an arbitrary period of time.

    Mr Mason makes a direct link between wheat prices and the price of bread, but this takes no account of the price of labour involved in farming the wheat, milling the wheat, baking the bread and selling the bread.

    There's also no account of the profit margins involved at each stage, something that (take note, LadyEcon) Stephanie Flanders hinted at in at least two of her recent blog posts. I don't always like Ms Flanders' writing style but amongst her flirting with soap opera economics she often hints at an interesting truth. As bloggers go, she's far from the worst culprit of soap opera-style economics, of course. Not going to name names, but yes, I can think of far worse culprits.

    Jericoa #29:

    Don't give up.

    In response to various people praising various NN presenters:

    I have my personal favourites for various reasons, but really I think all the presenters do a good job and they all bring something slightly different and valuable to the table. I could find some fault with all of them if I looked hard enough, but they all have their strengths, too.

    However, as a relative newcomer, I think Mishal Husain is worth mentioning as being particularly excellent. She seems to know her stuff and is calm yet commanding and seems to be able to control a discussion and recover gracefully in the face of unexpected technical problems.

    Also, I think Gavin Esler is under-rated - he seems like the journalistic equivalent of the competent caretaker or IT worker - he does his job so well, he almost goes unnoticed.

  • Comment number 33.

    #30 Ben
    'This comment...' naughty, naughty.

    Let's face it, those of my generation and earlier (I am a tailend boomer) who didn't (couldn't) take advantage of buying land/property cheap have been royally stuffed by those who stood to gain by pumping up the various bubbles, it is too late for my generation, our life choices are crystallised*, yours are still fluid.

    My advice for someone approaching University would be...

    Take the student loan (up to the max) and invest it in 3 year bonds
    leverage a loan from a commercial bank to pay for your fees and living expenses whilst you study. Upon graduation (and maturity of the bonds) payback the student loan, have a party with any interest gained and then file for bankruptcy letting the commercial bank take the hit. (not very moral but we are dealing with amoral financial institutions here).

    You constantly moan that the boomers stole your future, it wasn't them.

    The people who stole your future also stole ours.

    In 1945 we were promised a better future
    In the 1950's we were promised free electricity
    In the 1960's we were promised a shorter working week
    In the 1970's we were promised a decent pension
    In the 1980's we were promised freedom
    In the 1990's we were promised affluence
    In the 2000's we were promised infinite credit

    It was all lies. (but we all contributed just in case it turned out to be true, this is the exploitation of hope (the only thing we carry inter-generationally))

    Cui Bono from all those lies - the same people who benefit now.

    Two world wars and immeasurable suffering and still the same families own the vast majority of the wealth, you do the math.


    *the source for this study appears to be http://www.theonion.com/articles/study-38-age-it-too-late,19859/
    this is the site that brings you http://www.theonion.com/articles/study-dolphins-not-so-intelligent-on-land,1896/?utm_source=related
    and http://www.theonion.com/articles/oh-my-god-i-am-so-totally-not-a-fully-developed-pe,10674/?utm_source=related so its veracity has not been tested :)

    Back on topic, wheat prices will remain high this year but will crash next year (overproduction), early onion crops in India this year will command high prices but later crops will suffer from oversupply, in another two years the onions will again be at a premium due to arable land being taken out of production due to a housing boom.


    #Jericoa, banging your head against the wall is a soporific, when you stop the headaches start.


  • Comment number 34.

    #Ben

    what is it that you want Ben and what is the fairest and most equitable way of achieving it ?

    Who loses ? Who gains ? Will it make any difference ?

    Whilst the people who have stolen all your wealth still control the purse strings do you think things are going to be better for your generation ?

    Which bit of 'You are being ripped off every living and breathing day' do you not quite grasp and it is not by your fellow man that this is happening.
    You fall hook line and sinker that 'We cannot afford this', and we are 'Spending Beyond our means' and this is just crap. The UK is the 4th richest nation on this planet, of course we can afford to treat our old people decently.

    Some of us choose not to

    I'd rather push those who don't choose to contribute into the sea. In or out Ben ?

  • Comment number 35.

    Ben

    I don't usually agree with you but this is quite superb:

    `During that time instead of making money people made up money.'

    Excellent comment.

  • Comment number 36.

    In my view fuel - road and warming yourself in winter - will be the new bread.

    When food becomes expensive, life gets cheaper.

  • Comment number 37.

    #36

    The wealthy are spending increasingly large amounts on security, the sec. co's are spending proportionately decreasing amount on hiring, something has to give, can the ins. cos pay for the slack or is this just another ponzi scheme designed to give comfort rather than reward.

    It is a flippant remark, 'When food becomes expensive, life gets cheaper.', are you ready for the reality.

    The middle classes will be squeezed down to the bottom, unless they are contrite they will be rejected by those already at the bottom, the reality is the fight with those at the top, they control the prices, they set the agenda, careful what they wish for, reality bites.

    I'm ready.

  • Comment number 38.

    Banking - no reward for failure! Comrade Brown gets advisory role:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13171942

    The country and even the Labour Party nearly went bankrupt under his watch. Perhaps he'll get IMF head just before we default and then he will be back in charge!

  • Comment number 39.

    Bobrocket - firstly I'm mid-30s. I'm arguing this from the position of others because I think what is happening is wrong. My age group are getting hit badly, but the next generation are getting it even worse.

    "Take the student loan (up to the max) and invest it in 3 year bonds
    leverage a loan from a commercial bank to pay for your fees and living expenses whilst you study. Upon graduation (and maturity of the bonds) payback the student loan, have a party with any interest gained and then file for bankruptcy letting the commercial bank take the hit. (not very moral but we are dealing with amoral financial institutions here)."

    Morally this is wrong. It complies to the letter of the law but not the spirit, to the benefit of the individual concerned but it will push up rates for everyone else. Typical boomer "solution".

    "You fall hook line and sinker that 'We cannot afford this'"

    I think I'm not falling for anything. Well before the sub-prime issues began I could see we were going off a cliff. You just have to take off the greed-goggles and plug your brain in. I agree there have been a successive promises to your generation such as "retire at 65 no matter what the life expectancy is". This is the time when you need to be the grown ups. Think "no, even though that sounds lovely it's unsustainable and therefore immoral" instead of "kerrrrching!".

    "I'd rather push those who don't choose to contribute into the sea. In or out Ben ?"

    Just because as a generation you have collectively decided it's moral to take 30 year pensions even though it cannot add up does not make it right. Your generation's pensions are called "defined benefit" rather than our generation's "defined contribution". Who then is contributing, Bob?

  • Comment number 40.

    IT TAKES INDIVIDUAL MATURITY FOR SOCIAL INTEGRITY IN CHAOTIC TIMES (#39)

    All the yelling about FIXING THE FINANCIAL ROOF, while the Sun beamed down (imaginary) money, will emerge as of little account compared to our DISMANTLING OF THE COMPETENCE ROOF, of each individual, during those times of 'plenty'. Blair's 'education, education, education', was solely for purposes of Mammon - INDIVIDUAL MATURITY went on the slide.

    We now have a nation of children (plus a few million whom I can't place on any UK scale) who are going to get angry, spiteful and nihilistic, when the wheels come off the pram.

    Westminster governance, stuffed with legal, monetary and - now - simple political, 'expertise' (truth-economy and lie-hypocrisy) has not the wit to handle the human dimension - even in 'good' times. Already they seem reduced to:

    DAVE EAT NICK.

  • Comment number 41.

    Speculation: the cause of high commodity prices.
    A huge increase in speculative commodity investment over the last few years has been and continues to be a leading cause of inflated consumer prices for heating oil, gasoline, food...The Banksters will gamble on anything. Don't blame them; it's all they know - speculation, betting. They'll even gamble on your sovereign debt!...
    Little old me has called for market reforms to limit excessive commodity speculation and bring prices back into a reflection of supply and demand. Isn't supply and demand supposed to be the backbone of capitalism?
    I believe financial speculation on commodity markets is artificially driving up prices on all commodities. Today’s high commodity prices are not a product of supply and demand, but rather a international poker game.
    How can I say that?
    Because I can tell you without a doubt that the supply of "bread" has remained rather constant; so, you tell me why the price of "bread" is going up. In addition, can you please tell me why every commodity price seems to be going up at the same time.
    Never mind.
    I'll tell you: speculation, financial games, likely even price-fixing.
    Too much speculative money can have a disruptive effect on markets and boost prices above their “true” value. This is what has happened in today’s commodity markets. Speculation’s over-sized effect on commodity prices is compounded by new trading products and technologies like high frequency trading (platform trading)which is also part of the financial fix.
    There's a debate over proposed regulation of commodity speculation. Leading financial experts and economists have entered the debate. Demands for reform include everything from investment banks, hedge funds, commodity exchanges, and other apparently unstoppable financial institution that suck in billions of dollars in profit every year that nefarious trading activity increases while commodity prices climb.
    Be it bread or oil or clothes you put on your back, in some way the commodity traders have their nasty, greedy grip on whatever it is you need.

  • Comment number 42.

    BACKBONE IS USELESS WITHOUT HEART AND SOUL (#41)

    In my 1995 submission to Rowntree, I offered the following:

    I believe that the “Developed World” suffers from a serious and progressive imbalance, which we have exported to all parts of the globe. Our view* of what is worthwhile, and the ways in which we measure success and value, have destroyed what tenuous stability there was and the sum-total of competence (particularly parenting) declines with each birth. This is now an epidemic out of control.
    * It is an unmitigated male view.

    The last few years would seem to have added an exclamation mark.

    There are some fundamentally good and wise individuals in our society, but Westminster is configured to keep them far from national management (levers of power).

    Nuff sed.

  • Comment number 43.

    MEALY-MOUTHED WEASELS - SHAKESPEARE YOU SHOULD BE HERE TODAY

    Just catching up on Andrew Marr. Simon Hughes and Billy the Spud displayed precisely what makes a great Westminster Parliamentarian. If I were to do their disgrace justice, here, the Blogdog would issue a life ban. Suffice to say: we are governed by individuals without a shred of honour or integrity.

    Baroness Warsi 'got a mention' as well she might.

    SPOILPARTYGAMES

  • Comment number 44.

    my wife has just bought me a birthday present, it is a bread making machine, it has been in the box for six days now, she has just said if you don't open that box it is going back, I have just opened the box and read the instructions.........it is going back! I am a wimp as I cannot understand any of it, is there anyone out there who knows?

  • Comment number 45.

    #41

    I read today in the sports pages about a now famous (apparently) of modest means (at the time) on course 'bookie' who ended up owing the big betting chains £1.4 million via an unfeasibly unlucky chain of events. Despite as he said 'gambling debts not being enforceable by law' much to the big chains surprised he paid it back anyway because that was how he was brought up' and, remarkably, eventually he recovered.

    In my ill informed mischievous way, I enjoyed theorising for a moment that if the activities of the city were officially recognised as 'gambling' rather than errrhmmm ...'investment' the whole thing would collapse as by law no direct gambling debt would be enforceable ( I assume the Bookie knew what he was talking about).


    This makes sence when you think about it (as oppose to how the city is regulated).

    If you dont have the money up front in hard cash that belongs to you personally...you cant do it.. unless you steal money of course (without anyone knowing) in which case if you dont win you will get arrested and thrown in jail.... fair enough ... moral hazard etc

    It would be an interesting legal test case would it not.

    Is what the City does Gambling or Investing?

    If it is gambling why have the people who they 'borrowed money from without telling them' liable to pay the bill, and why are the people who borrowed the money still free to walk the streets?

    whadyathink guys n gals...

    Shall we petition no. 10 for a referendum on it?

    Any clever City lawyer with a consciouve like to make atest case out of it.....hmmmm thought not.


    Just off to bang my head against a brick wall for a bit... therapeutic aparently.



  • Comment number 46.

    #45 addendum.

    ohh just in case anyone does fancy it.. the test case would be that as a bank account holder they were 'mis-sold' depositing in their banking system which was termed as 'investing' when it was in fact 'gambling' therefore as a tax payer they should not be liable for paying back the money to support a bank which gambled the claimants money away without explicitly telling him that was what they were doing.

    Well it would make a good monty python sketch if nothing else... if it were not the reality we are actually live under of course.

    In a few hundred years time they will probably make comedy sketches like this but about the 21st century banking system for people in the 23rd centurys amusement at our abject laughable and ridiculous mass stupidity.

    Start at 1 min 55 of the clip below and instead of witches just replace with ' how to determine if it is gambling or investment'.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp_l5ntikaU

  • Comment number 47.

    PARALLEL WESTMINSTER UNIVERSE

    Excerpt from Electoral Commission guidance:

    "Relief
    If you or your agent becomes aware that you may have mistakenly acted in
    contravention of any of the election rules, you may apply for and may be granted
    relief from the penalties for any offence."

    Relief indeed.

    Try requesting that next time you are facing a magistrate!

    In passing: Election law applies to parties and candidates - not to nebulous campaigns and the outcomes promoted therein. Doh!

  • Comment number 48.

    My contributing here no longer serves any useful purpose.


    This is no bad thing.


    Fare-thee-well.


    Jericoa.

  • Comment number 49.

    Place the bets then spin the wheel :

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/aea76c56-6ea5-11e0-a13b-00144feabdc0.html

    By the way when you apply Johannes Silentio's Hebrew silent V ( see Kierkegaard Fear and Trembling) to " V for Vendetta " you get -fo-rendetta = foreign debtor !

    does it translate into Greek chremastics ?

  • Comment number 50.

    37 Bob Rocket

    With that analysis I doubt if you are ready.

    Again I hear the sound of people thinking this is all some sort of conspiracy. It isn't; but it is one hell of a screw up.

    Of course the wealthy are frightened as they could easily lose all their money. That is what really scares the rich, the thought of having no money and having to wash their own hands etcetera.

    All one needs is enough and that remains in abundance, but I do worry about the cat food and there has been no rain still.

  • Comment number 51.

    Jericoa

    I hope you won't give up the fight. In my lame attempt at strategy formation, I'd say that there needs to be a confluence of three major forces to offer a counterweight to the insipid propaganda machine:

    - Max Keiser: A formidable broadcaster and general aggregator of "heterodox" economic thinkers. The Keiser Report offers one of the best general educations for the public on what the heck is really happening in the world.

    - New Economics Foundation: A rare breed of Think Tank that gets the bigger picture. Informed and up-to-date, but lacking in gravitas (for the moment?)

    - UKUncut: Grass Roots group with the ability to mobilise people and seriously aggitate the aloof state apparatus.

  • Comment number 52.


    NEF and UKUncut are sharing a platform in a few weeks time:

    http://insteadofthecuts.eventbrite.com/

    All we need now is to add in the Keiser Modus Operandi of tackling the oligarchy by exploiting its Achilles Heel (e.g. exposing the Gold / Silver price manipulation by taking physical delivery and placing in hands of the people whose paper "savings" are getting eroded by low interest rates and inflation).

  • Comment number 53.

    THE HIGH ART OF OBFUSCATION? (#50)

    I have seen it suggested that to run a drill, on attack-day, that matches the attack, not only messes up defences but also covers all in confusion if the plot goes wrong or is discovered. Better, if your rucksack bombers have been duped into thinking THEY are part of a drill . . .

    The trouble is that when your 'trusted' leaders are stitching you up (for the greater gain) conspiracy and governance are one and the same.

    It's Matrix time again.

  • Comment number 54.

    @48 Jericoa

    I echo Hawkeye @51. We need to carry on using these blogs as a network. Also, sometimes, it's good just to fight the b******s with ridicule! I'm celebrating the Royal Wedding by changing my Facebook profile pic to one of Oliver Cromwell.

    Changing the subject/back on topic, I read Keynes "Economic Consequences of the Peace", written in 1919, this weekend, and it's surprising how relevant it seemed to the problems of the modern world, even though it was written before Keynes became an economic heretic.

    The first thing which surprised me was how much, even in 1914, the economies of Europe were completely interdependent upon each other, as well as upon imports of in particular food from elsewhere.

    On the postwar concerns of the politicians Keynes wrote: "To what a different future Europe might have looked forward if either Mr Lloyd George or Mr Wilson had apprehended that the most serious ..problems ... were not political or territorial, but financial and economic, and that the perils of the future lay not in frontiers or sovereignties but in food, coal and transport."

    On the reparations regime wrote: "The policy of reducing Germany to servitude for a generation, of degrading the lives of millions of human beings, and of depriving a whole nation of happiness, should be abhorrent and detestable .... even if it did not sow the decay of the whole civilised life of Europe. .... Nations are not authorised, by religion or by natural morals, to visit on the children ..... the misdoings of parents or of rulers."

    The analogies with the debt crisis seem quite striking.

  • Comment number 55.

    Max Keiser may be correct or not - I don't know who he is. I've only seen him on 10 O'clock live and if that's the best he has got then he will achieve nothing. I watch that show most weeks and every week an otherwise promising discussion is ruined by one panel member being a nut-case. Max Keiser filled the role on 14th April.

    If he is correct, why not put forward a measured argument about what the problem is and what needs to be done? He came across as mentally unstable. I wouldn't follow him across the road, never mind into battle!

  • Comment number 56.

    Ben

    Max Keiser is bit of an acquired taste, I'll admit, and his appearance on C4 did come across as a bit wacky, but his accusations of fraud, corruption and malfeasance are well founded.

    Here he is in more mature form interviewing former US regulator William K Black:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faHcCalkSag

  • Comment number 57.

    Ben

    As I said in my original post, Max's main strength is his ability to assemble a wide variety of people with alternative views on what is going on in the world. You don't have to agree with everything that he or his guests say, but one thing is clear, his show is uncumbered and the closest thing to free speech on TV. Here is just a small selection of his recent guests:

    Steve Keen
    Michael Hudson
    Janet Tavakoli
    Fred Harrison
    Peter Schiff
    Paul Craig Roberts
    Nicole Foss
    Chris Martensen
    Karl Denninger
    Yves Smith
    David Malone
    Matt Taibbi
    Gerald Celente
    Catherine Austin Fitts

    If you don't know who any of these people are, then you really haven't studied this crisis properly.

  • Comment number 58.

    Hawkeye - I did go out of my way in my post to say that I'm not making a comment on whether Max is correct or not, so your point about studying the crisis isn't really required. I simply said he came across as a real nut-case on that show. Most people would agree with this and therefore whatever the correctness of his message he falls at the first hurdle.

  • Comment number 59.

    Good reference to Fred Harrison, who sits on the same not-for-profit execcom as me. He precisely predicted the last two peaks of the land market many years before they occurred. No one else did this, so his analysis needs to be respected.

  • Comment number 60.

    Carol,

    Fred wasn't exactly alone though. Dirk Bezemer contends that 12 economists saw the crisis coming:

    http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/15892/1/MPRA_paper_15892.pdf

    See pg 10. Harrison was in there, along with Roubini, Schiff, Shiller, Keen & Hudson.

    Now why doesn't anyone in the mainstream media (hint: Paul) report this academic research?

    P.S. Carol, next time you see Fred, please ask him to keep up the Renegade Economist work. Been a bit quiet lately which is a real shame.

  • Comment number 61.

    Hawkeye, I was referring specifically to Fred's prediction of the land price peaks. I'm not sure that his analysis is correct since he is too blinkered with regard to the rest of the economy. This is a major failing of the 'georgist' movement. Michael Hudson's work is far more well-rounded since he understands finance and Marx.

    Actually the Renegade Economist site is being revived - but without Fred. Nowadays Fred is involved in film work with the son of a glowing star.

    While commenting, just like to mention my letter published in FT a couple of weeks ago. You would have liked it, Hawkeye. It was in response to a landowner who was whining about the cost of maintaining his vast estate 'in a national park' - part of a long thread about taxing land.

  • Comment number 62.

    Carol,

    Watched this interview yesterday with Michael Hudson & Richard Wolff:

    http://michael-hudson.com/2011/04/10-million-foreclosures-matter/

    Sounds like they both agree that the US finances are dire, well a Ponzi scheme to be precise. And I'm inclined to agree with them:

    "According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now.....That’s not long at all. No-one in the mainstream media is communicating the extent of tectonic shift that is taking place in the murky world of haute finance."

    http://forensicstatistician.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/wall-street-fiddles-whilst-the-us-burns/

    The thing about Ponzi schemes is that not all investors get wiped out. You can do well, if you just time it right. A hyperinflation scenario to socialise losses, anyone?

  • Comment number 63.

    Carol

    In the interview linked above, Hudson clearly identifies himself as a Post-Keynesian, a.k.a. follower of Hyman Minsky (the most notable current proponent being Steve Keen). But he does also seem knowledgeable about / sympathetic to certian Marxist & Georgist policies too.

    Incidentally, Polanyi is my current text:

    http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/ipe/polanyi.htm

    Still a bit early for me to firm up any conclusions, but general premises of "fictitious commodities" and "haute finance" are intriguing.

 

More from this blog...

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.