10 October 2008

Nutters, real nutters and Simon Heffer

It's the end of the week and posting frequency has been pretty good these last few weeks - with any luck I'll soon be able to resurrect Hal's Friday evening blog review, last seen in 2006 or thereabouts.

But for now, with stock indices tumbling yet again today, I thought I'd take an opportunity to draw your attention some of the crap that's being written about the crisis from a select few right-wing media hacks.

I want to be fair here: a lot of the right wing have realised that, for the moment, the game is up for the capitalist system, and - at least temporarily - we need socialised banking, or at least some element of it, to survive. For example, normally annoying Telegraph economics commentators like Ambrose Evans-Pritchard and Jeff Randall have been reconciling themselves to the new paradigm. They don't particularly like where we've ended up, but they realise that not implementing any kind of bail-out package in the US or UK would have been far worse.

That may be hard to accept at the end of one of the worst weeks in stock market history, but it certainly could be much worse. Were it not for the bailouts we'd probably be looking like the Icelandic economy right now.

For some on the right though, even grudging acceptance of a role for the state is too much. Dominic Lawson, in the Independent today, was laughable, lambasting Gordon Brown for encouraging 'the boom in housing and the opening up of the mortgage market' whilst conveniently forgetting that it was actually his beloved Mrs Thatcher that started the whole shebang rolling in the eighties. But of course under the Tory government, banks only lent to responsible customers - so that nineties crash never happened... silly me.

Even more amusingly, Lawson blames the US subprime crisis not on lax regulation under the Bush administration, greedy lenders, or Alan Greenspan's low interest rate policy, but... Jimmy Carter. Apparently his "Community Reinvestment Act" forced banks to lend disproportionately to low income neighbourhoods. And of course, the 20 years of Republican adminstrations since Carter was booted out in 1980 have been unable to make any alterations to this policy? This is desperate blame-the-loony-left crapola journalism reheated from the eighties, and shows the sheer dearth of ideas on the hard Tory right.

Of course, one drawback of believing the market is always right is that if it does fail - and fail catastrophically - you've got very little to fall back on. You can blame the regulators - except that they were doing exactly what you told them to, which was to cut back on regulation. It's not a good time to be a right winger at the moment.

That explains why we have the normally confident Guido Fawkes - never the brightest LED in the 70s digital watch when it comes to economics - reduced to a sad whimper of "where have all the capitalists gone?" on his blog today. Guido mate - they've all either (a) pissed off to the Cayman islands with the big bonuses they got before the going got tough; or (b) they understand a little basic economics and realise that if the banking system fails, it could make the 1930s look like a mild slowdown. It gets funnier though... Guido quotes Simon Heffer approvingly as "the lone strident capitalist tool" left in the media.

Well the tool part of that is right... recommending Simon Heffer's writings on economics is a bit like recommending Fanny Craddock as a model for today's gastropub cooks, or Joe Kinnear as the future of England football management. The guy is a bit like a cross between Enoch Powell and Keith Joseph on crystal meth, a "new right" hack preserved in aspic from the early 80s. By now he is probably the last person on earth who thinks that monetarism was a good idea and that Thatcher had it about right in 1979. He is an economic ignoramus who should really be too embarrassed of his own lack of knowledge to keep bringing it up in his comment pieces, but like a Big Brother contestant, he just can't help exposing himself at the worst moments. His piece "we are all socialists now" is the most laughable nonsense written by anyone in a British newspaper this year - it makes Lawson look like Larry Elliott.

The idea that because the banks were given an injection of capital by the government (without which the banking system would have almost certainly collapsed within weeks, if not days) we are now living in a pre-1989 Soviet bloc economic system is the most laughable piece of hyperbolic distortion I have ever encountered in the British press. Really, it's amazing that this guy even has a contract to write for a newspaper. I'm glad he does in a way, because I'm all for an easy target - especially at 10.30 on Friday evening.

The final lunacy is when Heffer approvingly quotes the American libertarian writer Ayn Rand. The same Ayn Rand whom Alan Greenspan (one of the architects of the crisis according to many on both left and right was great friends with. "The difference between a welfare state and a totalitarian state is a matter of time..." Yeah, right. The difference between Simon Heffer and a complete imbecile is non-existent.

It would be great fun to plunge Heffer into a parallel universe where his peculiar vision of free market capitalism reigned supreme - where the banks hadn't been bailed out, and civilisation had collapsed into anarchy. He'd enjoy that. No nasty government to tell him what to do. I doubt he'd survive long though. Lots of people don't like him, there would be no police around to protect him, and like many of us in journalism and the blogosphere, he's not the fittest person around - probably because he spends most of his time on the computer finding more evidence for what a bad person Gordon Brown is. And of course, without government, what's left except survival of the fittest? Good luck, fatboy.

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