Monday, November 12, 2012
A US partial holiday today is being used as an excuse for quiet markets so micro-numbers are of little interest today. But the past week has seen some interesting news stories that TMM think are building into a theme.
Nanny State relaxation - Two US States legalise the recreational use of weed and then Denmark scraps it's " Fat Tax" on foods. TMM would like to think that this was a move away from the nanny statedom of "Thou shalt not consume things that you like that I think are bad for you (and I don't like anyway, but that could all change daily by Daily Mail edict)
Shoddy BBC Journalism -The BBC Director General resigns over shoddy Journalism. Yip diddly doo, perhaps someone will soon ask if shoddy journalism stretches into some more benign, though equally misbalanced, reporting of other subjects and hopefully we see a move away from styles that haven't improved since we wrote this . However the backlash of the moralisers over Entwistle's "Goodbye" payment is typically unthought out. "He's only been in the job 54 days". That post yes, but he's worked at the BBC for 23 years. So that's, what, 2 1/2 weeks pay for every year served? Not THAT excessive over the UK legal statutory minimum for redundancy of 1 1/2 weeks per year.
Figurehead caught fiddling with his author. TMM won't mention his name as he probably still has lots of friends reading this blog (under a mountain somewhere), but he has caught a version of Lance Armstrong disease. Symptoms being an institutional figurehead trusted to be the pillar of the establishment/sport found with a midriff resembling a toroid caused by the blast from their own petard, having just been hoisted with it . As our Doc friends would say "A lot of it around at the moment" .
4 ways of avoiding this outcome
1) Don't do it.
2) Don't get caught.
3) Write a computer code to do the job instead of you, make sure it has no human traits, then retire anonymously to Las Vegas (or Zurich in the case of UBS) and party up hard until you die of your own excesses or the algorithm fails. In which case deny it was your idea and point to a 25yr old quant.
4) Don't be a pompous arse stipulating lists of your own moral codes that you will then trip yourself up on. But make sure you don't damage anyone else in the process. Preferably start with, "Hey, I have few codes of conduct but will get the job done. Am I hired or what?". Berlusconi wrote the manual and Financial Institutions got away with this method pre 2008 until they started spreading the equivalent of STDs to their best friends.
But there is a theme running through all of the above stories. Whilst popularist policies such as freedom of choice we support, pillars of the establishment are now having their credentials examined in such a detailed manner (whether by social media or FBI agents) that we see these pillars falling around us. All well and good, but our worry is that edifices we actually need are being pulled down faster than they are being rebuilt.
Banks - Moral lepers in the populace eyes, but the populace has not yet found an alternative to their perceived evil.
BBC - Most trusted news source in the World (was) and now with a news department in shatters. Where do we turn ? Murdoch? really? Was it worth it?
The UK West Coast Main Line tender - What started as a moral crusade against Branson (= big corp.) vs "tax payer money" (= little man), turned out to be a dumbed down civil service error own goal and remains a mess.
Lance Armstrong / Petraeus et al - All brought down harder and faster by moral hypocrisy.
On one hand we want our leaders, institutions and figureheads to be more understanding and representative of society's massed average, warts and all, and yet we also want them to be super-human in their own lives.
Is this a growing paradox that will either result in a mass dumbing down of service, ability and responsibility with strong leadership and policy succumbing to the twitterati? Or will the masses, having destroyed all around them, start to compromise on their "moral" demands in return for some pragmatism.
For now we watch with interest the latest moral lynching of companies that legally pay their tax somewhere with a lower tax rate and sincerely hope that society is not going to do its own "Petraeus" and trip itself up on its own moral rectitude.