Short-term foresight & short-term memory loss

So the stock markets are responding well to the vast sums of money being funnelled from ordinary people into the system that makes millions for the few, which we’ve been made reliant on. Phew. The world’s richest people (and I’m including most “ordinary” people in the West here, too) may not become as not-quite-as-rich as we feared.

Still, this is just the beginning. As George Monbiot highlights, the economic crash is merely a prelude to the coming ecological crash. Our relief at apparently heading back for business-almost-as-usual may last long enough for us to deny the onset of that, too:

As we goggle at the fluttering financial figures, a different set of numbers passes us by. On Friday, Pavan Sukhdev, the Deutsche Bank economist leading a European study on ecosystems, reported that we are losing natural capital worth between $2 trillion and $5 trillion every year, as a result of deforestation alone. The losses incurred so far by the financial sector amount to between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion. […] The two crises have the same cause. In both cases, those who exploit the resource have demanded impossible rates of return and invoked debts that can never be repaid. In both cases we denied the likely consequences. I used to believe that collective denial was peculiar to climate change. Now I know that it’s the first response to every impending dislocation.

And glancing through the rest of the article, I fear the government’s tough policy on cannabis may be failing miserably. Surely only habitual skunk use on a previously unimagined scale could account for such sort-term memory loss? I guess they’re quietly turning a blind eye. After all, how else could we champion Gordon Brown as a stolid, reliable saviour?

I congratulate you Lord Mayor and the City of London on these remarkable achievements, an era that history will record as the beginning of a new golden age for the City of London.

And I believe the lesson we learn from the success of the City has ramifications far beyond the City itself—that we are leading because we are first in putting to work exactly that set of qualities that is needed for global success:

  • openness to the world and global reach,
  • pioneers of free trade and its leading defenders,
  • with a deep and abiding belief in open markets,
  • […]

And I believe it will be said of this age, the first decades of the 21st century, that out of the greatest restructuring of the global economy, perhaps even greater than the industrial revolution, a new world order was created.


So let me say as I begin my new job, I want to continue to work with you in helping you do yours, listening to what you say, always recognising your international success is critical to that of Britain’s overall and considering together the things that we must do—and, just as important, things we should not do—to maintain our competitiveness:

  • enhancing a risk based regulatory approach, as we did in resisting pressure for a British Sarbannes-Oxley after Enron and Worldcom,

Speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, to Mansion House, 20/6/07

[…] in budget after budget I want us to do even more to encourage the risk takers, those with ambition, to turn their ideas into reality and make the most of their talents.

Speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, to Mansion House, 16/6/04

Of course, no surprises. He was doing what seemed politically expedient. Just as he—and every other politician—is doing now. Throwing money at a creaking system to prop it up, hoping desperately the lynch mob won’t be able to track them down when it crashes even harder.