Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I was expecting you, Mr Bond

Stanetta is suffering. Every time (possibly an exaggeration) she switches on the news, she claims it's always people moaning on about the economy. Usually Robert Peston.

Personally I enjoy financial news. I love to hear people claim to understand why something good/bad just happened and why they think something better better/worse will happen in future.

In truth, these amazing human inventions called "Markets" have grown way beyond the point where mortal man can predict the future or explain the present. Modern economists are about as credible as Aztec priests trying to explain why the volcano is rumbling.

If there is any hope of understanding, you have to look at the past, and this is where the historian Niall Ferguson's series "The Ascent of Money" comes in. I'm working my way through the series on Channel 4's On-Demand Service and have just watched the excellent second episode about the history of Bonds.

The thirty second version of this is that the first bond market started to fund wars between city-states in Tuscany in the 1360s before going on to win the battle of Waterloo, lose the American civil war, make a fortune for the Rothschilds and bankrupt Argentina.

Prof Ferguson's 48 minute version moves nearly as quickly as that - he keeps it light, draws parallels, quotes specific examples and focuses in on the people involved rather than pretending that it's abstract Forces that are important.

Unfortunately, if like Stanetta you're overloaded with financial news just now, you'll probably be disinclined to spend time watching this series.

You should - it is possibly your best chance to understand what the flip is going on.

And it's important stuff. In my opinion the following is the most important current issue confronting the UK :-
"Banks and other lenders have issued about 6.5 billion pounds ($9.9 billion) and 10 billion euros ($13.7 billion) of bonds backed by the UK government since the state offered to guarantee them two months ago"
Are you in favour ? Against ? Or don't you understand the question? Maybe you understand the individual words of question but you can't understand why it's so gosh-garned important.

Governments are doing weird stuff with your money and a bunch of other money it hasn't printed yet. I think it only proper that a generous amount of screentime is given to people like Robert Peston and Niall Ferguson to explain it. Sorry, Stanetta.

Vote Stan.

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