what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The loneliness of the long-distance runner

I have been, almost literally, struck dumb these last few weeks of 2011 as I have contemplated the intellectual and ethical poverty of our ruling clasess. One financial blog’s reflections on the year and what the future holds caught my mood perfectly
1. Wall Street dropped some of its pretence to fairness and softer forms of fraud and resorted to overt theft as MF Global stole significant sums of money, bonds, and bullion assets directly from customer accounts, under the eyes of the regulators, and transferred the money to its global bankers who refused to give it back.
Trend: Theft by the financiers will continue and intensify. The victims will be vilified to blunt public reaction.

2. The Eurozone came under unremitting assault by the ratings agencies and their associated banks and hedge funds. The Euro is an inherently 'difficult' currency to manage and has always been more susceptible to broad swings in value. This is because it is an economic union without a comprehensive political and financial union. It more closely resembles the original thirteen states of the US under the Articles of Confederation than it does a comprehensive Republic.
Trend: The Eurozone will continue to struggle to find a balance between political and financial factors, and will evolve into a stronger union of fewer members. Germany and France will continue to emerge as the great Western European power. The UK will be preoccupied by its own set of severe internal problems and regional unrest as austerity bites deeply. The UK will begin to act as more of an Anglo-American agent in the Eurozone. It may take on more of the character of an Orwellian state
Some people might (and do very persuasively) argue that it is time for a new hegemony. It would be nice, certainly, for more respect to be shown to Scandinavian values. Even the heavy-handed Catholic church has managed to sustain its critical attitude to greed and, over the decades, seems to have pursued a much more positive attitude to community enterprise. The success of the Mondragon model of cooperative industrial activity is one which deserves much wider celebration – although it does worry me that I cannot find a proper treatment in the English language of the story of how this small venture by a catholic priest in the 1940s in a remote Spanish village led to such a commercial success (giving now employment to 30,000 and weathering, so far, all economic storms). There are, however, vidoes on its inspiring story here; here; here; and here. Think Ronnie Lessem’s Managing in four worlds. However strong my affections are for such models, my own feeling is that the better approach is that of the sceptic, agnostic or, indeed, anarchist – ie a “plague on all your houses”.

This is a time of year for thinking about one's life and making resolutions. A few years ago, I discovered a list of 40 tips for living a more balanced life. I've reduced it to 30 tips

A friend has noticed some of the references I've made in this blog to the benefits of rural life for us over-connected zombies - and sent me a recent Pico Iyer article on the joys of solitude
We have more and more ways to communicate but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And so rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.
And a blogpost from an ex-banker has made the same point.

I've been trying to read over my blogposts of the past year (all 250 plus of them) - and feel that I have been too much of the gadfly. Skating lightly over profound issues. My feeling is that I should return in the posts to come to the issues they raise - read more closely the large number of links I've given - and offer rather deepr thoughts........

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