March 9, 2008
The Great Unwinding
I've been planning to write something about the curious paradox of our system where financial markets operate in a free market fantasy detached from the world the are supposed to be servicing and our public services have adopted the old Soviet fantasy of centralised targets. In both cases we are beginning to see clear signs of reality biting back and the nonsenses of the past twenty years or so unravelling.
However, once again Simon Caulkin has beaten me to it:
"We live in strange times. In the private sector, market rules are so degraded that it has become the role of companies in the real economy, some built up over decades, to act as chips tossed around by high rollers in the City supercasino. Meanwhile, the public sector is in the grip of a central planning regime of a rigidity and incompetence not seen since Gosplan wrote Stalin's Five-Year Plans.
You think I exaggerate? Well, as Exhibit A, consider the hedge funds that borrow company stock in order to vote for or against a proposal - a merger or takeover, say - not to further the interests of the company, but to make their previous bet on the firm's share price come true. For Exhibit B, name another government since Leonid Brezhnev's that prescribes 198 targets for local government, numbers and postings of junior doctors, reading methods for teachers in primary schools, cleaning techniques used in hospitals and how GPs should organise their appointment diaries.
Already individually dysfunctional in their own way, in combination these diametrically opposed management extremes deliver not the fabled 'third way', or at least not in any manner intended, but an unholy mess, from which we get the worst of both worlds."Posted by richard at March 9, 2008 2:56 PM