Saturday, February 28, 2009


Welcome home, my brother. That you will now probably never be invited to blog on 'Comment is Free' is nothing compared to what might await you in Heaven.
Juvenal rises from his grave once again, to ask the question, 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes'?
The absurdity of conflating evolutionary status with financial success is best illustrated by the statement that 'Davos Man' is 'the most highly evolved mammal on the planet'. It seems to have been coined by Michael Gove, a politician who to this jaundiced eye has 'at school, was an unpopular boy who spent his playtimes inside reading 'The Lord of the Rings' written all over him. He admits to having played 'Dungeons and Dragons'; the Crown rests. The idea that Bono and Tony Blair might be more highly evolved than, say, the writer of this blog is risible - yet even if the comment was a throwaway line, it does rather seem to indicate that some Conservatives remain as attached to ever to the same apotheosis of business and businesspeople which has landed us in debt and might yet possibly land us into serfdom.
In other business news, businessman preaches apocalyptic sermon in favour of business. Whoever said rationalists can't be millenarians? Connoisseurs of economic millenarianism can find more examples here, here, and here. God bless the economists - they're bringing the Middle Ages back to life in front of our eyes. All that's needed to round off the picture is for Irwin Stelzer to don sackcloth and ashes and start wandering round the City of London crying 'Doom! Doom!'.
Dr. Stelzer is the editor of an anthology entitled 'Neoconservatism'. Presumably, his mindset can properly be described as Churchillian; given a crazy and discredited ideology to defend, he'll say 'Oh yes, yes, yes, yes'.
In other news from the neoconservatism front, yesterday I went looking to buy a copy of Oliver Kamm's 'Anti-Totalitarianism: The Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy'. Sadly, although the political science section within Borders Glasgow seemed otherwise well stocked, it did not seem to carry that particular volume. I did try to look for it, and the staff had helpfully arranged the volumes by author's name in alphabetical order. The absence of this volume may not be a bad thing, indeed might have saved me from myself; being so stupid that I have a reminder to blink tattooed on the back of my eyelids, it is doubtful that my intellect is sufficiently elevated to be able to understand any part of its content more demanding than the title. Contemplating its brilliance, I might have gone into shock, and been forced to spend the remainder of my days strapped to a bed in a locked psychiatric ward, drooling and screaming. However, in the interests of those potential readers who can handle him, Mr. Kamm might care to ask the management of Borders why his book seems to be absent from their shelves; that is, when he's not using Rupert Murdoch's resources to take petty and unpleasant potshots at Neil Clark.
In yet more news from the neconservatism front, Justin Raimondo, once described by Mr. Kamm as 'stridently unlettered', has helped a doltish fellow unlettered stumbler and fumbler to a conclusion about all commentary that the neos issue about Russia. Along with Iran, Russia is being set up as the 'common enemy' against whose depredations we must defend ourselves. This is quite fascist. It is telling that the individual upon whose comments Mr. Raimondo bases his critique is one 'Andrei Illiaronov'. Mr. Kamm might think Mr. Raimondo to be stridently unlettered - this author believes that Mr. Illiaronov gives every impression of being stridently deranged.
Mr. Raimondo has been producing other good analysis recently, in particular on the effect that recent Eastern European immigration has had on Israeli politics. His colleague Ivan Eland has also written a thought-provoking analysis of just how much Barack Obama might resemble Geoff Hoon. Not good.
Some libertarian knickers are being twisted into tourniquets at the thought of Fred Goodwin's pension being defenestrated along with the Royal Bank of Scotland's shareholder value and billions of taxpayer funds. They are, of course, quite right - retrospective legislation to strip Goodwin of his pension would create an extremely dangerous precedent.
I have got round this particular problem by having no pension worth speaking of. Yet it should not be forgotten that while stripping him of his pension would be a step too far, as I've already said here and reiterated in comments here and here, there are punitive laws which could apply to Goodwin, those on disqualification from the directorship of companies, which should apply to him - but which don't because they contain no specific provision for the kind of chaos he caused.
A Bill of Attainder against Fred Goodwin would be against good public policy; but by the same token, so would Fred Goodwin ever being permitted to direct a limited liability company ever again. Seems like a fair trade, don't you think?
Laban Tall is the blogger I go to first in the morning; he's right, oh, only about 99.9% of the time. Yet his analysis of Goodwin as being a 'sacrificial fat cat' doesn't really go far enough.
He had never been an entrepeneur, had never driven round industrial estates in a white van handing out leaflets, had never had to go collecting overdue debts with the bank breathing down his neck. He is an accountant whose background was in interring companies, not building them.
If l'affaire Goodwin has one positive outcome for us all, it should be that accountants are no longer entrusted with the management of public companies, and their cult overthrown. Presumably not really having experience of building businesses himself, the only way Goodwin could make RBS grow was by buying other ones. This is fine if all you're ever looking for is short-term growth, but over time you always go one deal too far.
My friend Martin Meenagh feels some sympathy for Goodwin. I don't; he threw thousands out of work to get what he wanted. Just like all other wannabe Attilas, his career's now a footnote on history's balance sheet. Best place for it. But hey, that's life in the big city.
In some parts of the world, it's 1857 all over again!
The kind of practice outlined in this report on a particular group of bailiffs used to be called 'demanding money with menaces'; and the place where those culpable of it would end up was called 'prison'. The bailiff sector seems to be prone to mishaps at the moment.
Geoffrey Smith, a stalwart of the days when England was England and TV was innocent, has passed away. RIP.
It is disappointing to see that Ian Hamilton QC has dropped his action against the Royal Bank of Scotland. Banking and corporate law might indeed be 'legally and factually complex'; but that doesn't alter the fact that there are bank branches on of what's left of our high streets, and that the purpose of the sheriff courts is to ensure that justice is administered locally. No doubt Sheriff Pender's reasoning was perfectly sound; and at least his judgment does not create a binding precedent.
There's still more there...go to go...


Blogger Martin Meenagh said...

Excellent post, Martin, though I should perhaps explain myself.

I think that Goodwin is a scapegoat. I also don't think that he did anything illegal; that the media and political class are holding forth on the idea that Lord Myners or the relevant company board wouldn't have known that the pension agreement with Goodwin was discretionary, which I would have thought would just be imputed knowledge, also annoys me. These people think that most people are stupid, and as--whats the word?--distractable as they are.

I'd feel more sympathy for Goodwin if he had actually risen from knowledge of his subject, as the unfortunate head of british gas who was pilloried as a 'fat cat' a decade or so ago did. Remember how much capital new Labour in opposition made out of Brown, one of the few who knew his business? When they get into trouble they identify shady businessmen, an NHS or pensions threat, a union, or the BNP and get a scare up. Frankly, only a scare against the BNP would in my view be valid.

When the mob and the villains in parliament and the media are after someone, I'd want to hear a fairly convincing case other than 'we don't like you and you're too rich and you're down, so we'll kick you' from the press.

I also worry when these people start speaking about pensions. There's a meme developing; royal mail pensions, bank pensions...this country has a massive debt. How long is it before they connect the two thoughts, if they aren't thinking of it already, and force us into compulsory pension payments that they then raid, or borrow against? They could sell this as a plan for the future.

I hope that you don't mind such a long comment, and that this short note finds you well.

very best,


28 February, 2009 14:07  
Blogger Martin said...


While scapegoating itself may be made, Goodwin might still be a worthy candidate for it.

This man put thousands of people out of work for no particularly good reason; indeed, perhaps for a host of bad ones.

I am no great scholar of jurisprudence - indeed, failed the only exam in it I ever sat - but there seems to be a critical gap in theory regarding limited companies having the status of legal persons. It is both acceptable and legal for profitable private associations to discharge staff from their service. Who has the greater rights here? The shareholder to their profit - or the labourer to their hire? This country could do with a thorough review of the law concerning the formation and management of companies.

Odd that you should mention Cedric Brown, previously Fat Cat Number One. This whole thing has brought back the 'Top Peoples' Pay' scandal of the '80's - remember that one? And how quickly that was forgotten?

Hope all's well with the family.

28 February, 2009 15:56  

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