24 June 2012

High Anxieties: The Mathematics of Chaos

"The hyper-rich are facing something worse than death: becoming poor. Do you think they will go quietly? I think they will do whatever it takes and sell it to us in the name of 'saving the system.'"

David Malone, Debt Generation

This documentary was started in 2007 by David Malone and Mark Tanner on commission from the BBC. David had finally persuaded the network that a financial collapse was coming, a situation which he had been watching and documenting for some years.

It was finally finished on 12 September 2008, the Friday before the collapse of Lehman Brother. Two days later it was aired on BBC4.

David Malone writes a financial blog Golem XIV.

A number of people had been warning of a collapse including myself. The bubble in housing and dodgy credit was apparent to anyone who had eyes to see, the time and training to look, and a mind unclouded by conflicts of interest.

I remember after one particular rant of mine on an establishment economics site about the coming collapse, someone asked, 'What do you think he wants?'

And that is perhaps the heart of what went wrong. Few were acting from conscience and principle, and most, as is so human, were guided by self-interest, ideology, rosy thinking, careerism, and the flawed models that supported inaction in the face of monstrous injustice and transfers of wealth from the relatively innocent and unsuspecting to the financial predators.

I will tell you now that what is coming next will be as awful as anything that has gone before, and quite possibly much worse. Poison is being offered as a cure, and if taken, will contribute to the suicide of the middle class.

There is still some time to act, but it is quickly slipping by. We seem to have learned nothing.

Author’s Note from Debt Generation By David Malone

"From the very start of this crisis what concerned me, above all else, was the almost total lack of any real and meaningful debate. Decisions have been made that will affect us for generations to come, but did we ever truly hear competing ideas, explanations and alternative solutions? I certainly didn’t. All I heard was a worrying unanimity.

Bankers, financial experts, journalists and politicians all repeating each other with the same absolute, shrill, conviction. Only a seemingly endless series of vast bank bailouts, they told us, could avert otherwise certain and catastrophic disaster. It was all far too complicated for the likes of you and me to question what we were not qualified to understand.

Such absolute certainty always gives me cause for thought, so I did what I do in such situations: I began to read – but not economics books. I already knew, from a film I was making at the time, that the assumptions economists used about the real world were fatuous at best. I chose to read what actual traders inside the crisis were saying to each other, day to day, on the message boards where they exchange ideas and information.

Most of what is said on such boards is in trader gibberese, but some of it is a brutally clear analysis of what is happening. I didn’t have to agree with their politics to learn from what they had to say. There was another view of the crisis. There were other ideas of what should be done. Radically different ideas.

The more I read, the stronger my conviction grew that the mainstream media’s reporting of the crisis was alarmingly wrong. After three months of reading, I began to write. That was in early 2008. I had no intention of writing a book. I simply felt compelled to voice opposition to the deafening certainties being thrust at me from all sides. What I wrote, under the name GolemXIV, were comments on the Guardian newspaper’s website responding to financial news stories.

We had been denied, I argued, a meaningful discussion of the nature of this crisis and the futility of what was being done in the name of fixing it. As the crisis unfolded, I became more and more convinced that what was being done in the name of helping us would instead, whether by design or stupidity, turn us and our children into the Debt Generation: the generation whose principle use and fate would be to pay off other people’s debts. It made me angry. Angry at those engineering it, angry at those who justified it, and angry at those who told me there was no alternative.

After nearly two years of commenting on the Guardian, I started my own blog where I still write.

What you have in your hands is a condensation of all that anger, frustration, reading and thinking. My friend and collaborator on many films, Mark Tanner, took everything I had written and formed it into what we hope and believe is a jargon free and readable critique of what, to this day, we are still being told by all the experts, bankers, politicians and journalists.

If, like us, you feel the need to have a different account of our current situation and what we should be doing about it, then I sincerely hope this book offers you something valuable and important."