Friday, 28 August 2009

Useless bankers

Lord Turner's criticism of "much of the City's activities" as being "socially useless" is something with which I can disagree only in the sense that it is too mild. "Socially useless" suggests only that it doesn't achieve anything of value to the wider society; I think that it is positively damaging to the wider society, and the phrase which I have used repeatedly is that the activities are the high finance equivalent of anti-social behaviour - except it typically gets rewarded rather than punished.

Still, given the background and role of Lord Turner, it's a pretty stinging criticism, even if he doesn't go as far as I would.

Even if the activities themselves are 'merely' "useless", the fact that so many people are involved in activities which contribute nothing of any social value is in itself damaging. But it's actually much worse than that, for those activities have contributed to undermining, and eventually came close to destroying, the whole economic system. Whilst a few have enriched themselves through gambling and irresponsible risk-taking, they have done so at the direct expense of those who depend on pension funds and stability.

The response of some of those involved was pretty predictable. But I don't understand why they expect us to be frightened by their threat to go and destroy someone else's economy if we don't let them destroy ours. It sounds to me like the most socially useful idea that they've come up with to date. My biggest problem with it as a solution is that I wouldn't wish them on anyone else either.


John the Baptist said...

Just a thought if bankers are "socially useless", then why is your Honorary President Dafydd Wigley the chair of the advisory board to the school of banking in Bangor University?

John Dixon said...

Neither I nor Lord Turner said that all bankers were 'socially useless' - what he did say was that much of the activity undertaken by bankers in the City of London is 'socially useless'.