The finance industry’s elite are being culled off rapidly, just as the nobles were during the French Revolution. Companies are increasingly attempting to avoid the slaughter house via migration, meanwhile no sane international financial aristocrat will call Britain home writes Clem Chambers, CEO of leading stocks and share information site, advfn.com, and author of titles such as “101 Ways to Pick Stock Market Winners”.
With a revolutionary state intent on lopping the heads off all and sundry, 1784 was a dangerous time to be French. The bloodshed was so great and prolonged that a frightened French public began to conclude the old regime was not so bad, after all. On July 27 1784 – or 9 Thermidor Year II in the old French Revolutionary Calendar – a coup-style reaction to the brutal revolutionary political landscape saw Maximilien Robespierre and fellow leaders of the Committee of Public Safety themselves arrested and guillotined.
The ‘Revolution of Therimidor’ would go down in history books as the end of what is now widely referred to as the ‘The Reign of Terror’. The
‘Thermidor Reaction’ amounted to an attempt to return to some kind of civic normality – to get away from the seemingly endless trial by mob and summary executions. Today, the word ‘Thermidor’ has come to mean a retreat from more radical goals and strategies during a revolution, particularly when caused by a replacement of leading personalities.
The global financial crisis, like the French Revolution, has gone on and on. Not only do things look grim right now – most of us seem to have lost confidence and faith in the future, too.
Who wouldn’t go back to 2004, 2005 or 2006 and have that system back?
What sort of a job were the ‘evil’ bankers doing for us then? A pretty good one, I seem to recall. If you needed credit, it was there. If you
wanted to finance your business, a call to the City would deliver the funds. The stock market was doing great. There wasn’t any need for suspect quantitative easing (QE) , nor were savers subjected to zilch interest rates. There was no talk of massive government deficits.
Casino capitalism was producing floods of money. Governments quietly gorged on the tax receipts that had been spun off from house price booms, huge city bonuses and the fruits of prosperity. There were no complaints from anyone bar a few on the ‘lunatic fringe’.
Then the wheels came off.
After nearly five years since, however, nothing has been fixed. We have not been pulled back from the abyss. The same people who failed to regulate and prevent the system’s implosion are trying to forge its recovery and failing in that, too.
So what are the potential outcomes?
As I see it, there are three potential outcomes:
- Financial services are killed off;
- The system goes back to how it worked before;
- A revolutionary new financial system which for the first time in history really will end the economic cycle of boom or bust is invented.
Killing financial services off – the most likely outcome. For a start. it’s the easiest way ahead. A dead system is easy to regulate. If you sit
on the top of the world’s highest building, Dubai’s Burj Kalaifa and look down on Dubai’s financial centre, it’s easy to see why. After being left
desolate post-2008, it’s suddenly fully occupied. Financial service companies from the first world are moving to safe havens. The golden
geese have made a mess and know they are for the chop. The migration of financial services is already underway.
Yet in Britain life will go on without the 6% of GDP contributed by the City and the 17% of GDP created by the financial services sector in
general. The UK does not need to be a top tier country with ‘Bolly’ swilling bankers and hedge fund managers. Off with their heads!
How about the the option of inventing a new financial system? Vince Cable seem to think he can do it and for a whole generation, too. Step aside five year planners; a ‘new order’ is on the cards. Encouraged by the ‘enraged,’ the tendency is to fire and chop, changing the system entirely. It’s a high-risk strategy and not one with a good track record of success. It’s one that will, however, produce great headlines for many years to come and perhaps ultimately turn corporals into emperors.
Then there’s the ‘Thermidor reaction’ a conservative response to get back to the stability of the past. It says, ‘Let’s step back and stop the hue
and cry. Let’s try and return to something resembling how it was before. Let’s stop the reign of terror with its show trials, summary executions and uncertainty. How about some normality?’
We can’t have the banking industry return to the ‘bad old days’ of 100% mortgages, copious credit, massive bonus tax receipts and bankers throwing their money around at charity galas. It is unthinkable that we return to the years when huge FTSE 100 salaries poured into the coffers of the treasury, and half the rewards of failure went straight to the state. We must not go back to the boom years, we must go forwards to a new world without excess.
A return to the old ways of prosperity seems unlikely. If this dream wasn’t already dead before the Libor banking debacle, it is dead now.
No international financial aristocrat is going to consider anything but bowing out of the UK.
In a country where drugs company GSK can be fined $3 billion for healthcare skulduggery yet the news slips by largely unnoticed while a
major bank is ‘decapitated’ in the press for an offence judged by its regulators – in money terms at least – as a small fraction of the severity
of the GSK deviation – then the writing’s on the wall for the international financial industry.
There will be no Thermidor reaction in 2012, only more ‘blood’ on the streets of the City of London.