24 May 2009

here in my car

Before we get to cars, hat tip to David Tiley at Barista for a good pick-up: the latest analysis from John Lanchester about the toxic culture of the financial sector and its effect on the broader economy in Britain.

This one -
it's quite long - includes some fascinating history of banking in the British Isles before Lanchester gets his usual head of steam up on how an industry that thinks nothing of multi-million dollar/pound/euro/does the currency really matter salaries and 'bonuses' ("guaranteed bonuses?" asks Lanchester, "that's a salary") in the industry have turned the British economy on its head.

Lanchester gives you a basic accounting lesson before going in to the intricacies of Collateralised Debt Obligations and the other arcane financial 'mechanisms' that I was bleating about not long after I started VVB. I didn't know all this pain was coming but I was tremendously afraid of the amount of risk contained in a financial system that was simply too complex, and made up of too many people over-interested in their own welfare, to last. I've also bleated about the way in which economic thinking - or at least the language - has come to inform all aspects of our lives.

Anway, here are some excerpts from Lanchester's essay:

All of this leads us to the fourth and deepest reason why the government won’t
nationalise the banks. The deepest reason is:

4. Because it would be so embarrassing. Some of the embarrassment is
superficial: on the not-remembering-somebody’s-name-at-a-social-occasion level.
The Anglo-Saxon economies have had decades of boom mixed with what now seem, in retrospect, smallish periods of downturn. During that they/we have shamelessly lectured the rest of the world on how they should be running their economies. We’ve gloated at the French fear of debt, laughed at the Germans’ 19th-century emphasis on manufacturing, told the Japanese that they can’t expect to get over their ‘lost decade’ until they kill their zombie banks, and so on. It’s
embarrassing to be in a worse condition than all of them.

It’s for this reason that the thing the governments least want to do – take over the banks – is something that needs to happen, not just for economic reasons, but for
ethical ones too. There needs to be a general acceptance that the current model
has failed. The brakes-off, deregulate or die, privatise or stagnate, lunch is for wimps, greed is good, what’s good for the financial sector is good for the economy model; the sack the bottom 10 per cent, bonus-driven, if you can’t
measure it, it isn’t real model; the model that spread from the City to government and from there through the whole culture, in which the idea of value has gradually faded to be replaced by the idea of price. Thatcher began, and Labour continued, the switch towards an economy which was reliant on financial services at the expense of other areas of society. What was equally damaging for Britain was the hegemony of economic, or quasi-economic, thinking. The economic metaphor came to be applied to every aspect of modern life, especially the areas where it simply didn’t belong. In fields such as education, equality of opportunity, health, employees’ rights, the social contract and culture, the first conversation to happen should be about values; then you have the conversation about costs. In Britain in the last 20 to 30 years that has all been the wrong way round. There was a reverse takeover, in which City values came to dominate the whole of British life.

If you are interested in this sort of stuff I also recommend John Lanchester's earlier pieces, Citiphlia and Citiphobia, which a friend alerted me to some time ago.

Anyway, cars. There was some kind of fundraiser just a little way down the coast so I went for a look. Here's what I found:

My first car was a two door version of this Austin A30. Since 1968, it's been the only car I ever made a profit from selling. The owner had made this one somewhat more driveable by replacing the original 803cc A-series motor with a Datto 1400 and 5 speed gearbox.

I also owned several Austin Freeways like this one. "Powered by the Blue Streak Six."

However old Pommy and bastardised Pommy/Aussie cars were in the minority. Try this for size.

If you can't get enough detail, then try this.

But the Lincoln Continental leaves them all for dead.


Ann oDyne said...

from The Big Steal
Real Steel.

phil said...

Yes, there wasn't much fibreglass or plastic about, or carbon fibre for that matter.

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