Optimism

“Optimism is the madness of insisting all is well when we are miserable” – Voltaire

There were reports in this morning’s papers that manufacturers were at their most optimistic since the 1970s. Those of you who read the stories fully will already know what I am about to point out, namely that the headlines were not borne out by the detail. What the figures actually showed was that the increase in optimism over a three month period was the greatest since April 1973; not quite the same thing as I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s easy to significantly increase one’s level of optimism if one wasn’t that optimistic to start with, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that one ends up terribly cheerful anyway.

I have no need to elaborate on why business may have been less than bullish during the last few years; you’ve all lived through them. It might however be worth reminding ourselves of what happened last time manufacturers rapidly increased their levels of optimism. In October 1973, less than six months later, there was war in the Middle East and the price of oil quadrupled. In January 1974, less than nine months later, the UK government imposed a three-day week to conserve electricity, a restriction that lasted for two months during which period the government fell from office. So, one must surely ask oneself, how much reliance should we place on sudden surges in the optimism of manufacturers? Rhetorical question of course, but I personally am off to the bookies to place a bet on war with Russia followed by disruptions to gas supplies and periodic blackouts.

“We all agree that pessimism is a mark of superior intellect.” – J.K. Galbraith

 

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It’s a fix

“All the gold which is under or upon the earth is not enough to give in exchange for virtue” – Plato

There was an interesting article in yesterday’s FT about the daily London Gold Fixing. Gold isn’t traded openly on exchanges, rather one has to buy it from a market maker. The process – by which five of these market makers confer secretly before announcing to the rest of the world what the answer is – is now, only 95 years after it started, considered to be insufficiently transparent. Apparently some cynics are prepared to believe that the large banks involved might have an incentive to influence the price according to the current state of their own trading positions. Who’d have thought it?

My own doubts about the process started more than thirty years ago. During a long forgotten crisis the daily gold fix meeting in, I believe, the oak-panelled boardroom at Rothschilds featured prominently on the main evening BBC news. The corporation’s then economic correspondent intoned portentously about the great import of it all, reassuring us that what we saw here, around that table, was the City of London standing steady as the great financial centre of the world, in which we should have faith at this uncertain time. However, I couldn’t concentrate because my eye was drawn to one of the participants; a chap with whom I had studied economics in the sixth form just a few years earlier. Had there, I wondered, been something in the lessons from ‘Jimmy’ Jewell and ‘Bonker’ Badkin which my friend and I had shared so recently that would lend support to the journalist’s pompous waffle? No, I rapidly concluded, there had not.

So, there we have it. At best the usual British amateurish busking behind a florid facade, at worst a bunch of spivvy bankers ripping us all off. As I said before, who’d have thought it?

Around the same time another of my old classmates turned up equally unexpectedly in a sketch on the Dick Emery Show. I have never been sure which of these two alumni television appearances brought the greater and longer lasting renown to our alma mater.

“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country” – Kurt Vonnegut

 

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Drivelshouter

“Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble” – Samuel Johnson

I was astonished to read over the weekend that Digby Jones is to present a new series of Troubleshooter, the programme originally made famous by John Harvey-Jones. One would be hard pushed to come up with a better example of the decline over recent decades of both British industry and the seriousness of the BBC.

Harvey-Jones spent many years as a manager in, and ultimately chief executive of, ICI, a company once generally regarded as epitomising the whole UK economy. He significantly raised the share price and turned a loss into a billion pound profit. All of that, plus his charismatic turn as a television presenter, came on top of his wartime service as a submarine captain and subsequent spell in naval intelligence.

Jones was a long-time provincial lawyer sufficiently suited to the tedium of committee work to find himself in charge of a lobbying organisation. Anyone who had the misfortune to hear him speak at a CBI dinner will know him as a rabble-rousing buffoon too dim-witted to spot the inconsistencies in the second-hand platitudes that he drearily recycled.

“Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be” – Lionel Bart

 

 

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Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/samueljohn157383.html#x4ifW15MR7IfaC7w.99
Almost all absurdity of conduct arises from the imitation of those who we cannot resemble.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/samueljohn157383.html#x4ifW15MR7IfaC7w.99
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