Sterling is Dying

Gordon Brown says that experts agree the “fiscal stimulus” plan is a good idea. They do not. This isn’t a complex idea, and basic logic shows it’s a stupid idea. There are two things wrong with it.

Firstly, the government has to borrow money from other nations to get the money for the “stimulus”. The government borrows money twice a week these days, a few billion each week. They do it on Thursdays, and sometimes on Tuesdays. They put their cap out, and foreign nations, companies, individuals and the National Savings come along and buy “gilts” (IOUs from the government). It’s all very interesting and you can actually see the results of the process in the reports here. The problem is that all the foreign nations and companies are finding themselves fairly short of cash these days, and it’s going to be a struggle to continue to borrow money at even last year’s rate. Worse, the government is now vastly increasing the amount of money it borrows via these auctions in order to pay for the “fiscal stimulus”. It makes it tremendously likely that the foreign nations will soon say “Well, actually we’re not going to lend you any more money, you can just pay us back the money you already owe us”. This event would be called a “gilt strike”. It last happened in 1976, and it was a very big deal. We had to go cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund, and it led to the famous Winter of Discontent. If the Gilt Strike happened (and I believe it shall) then we would struggle to pay off our debt to the other nations. At present some of the money we borrow goes to pay off the countries we already owe money to. If we couldn’t borrow money we would have two choices, both of them horrific. One would be to literally print money to pay off the debts. This would make the pound fall in value. Dramatically. Most likely it would result in the kind of hyper-inflationary spiral that has taken Zimbabwe from being one of the most developed nations in Africa to being a land of horrors. It was also the setup for the emergence of the Nazi party in Weimar Germany.

The other option is “Sovereign Default”. We basically just refuse to pay the debt. To put this into perspective, the last time the country defaulted on its sovereign debt was in the 14th Century, when Edward III defaulted on his debt to the Peruzzis of Florence. The resulting geopolitical fallout from that one ended in the Hundred Years’ War with France.

Assuming for a moment then that we could somehow borrow all of the money the government proposes to borrow without destroying our currency and our reputation in the eyes of the world, there remains another problem: The fiscal stimulus has the potential to twist our country out of all recognition with the perverse incentives it introduces. Remember always that every penny spent now has to be paid back in future, with interest, by those who work. The government is proposing taking money from people who work, and doing a range of stupid things with it. They want to give it to banks who have already shown they don’t know how to manage risk. They want to give it people who bought houses they can’t afford. They want to build bridges, roads and runways without planning them properly. They want to encourage people to buy things they can’t afford and don’t need. This money will need paid back in the future, that must be remembered. There will be hardworking people who can’t afford rent and necessities in the future, so that the irresponsible can pay mortgages and have luxuries now.

The government can’t seem to see past today’s headlines about mortgage availability, house prices and high street bankrupticies. These are nothing in comparison to the fallout the gilt strike and subsequent sovereign debt crisis will bring. This situation becomes increasingly likely every day that passes with the government borrowing more money than it can afford to pay back

I believe that our Prime Minister is deluding himself about the scale of the problem and about his ability to control it. Yesterday in the House of Commons he accidently said that he and his government had “saved the world”. I don’t think this is funny. I think it’s a Freudian slip that shows his true state of mind.

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3 responses to “Sterling is Dying

  1. What a fantastic article.

    The UK economy is of course in big, big trouble – people assume this ‘downturn’ will last a couple of years then things will get better again. There’s been no explanation for how the “get better” part works as yet though. I think the likeliest outcome in the medium term is that we join the Euro at a rate of 1:1. No idea what that would mean, other than that loads of people/companies will have massive debts with Euro signs next to them rather than £s…..

  2. Thanks for the feedback Colin, I can now say that this post has a 100% approval rating amongst my readership 🙂

    Joining the Euro at 1:1 would be a pretty good scenario I reckon, but we’d have to act fast, it’s already at 1:08:1. I would rather have the Germans running our monetary policy than Gordon Brown. In the Euro we would lose the ability to print money off to throw around the economy, which I think is a good thing. It would mean a long austere period for the nation until we paid back our debt, but we would probably be able to preserve justice, democracy and civil order. If we wreck the pound we will have none of those things.

    We need to bear in mind though that the currency union has not been tested in the face of a sovereign default by a member nation.

    Ambrose Evans-Pritchard thinks the currency union a bad thing. Though I generally agree with him, on Europe I disagree. I think that a separation of fiscal and monetary policy might actually force some sanity onto the more free-spending governments. Why not let a member nation, e,g. Greece, default, then help clear up the mess afterwards? The Greeks’ credit rating would be reduced to junk, but the currency would still be sound.

  3. Pingback: Gilt Strike « One Hundred Pounds

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