Saturday, January 12, 2008
Oi, Peston, no!
Sorry, this one's going to be a fully-grown rant. Just read the executive summary and leave me to fulminate, vituperate and excoriate in peace. : )Executive summaryRobert Peston is a class A berk. The Chancellor and Prime Minister seem little better. They're all squabbling over a business which is headed for the hot place in a home-built wheeled contraption. And in the middle, the only people with real ownership rights over the company are being over-ridden roughshod, as if the company is no longer theirs to run. Oh, Vince Cable was stupid, too.Full rantIs it just me, or does the BBC, and particularly Robert Peston the business editor, seem to be attempting to stoke the fires of nationalisation under the feet of Northern Rock? The fervour behind his latest blogpost is so thinly-disguised he'd get nicked for exposure if he left the house. Shareholders are, apparently, "recalcitrant" because they want to decide how the company administers its own assets. The cheek of it!For the benefit of Robert Peston's continuing education, the shareholders of Northern Rock are what we call its owners. This means that, absent actual criminality, they should be blinking well left alone to decide what happens to their company in peace. To teach this lesson, I propose that Mr Peston's current abode be "nationalised temporarily" to stabilise his home situation, and then sold off to the highest bidder. So, Peston, buzz off and quit calling for state interference. Remember Iraq? Not a model of state interference, is it?Yes, I will grant that the Treasury has a right, as a creditor, to ask for its money back; but that does not extend to nationalisation. When did you ever hear of a creditor acquiring a debtor company because it couldn't pay its debts? And, more to the point, when did you ever hear of the acquiring creditor doing so to the detriment of all other creditors, unilaterally writing off or down all their debts? It's not lawful.Northern Rock is publicly-held property, and the Government has no right to appropriate it in order to solve its own cock-up. Any nationalisation would be simple theft, depriving shareholders of their natural property rights. We will have watched Stalin come round full circle. And of course, Stalin will revert to Mr Bean and the whole thing will be an absolute fiasco.Thinking of the source of that gibe, Cable was a prize ass to suggest nationalisation. He was a co-author of The Orange Book, one of the Lib Dems' better publications, in favour of free societies, free markets and free minds. What went wrong?Full disclosure: I'm not an idiot, I don't hold shares in Northern Rock. As you can tell, I believe, very simply and very strongly, that the Government is confusing its privileges as government with its legal rights as creditors, and it's being egged on by sections of the Fourth Estate which I thought knew better than to trust politicians. And as long as the Emperor believes he has clothes, we have a problem.