Apportioning Blame: Alessio Rastani and the Culpability of the Financial Classes

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 19.13.54A bit like Russia Today, Press TV is an international news network whose rather obviously selective coverage of certain topics – particularly those directly concerning its purported backers – all too often obscures the fact that it puts out some genuinely superb content. A recent edition of Epilogue (16th December 2012), a book review programme hosted by the avuncular former Conservative Party MP Derek Conway and featuring Shabbir Razvi – the Founder and Managing Director of International Finance Solutions Associates – and the legendary Santoro Projects Limited head honcho Alessio Rastani.

Rastani, a man famous for telling us as much about the global economy in four minutes as most analysts manage in a lifetime of television interviews, pulled no punches as the presenter and panel discussed the 2010 John Lanchester classic Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay. But one contribution in particular lingers in the memory as Rastani explained his fatigue with much of the media’s insistence on collective guilt for the ongoing global financial crisis: ‘The average person…will not sit down and go through the equations [that will lead to a crash]…I would say if there is a collective [element to the] fault, it is…95%…the banks’ responsibility, and the rest with the people.’

On many levels, Rastani’s statement is more than persuasive, and a reminder of why nearly 18 months after his fateful BBC interview he remains one of the most authoritative and cogent financial analysts anywhere in the world. However, we do wonder whether the people at large should – despite the indubitably incredible conduct of many of the globe’s financial institutions, and the governments that were meant to be regulating them – shoulder a slightly higher share of the burden:

1. No Questions Asked. Particularly in certain now familiar crisis-ridden polities – the tier-two eurozone economies, as well as the United States and the United Kingdom – many members of the public were all too happy to rejoice in the ‘good news’ of an artificial credit boom, lapping up endless programmes about property speculation and wolfing down both government and private sector Kool-Aid about how the ‘new economy’ meant that economic busts were the stuff of history books and funny-looking monochrome film from another era.

2. We’re All Bankers Now. As pondered over by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz in another excellent 2010 tome, Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy, recent cohorts of the best and brightest students – particularly in countries hosting the major financial hubs of New York and London – have felt no higher calling than investment banking, with surreal power trips and telephone number salaries trumping any temptation to contribute to the commonweal.

3. Living High on the Hog. With financialised economies having squandered any pretence of moral authority in their quest to gorge ever-more stuff without so much as paying indulgences to the state, an ironically self-certified economic crash of gargantuan proportions was guaranteed. To make lots of money and fast – this was the only salient criterion that most people really cared about. But over five years on from the tangible beginnings of what may yet be the greatest financial crisis ever, has anything really changed?

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4 Comments

Filed under Economics, Finance

4 responses to “Apportioning Blame: Alessio Rastani and the Culpability of the Financial Classes

  1. I slightly disagree with your point 2. I think the philanthro-teen phenomena is real, and new paradigms will emerge from the people presently in teenage. The present situation is unsustainable in so many ways, and inevitably major system crashes will happen. The more silly things our present leaders do (political, institutional and religious leaders), the more the truth will become apparent. Those who run the police, the media, the church, the world of money cannot be trusted at the levels of both honesty and competence. I think the very young can see that more and more clearly, and at some point there will be a mass movement that says ‘no’.

    • Arguably, saying ‘no’ is the easy part…proposing something different is much, much harder. That said, it probably will happen at some point – when food, heat and shelter become significantly harder to afford (as has been happening for a while), some interesting ideas could be generated out of necessity.

      • Only those who are presently teenagers will be available to push forward the more radical ideas which are needed. The writer (as brilliant as he seems to be) is probably not a teenager, and therefore part of the old structure. The ideas are there (nationalising all important industries, committing to 100% green energy, making trains cheap, appropriating land, taxing major corporations properly, regulating media ownership), but the old structure (political will, controlling powers etc) won’t allow them to be carried out. There’s no point trying to put new ideas through the present machinery. They won’t get through until everything has radically changed, and as I say that something the present teenagers can do.

      • You are quite correct to point to the existence of solid ideas which could theoretically make at least some things a lot, lot better. However, many of these ideas have been around for a while – the challenge is to put them into a credible programme with outstanding leadership to gain a popular mandate, and then implement these ideas. As Beppe Grillo has shown recently, radical change is not impossible if all these elements are present.

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