Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nobody Rules The World

Looking at the news these days I am increasingly reminded of something from one of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's books (probably The Black Swan). He describes life in civil-war era Beirut, with shelling and bombardments a daily occurrence. Taleb had family members high up in the government - he comes from a prominent Orthodox family - and he recalls life in the bunker during a period of prolonged shelling from the other side of the city. He saw senior politicians reading the newspapers trying to work out what was going on - and these same newspapers were assuming that they, as well-connected politicians, could explain it to them. The fact was that nobody really knew what was going on and why. Who was bombing whom? Why this particular outburst of shelling? Nobody knew, it was random, chaotic (which is why Taleb describes it, of course), but the presss and politicians were desperate for a narrative that took away that essential element of randomness.

I see the same things now. Our politicians are in the bunker. They don't have a clue as to what's going on. They avidly devour the newspapers looking for clues. And our mainstream media search for oracular scraps in the half-baked musings of our politicians, as though they have any idea of what's happening. They don't get. Deep in the bunker they're desperately searching for the narrative that will take away the randomness. But the truth is that the global economy is a chaotic, turbulent system that nobody can control. All those who think that Wall St controls the world - you're nuts. All those who think it's the IMF - nuts too. The Jews? The Illuminati? Nuts. Politicians? Nuts. The truth is that nobody runs the world.

But that doesn't stop our political classes meddling. The hardest thing in the world for a politician to do is to stand back and do nothing. That would have been the right thing to do a few years ago. All that bollocks about too big to fail? Well, all that did was making the teetering failures even bigger. Let Greece fail? If it had been kicked out of the Euro and allowed to default, then it might have worked. As it is, now it's the Euro as a whole that's failing.

Of course, in the European bunker the urge 'to do something' is strongest. And the Euro-class only has one game plan - greater political union. And they'll carry on with that script regardless of how bad it actually makes things. Regime uncertainty is a killer - and so long as politicians keep coming up with this initiative and that initiative, that uncertainty will persist. The way to stop that uncertainty is to step back and make no new plans, create no new mechanisms, do nothing. But then to do that means admitting politicians do not rule the world. And it means stopping the moves towards full political integration.

As if that's ever going to happen.

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