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The findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize, are devastating to the beliefs that financial high-fliers entertain about themselves(1). He discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. For example, he studied the results achieved by 25 wealth advisers, across eight years. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero. “The results resembled what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill.” Those who received the biggest bonuses had simply got lucky.
Such results have been widely replicated. They show that traders and fund managers across Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. When Kahneman tried to point this out they blanked him. “The illusion of skill … is deeply ingrained in their culture.”(2)
For years I have been calling the financial sector a glorified casino. Our "business" leaders in the 1% are only in the business of buying and selling pieces of paper. If you are not from Wall street and your bets go bad on the big global roulette table then "your" people have to pay. Of course the Wall street house never loses because the American taxpayer underwrites its bad debts.
This is not to suggest that all executives are psychopaths. It is to suggest that the economy has been rewarding the wrong skills. As the bosses have shaken off the trade unions and captured both regulators and tax authorities, the distinction between the productive and rentier upper classes has broken down. CEOs now behave like dukes, extracting from their financial estates sums out of all proportion to the work they do or the value they generate, sums that sometimes exhaust the businesses they parasitise. They are no more deserving of the share of wealth they’ve captured than oil sheikhs.
The rest of us are invited, by governments and by fawning interviews in the press, to subscribe to their myth of election: the belief that they are the chosen ones, possessed of superhuman talents. The very rich are often described as wealth creators. But they have preyed upon the earth’s natural wealth and their workers’ labour and creativity, impoverishing both people and planet. Now they have almost bankrupted us. The wealth creators of neoliberal mythology are some of the most effective wealth destroyers the world has ever seen.
I really like this description of the financial elite.
Then there's the folks who were taken in...with the help of their fund managers and banks. As Michael Lewis in Boomerang describes the Icelandic situation leading up to the collapse of its three national banks:
"You didn't need to be Icelandic to join the cult of the Icelandic banker. German banks put $21 billion into Icelandic banks. The Netherlands gave them $305 million, and Sweden kicked in $400 million. UK investors, lured by the eye-popping 14 per cent annual returns, forked over $30 billion - $28 billion from companies and individuals and the rest from pension funds, hospitals, universities, and other public institutions. Oxford University alone lost $50 million."
As Monbiot said of the gathering at St. Paul's: "It felt like history being made. The undeserving rich are now in the frame, and the rest of us want our money back. "
The 1647 debates involving Levellers, mentioned by Monbiot:
Clarke: Putney Debates
[quote=Gaian] The 1647 debates involving Levellers, mentioned by Monbiot: Clarke: Putney Debates
One of my tag lines, when talking about the state's protection of private property in this country, is Winstanley's; "They make the laws to chain us well." I love this song and do a credible version myself.
The earth was made a common treasury for everyone to share.
The sin of propertyWe do disdainNo man has any right to buy and sellThe earth for private gainBy theft and murderThey took the landNow everywhere the wallsSpring up at their command
They make the lawsTo chain us wellThe clergy dazzle us with heavenOr they damn us into hellWe will not worshipThe God they serveThe God of greed who feed the richWhile poor folk starve
[quote=Gaian] The 1647 debates involving Levellers, mentioned by Monbiot: Clarke: Putney Debates[/quote]
Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor of St. Paul's who resigned over the intention to evict #OccupyLSX, was previously the priest at St. Mary's, Putney, where the Putney Debates happened. One of his projects during his time there (2000 - 2009) was to raise the profile o the Putney Debates.
Giles Fraser reminds me of an Anglican priest from my early NDP days...unlikely to make bishop. One hopes he lands on his feet in some quiet parish in the north.
[quote=Gaian] Giles Fraser reminds me of an Anglican priest from my early NDP days...unlikely to make bishop. One hopes he lands on his feet in some quiet parish in the north.[/quote]
If change is what we want I'd hope for a position of greater prominence. Whether that is in the church or out of it is beside the point.
Giles is something f a media darling, with periodic columns in The Guardian, frequent appearances on the Beeb and a regular gig with the (unofficial and slightly high church) Church Times. Politically he describes himself as a former socialist, FWIW. Given the convoluted way the Church of England chooses bishops, I wouldn't be surprised if he got a purple shirt and a stupid hat at some point after Labour is returned to power.
#Bankofideas Occupy London ‘repossesses’ multi-million pound bank offices
Occupy London has taken over a huge abandoned office block in the borough of Hackney belonging to the investment bank UBS in a move it describes as a ‘public repossession.’ 
Overnight on Thursday, a dozen activists from Occupy London, campaigning for social and economic justice as part of the global fight for real democracy, gained access to the building and secured it, giving them a legal claim on the space....
Marvelous use of a golden opportunity.
Isn't UBS Switzerland's largest? Sort of their "window on London's trading district?"
OccupyLondon Video: Inside the Bank of Ideas
Edinburgh City Council voted in favour of the motion to support Occupy Edinburgh and the Occupy Movement as a whole
We regard this as a fantastic step forward in the opening of dialogue with the Scottish government. With this historic decision, Edinburgh City Council are setting an example in local administration, as well as sending a message to the governments in both Holyrood and Westminster. They have shown willingness for open dialogue and respect alongside a fundamental commitment to the concerns of the people they are elected to represent.....