Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gordon Brown's speech to Congress

It's not bad. He gave a slightly more qualified statement than Bertie Ahern about the state of the peace process: "Northern Ireland is today at peace" whereas Bertie had presumed to speak for the island. Guido observes that they needed seat-fillers in the crowd. Bertie needed them too. But there's an eyebrow raiser --

But how much safer would everybody’s savings be if the whole world finally came together to outlaw shadow banking systems and offshore tax havens?

Outlaw is a pretty strong word. "Shadow banking system" is generally taken to mean the creation of various assets that might seem more liquid than they really are. But the financial industry creates asset vehicles all the time and no one is likely to be taken in by claims of liquidity that might attach themselves to such assets at this stage of the crisis -- at least not without doing some real research first. And which tax havens is he talking about? The UK dependencies? The Caribbean? The Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg?

It'll be interesting to see what exactly he's proposing to outlaw. But nothing in the potential list addresses the question of what should be done about policymakers who watched financial sector balance sheets explode for ten years, 1997-2007, and did nothing about it.

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