Lessons Learned

When large organisations and government departments carry out an activity labeled ‘lessons learned’ you can guarantee that it will be nothing of the kind. Typically such efforts end up with the participants patting themselves on the back because they have done a good job. If necessary, they will simply point the finger of blame at some poor soul, usually a middle manager.

When the global economy pulled back from the brink of immediate collapse in 2008 (a mere postponement) international figures stood before the cameras to explain what they had learned from the crisis, and how things would now be different.

Remember that at the core of this crisis was the invention of financial derivatives such as CDOs (Collateralised Debt Obligations) and CDSs (Credit Default Swaps).These derivatives allowed predatory financiers to create an enormous monster of debt – over 1000 trillion dollars worth. Each dollar generated a fee and interest for the financiers.

The financiers persuaded the politicians that this debt must be paid by the public. Thus, around the world, trillions of dollars of benefit went one way from the public (99.9999% of people) to a privileged elite (0.0001% of people) while trillions of dollars of debt went the other way, to the public.

These derivatives are simply bits of paper which have no intrinsic value but have large numbers written on them. They are monopoly money – contracts written on contracts written on contracts … At their root there might be some thing of actual value , like a house, but of themselves they are worthless. They increase GDP while creating nothing of any value whatsoever. They are a sham – a con. The people who make their living from them either have their heads stuck in the sand, are well-meaning but deluded or are out and out crooks.

But at least we have learned our lessons about this fraudulent and very dangerous banking practice have we not? We have not.

The news today is that banks are testing out CDOs in a whole new market – that of international trade. Previously derivatives were applied to financial instruments like mortgages but now they will apply them to trade – a market worth $10 trillion. That means everything – from shoes to iPads to food – can be the basis of a CDO (and inevitably CDS). Derivatives enable the banks to ‘leverage’ the size of a market 100-fold. This will be an enormously dangerous venture and will bring more ruination and starvation to the world.

What the bankers learned, was that their scam worked. They got away with the enormous bonuses and profits while the rest of us heaved a collective sigh and got on with paying the austerity bill.

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