Three heard things

I didn’t go to work today so got to listen to more of morning Radio 4 than usual.

On The Today Programme, John Humphrys spent several minutes (08.15 or so on Tuesday’s programme for the next week) talking quite apocalyptically about the money markets and then set about looking for a culprit: “Who’s to blame? Somebody must be. I spent yesterday in the City of London”.

I know, he was just being a cipher for the questions everybody is asking. But anybody who seriously is inclined to view something as systemic as a financial seizure in dangerously good/bad terms of culprits (“dodgy deal” makers, “snake-oil mortgage-broker salesman types”) and their innocent victims has fallen into structural antisemitism – a way of looking at the world* which sets you up for scapegoating in a society which continues to associate Jews and money. This way of thinking dodges the responsibility for facing up to the structural origins of the problem and to replace them with better, more stable, more equitable financial frameworks. For example, Stephen Bell of GLC suggests that the brokers, the people who repackage loans, are obliged to shoulder some the risk of their sales, which at the moment is shouldered by the banks.

I also heard John Tusa’s 1968 Day by Day Programme which sets up a discussion between participants in the anti-war, sexual liberation and equality movements, their observers and their critics. There’s a very good web site. The current programme, for March 18th 1968, was on the aftermath of the anti-Vietnam War demonstration in London and also the stock market crisis related to the price of gold. Amazingly fresh for today.

Lastly and most topically, given my gig that day as examiner of a thesis on teacher educators and student teachers and their integration of different types of knowing, the Today Programme reported (at about 08:35) that an attempt by the Peruvian Governmentto improve the state of education backfired disastrously. Teachers in Peru were forced to take a national exam to separate the good from the bad. Out of 180,000 only 1 in 100 passed. Now emergency measures are in place. Knowledge. What about knowing – not so easily assessed…

*I confess, with deep distaste for my not-to-distant-former-self (a discomfort that I share with Bob From Brockley who, while a more stalwart person of the Left than I have ever been, is busy beating himself up on his blog) that this is the way I used to look at the world until I started to take adequate notice of sociologist types.

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3 thoughts on “Three heard things

  1. Humphries was absurd – looking for the greedy capitalists and dealers who are to blame for the crisis – which caused innocent and non-greedy people to suffer. Absolutely idiotic. Absurd and so utterly self-righteous.

    Marx – and sociology – offered structural accounts of inequality. Not conspiracies of exploiters to exploit the innocent.

  2. http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2008/03/how-political-correctness-caused-credit.html

    Over at Iain Dale’s diary there is an allegation that the credit crunch was caused by leftie political correctness. That is, they found that black and other minorities were not getting mortgages, so pressure was put on the Banks to provide loans regardless of their ability to service that loan.
    I don’t know if this is true, but it sounds plausible, given the mentality of those in charge. Instead of addressing the imbalance through equality of education and opportunity they go for a quick fix that addresses the stats without solving the problem, and it backfires – surprised?

  3. Thanks Weggis.

    So there used to be widespread patterns of discriminatory redlining (areas where banks just didn’t invest). A marked deterioration in US inner cities was principally blamed on this lack of credit, and the assumption was that this was largely to do with discrimination.

    Antidiscrimination law was passed to reverse the dearth of credit, including the Fair Lending Act of 1968, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, the 1975 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. These didn’t lead to the hoped-for regeneration and there was an amendment to the CRA in1995. From what I can gather there was little prescription in these acts and lenders managed to increase credit through education, computerising (and therefore standardising) the underwriting process, factoring in things like utility bill payments.

    The piece Iain links to talks about a manual produced by Boston Federal Reserve (one of 12 regional branches of the US’s central bank). It was guidance – not law. I don’t really get what happened, from the piece.

    The piece is from the New York Post, which is a conservative Murdoch-owned paper, and seems to be being picked up and run with by the Right. Who might be pleased to tell this story, and why (not a rhetorical question)? Is it the people who want us to think that all anti-discrimination legislation is only ever ‘politically correct’ and doomed to failure?

    I realise that these financial things are very hard to explain… But the first question to answer would seem to be whether equal proportions of black, white etc home-owners defaulted on CountryWide mortgages – if so then this would suggest that political correctness (here, there’s a charge of bad anti-discrimination law) wasn’t the problem. But the piece doesn’t actually tell us that.

    (If different proportions are defaulting, that still isn’t conclusive…)

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