Economists apologise to Queen

28 07 2009
"I think that black bit is the empty vault of the Bank of England": Luis Garicano at LSE shows Queen Elizabeth II a chart explaining how the credit crunch was caused. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Archive/Press Association Ima

"I think that black bit is the empty vault of the Bank of England": Luis Garicano at LSE shows Queen Elizabeth II a chart explaining how the credit crunch was caused. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Archive/Press Association Ima


A group of academics and economists has apologised to the Queen for failing to predict the credit crunch.

Following a seminar at the British Academy the group of signatories sent a letter to the Queen. The letter explains that low interest rates made borrowing cheap, the “feelgood factor” masked how out-of-kilter the world economy had become beneath the surface, with some countries, such as the United States, running up enormous debts by borrowing from others, including China and the oil-rich Middle Eastern states, that were sitting on vast piles of cash.

Despite these yawning imbalances, they say, “financial wizards” managed to convince themselves and the world’s politicians that they had found clever ways to spread risk throughout financial markets – whereas “it is difficult to recall a greater example of wishful thinking combined with hubris”.

“In summary, Your Majesty,” they conclude, “the failure to foresee the timing, extent and severity of the crisis and to head it off, while it had many causes, was principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole.”

The Guardian has an open thread for people to suggest ways of explaining the crisis to the queen. here are some of the highlights:

Well your majesty, it is akin to the story of the King, his magic coat, the crowd and the little boy. The crowd of economist, bankers, politicians and opinion formers all cheered the new economic dawn for it suited them and their self interest. It was is inconvenient and bad for business or fee earning for them to shout that the so called economical miracle is a mirage or that they could not see it. Alas, there was no little boy among this self seeking crowd of “intellectuals”

Well, ma’am, you know how nobody is allowed to ask you a direct question because you’re too important? Same with the bankers.

There is one famous economist who did predict the crisis, about 150 years ago. His name is Karl Marx and his modern day followers, such as David Harvey and Richard Wolff, have been predicting the crisis for years. Wages haven’t grown since the 1970s but consumption needs to go up for the economy to grow but without their real wages going up how can they possibly afford it? Two main reasons, work longer hours (to which we have reached a limit) and borrow lots and lots of money.

1. Bankers bribed succesive governments to look the other way.

2. Bankers bribed credit rating agencies and auditing firms to generate false profits.

3. Bankers bribed their staff to go along with the whole charade.

The problem with the letter and the Queen’s question is that quite a lot of people apparently did predict the credit crunch. Of course when they predicted it, they were laughed out of town like Dr. Nouriel Roubini, (who the New York Times dubbed Dr. Doom) was at the IMF when he told them about the impending crisis in 2006!

The other problem with the letter is that the signatories are academics and some bank officials but not the actual greedheads who need to do the actual apologising, or the regulatory morons who concieved a system so lax and insanely optimistic that banks were actually allowed to make up money, or the self delusional criminals who spazzed what money we had on wars.


Digging up the past

26 07 2009

One thing that the London 2012 Olympics, Crossrail and the New East London Line all have in common, apart from the fact that they are new and hugely expensive construction projects happening in the city, is that construction has involved a lot of digging and the digging has unearthed some interesting archaeological finds…


Crossrail workers discovered some bones near Farringdon for which work had to be halted while the bones were tested for bubonic plague!

olympic boat

There have been a wealth of interesting finds of things the ancient residents of East London left behind at the Olympic site. The Olympic site was opened this weekend, for visitors to have a look at what’s going on. There are some pictures on the Londonist Blog, and Dave Hill also has a post and a video.

olympic stadium

And an exhibition of things found during the extension of the East London Line, organised by the Museum of London is currently touring London.


Another politically sensitive element of the past which is going to be reinstated is the routemaster… Bendy buses are going to be consigned to history. Dave Hill and the Londonist among many others seem to be very excited about London bus changes. Apart from a casual dislike of bendy buses as a cyclist, and a boyhood love of sitting on the front of the top of a double decker bus, I can’t see what all the fuss is about… its the politics of kenism vs. borisism thats really motivating all this busophilia.

Kenism - ugly and pragmatic?

Kenism - ugly and pragmatic?

Borisism - old fashioned style over substance?

Borisism - old fashioned style over substance?

Focus on London

13 07 2009

London Population by Country of Birthpopulation by country of birth

Today the GLA has released its 2009 Focus on London report. The report has loads of interesting information about London.

Bringing together a wealth of research, Focus on London contains fascinating facts and figures about the capital on everything from London’s longest rivers, to its tallest buildings, busiest tube lines, top tourist attractions and favourite football teams.

The report, which has been produced almost every year since 1890, also sees the first recorded effect of the credit crunch on mobility with the number of people leaving London to live elsewhere in the UK almost halving since 2004.

The report is produced by the GLA’s statistical department, Data Management Analysis Group (DMAG) in partnership with the London Development Agency, Office for National Statistics, London Health Observatory, Met Police, London Ambulance Service and London Fire Brigade.

The GLA are also making parts of the 1909 London Statistics report available online, so you can see exactly how much life has changed for the average Londoner over the last hundred years. There is also a data store for the underlying data sets that support the report so that everyone can access the data and create their own visualisations.

The Guardian’s Data Blog has a post about the Focus on London Report that is sure to generate some interesting uses and visualisations of the data.

Muslims Making Britain workshop

13 07 2009

Muslims Making Britain

Date: 14 July 2009 Time: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM, SOAS room: G52

This one-day workshop will explore facets of the historical and contemporary South Asian Muslim experience in Britain, focusing on the cultural productions of writers, artists, activists and workers from 1870 to the present in order to explore how they have negotiated, interacted with and sometimes resisted majority British culture; their varied and complex identifications and affiliations; and the ways in which they might have re-imagined the nation.

By focusing on how South Asian Muslims have helped to shape British cultural and political life across the period, this collaborative workshop will foreground the depth as well as the breadth of their contribution to the making of Britain.

Complicating the common perception that a homogeneous British culture only began to diversify after the Second World War, the Making Britain project explores how an early South Asian diasporic population impacted on Britain’s literary, cultural and political life. Framing Muslims is concerned with the cultural, artistic, social and legal structures which ‘frame’ contemporary debates about Muslims in the West. The projects share a concern with the ways in which South Asian Muslims in Britain have been depicted in a range of discourses, and how individuals and communities have responded to and subverted these externally imposed definitions. Combining the contemporary focus of Framing Muslims with the historical depth of Making Britain will enable an exploration of how representational structures have evolved through time.

Also on this month is the interesting looking London Bridge Festival,

a diverse fringe arts festival with lots of events going on – comedy, music, film, theatre, dance etc…

Les immigraux et la Fête Nationale

10 07 2009

The Titanic, Concorde, The Eurotunnel, Sangatte… the list of glorious Anglo-French collaborations is endless.

carla bruni and queen

London is the seventh largest French city, according to Nicholas Sarkozy, who became the first French presidential candidate to campaign outside France when he came here in 2007.  Some parts of London are crawling with those anglophile frenchies and the 14th of July is Bastille Day, the French national holiday, so this Sunday there is a Bastille Day Garden Party in Battersea Park.

Bastille Day Garden Party, Battersea Park, Sunday 12 July, 10am-6pm, free

The line up is a stereotype confirming celebration of all things gallic: food, wine, petanque, pastis, music, dancing, competitions, prizes and an afterparty.

Storms in London

9 07 2009

Here are some pictures of heavy weather in London recently taken from a gallery on the Guardian website. The bizarre lack of rain during Wimbledon has been thoroughly compensated for over the last few days. A women’s cricket game at Lords was called off…


The great British weather is one of our most democratic institutions affecting the high and mighty, such as the guests at Buckingham Palace’s garden party, as much as everyone else.


For some reason particularly heavy weather was reserved for the Houses of Parliament.


Strangers into citizens, 7/7 memorial and public art

7 07 2009

Here is a collection of unrelated but interesting London happenings and events:

Strangers into Citizens

“Strangers into Citizens” – a campaign by London Citizens – has a proposal to get irregular migrants, refused asylum seekers and overstayers out of the legal limbo they are in, for their good as well as that of society. We have studied what has been done elsewhere in Europe – Spain, for example, legalised 700,000 people in 2005 – and have our own proposal: that those who have been in the UK for more than four years should be able to work legally for two years and then (subject to employer or character references, criminal record checks, an English test and so on) be given “leave to remain”. This model of “earned regularisation” has been successfully implemented in the US among other countries and we think would work well in the UK.

There are now the beginning of discussions to create some sort of Migration expert resource or advisory group for the Strangers into Citizens campaign. The idea is to give the campaign regular access to Academics and other experts who can help the campaign develop evidence based policies and respond effectively to Migration Watch Histrionics.

This is a perfect opportunity to become involved in “applied migration theory”. If you would be willing to attend an introductory roundtable in London in Mid-July please let me know by sending an email to

Today is the 4th anniversary of the 7th of July bombings of the London transport system.

A memorial was unveiled in Hyde Park with 52 steel pillars, one for each of the victims of the attacks.

Yesterday marked the start of another piece of public artAntony Gormley’s 4th Plinth Project, also called One & Other.

Members of the public applied to occupy the empty Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in London, a space normally reserved for statues of Kings and Generals. Every hour, 24 hours a day, for 100 days without a break, a different person will make the Plinth their own. If you’re selected, you can use your time on the plinth as you like. One & Other is open to anyone and everyone from any corner of the UK. As long as you’re 16 or over and are living or staying in the UK.

You can find out about the participants, the ‘plithers’ here. There is a live webcam feed on the site here, if you cant make it to Trafalgar Square.