Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Sweden, Norway & Property Rights

Bronte Capital, a big money Aussie fund manager, tells us (here and here) the difference between the Swedish nationalisation of banks and the seemingly equivalent Norwegian experience. There were, it seems, important technical variations relating to how existing stockholders were compensated.

These differences matter to him as he's worried that without 'due process' the potential bank nationalisations around the world might constitute theft. (Heaven forfend!)

In one post he says,

"We (people who as a matter of course might provide capital for banks) are living in fear of arbitrary actions by government. Believe me - I buy and sell bank stocks and I live in fear!"

Actually, he's far more intelligent than that somewhat overheated isolated quote might suggest. He's obviously extremely knowledgeable on his chosen subject and he writes clearly enough for non-experts like me to get the gist of the matter. He understand that banks need the guarantee of a State behind them - and that the State may need to nationalise certain banks, sometimes, to ensure the functioning of the system in the long term.

But I point him out because he's raising, from a very different point of view to my own, the key issue. I want banks nationalised because I think that by allowing individuals and financial bodies to exercise - or, as Tom P ceaselessly points out, not exercise, just take rents from - their property rights in such institutions we are all put in systematic danger. "OK", says Bronte Capital in effect," - but not at my expense. & I want first dibs on buying them back when you've fixed the problem. I want my property rights."

Behind all the populist, anti-banker rhetoric - even from Cameron - I suspect it is people who think like Bronte who are advising the UK Treasury. Clever people. Clever banking people.

Long ago in my youth I knew a pithy phrase to describe this sort of thing: class struggle. But, as I've said before, only one side is fighting.

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