When I was about 11 my mother found a couple of small pictures of a naked lady in the pocket of my school blazer. She told me I had to go and talk to my father about it. Embarrassed and with a heavy heart, I went to see dad. He said something like "Well, about these pictures your mother found, I have to say that they are not very good, I have seen lots better!" - and that was it.
I went away reflecting. One event, different views.
I am reminded of that as I listen to all the condemnation of Mr Madoff - he who 'made off' with about $50 billion of other people's money in a 'Ponzi' scheme. My understanding of a Ponzi scheme is that you pay existing investors out of the takings from new investors. So for many years the early investors have done well and a problem only occurs when the ratio between new investors and the existing ones gets out of kilter - when there are not enough new ones to sustain the payments to the old ones. It is apparently very wrong, dishonest even, to mislead people in such a way.
After the Second World War the British people wanted change and booted out Mr Churchill in favour of a Labour government who promised a fairer society. A central plank of which was embodied in the aspirations of the National Insurance scheme. The idea that I grew up with was that working people pay a national insurance contribution (the 'stamp') each week, with the promise that in return they will receive unemployment, health and retirement benefits. This was quite separate from any income or other taxes.
The situation today is that the government can not afford to pay out these benefits as originally envisaged - the health system is being privatised, unemployment benefit disappearing and the state pension is almost irrelevant. Isn't that strange? In the 60 years since the end of WWII British people have put over a trillion pounds into the National Insurance kitty (£713 billion since 2000 alone). Where has the money gone?
We are told that with an ageing population there are not enough younger workers to support the older ones. So the money has not been invested and saved for people, it has all gone. Instead the government is dependent upon new workers contributing to pay for the existing, retiring workers. Isn't that a Ponzi scheme?
Successive British governments have made off with our money in exactly the same way as Mr Madoff. But rather like the parental view of my pictures, there seem to be quite different takes on the same activity. Private Ponzi scheme - bad, public Ponzi scheme - good.
The only difference is that Madoff's investors had a choice whereas Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs will give you no choice about joining their scheme.
Posted by Nicholas Moore 12:52:03 am