Lincoln Drill Hall

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The nationalisation of capital

Earlier this month interest rates went to an new low, the rate current in the year of my birth. This places what is happening in a different context: it is no longer about a theoretical world of money; it is about the lives of the baby boomers. We began in the post war reconstruction, although we didn't know it, we had never had it so good. We moved into the white heat of technology and the fear or expectation of socialism. Perhaps neither happened. Then into Europe and winters of discontent, millions unemployed. From here the unions were crushed and deregulation first appeared, but in the name of financial proberty, the day of the monetarist. I suppose we then went into never never land as the western economy grew on a fiction, or perhaps two fictions, that financial services create wealth and that asset values will always rise giving everyone infinite scope for personal borrowing. The merry-go-round then came to a shuddering halt and many fell off.
We have witnessed central government taking on what is, in effect, that irrational borrowing of individuals: a negative income tax of some sort. Commentators are talking about a new capitalism. I wonder what this might mean. Will we, some years hence, read a party manifesto arguing for the privatisation of money? At current interest rates, capital has meagre reward. Would anyone want it?

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Pension Scheme funding

No, don't go to sleep; this one matters. You will recall the interplay between three or four numbers which drive the result of an actuarial valuation: inflation, wage increases, pension increase and equity premium. On these four hang all the law and the profits [sic]. A key question is the equity premium post credit crunch. The FTSE is where is was ten years ago, having been 50% higher both last year and twelve years ago. The equity premium is the amount by which returns from equities will exceed those from gilt edged stock (government bonds). The argument has to be that the premium will now be considerably higher; the starting point being considerably lower. This assumes that in the fullness of time the market will once again rise to 6000. I recall that when it did first time round, I thought it has assumed the growth for he next ten years. (One day I must follow my instincts.)
The question is whether it will rise again, or whether we truly are in a new world.