By Eamonn Fingleton
Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. Although the aphorism is overused, it accurately describes the dog’s dinner that British leaders have made of their society in the last half century.
A good example of what I mean is the news overnight that the British government has appointed Mark Carney the next governor of the Bank of England.
For anyone concerned for the British national interest, Carney has three strikes against him:
2. Goldman Sachs.
3. The Bilderberg Group.
Let’s first consider his nationality: he carries a Canadian passport. Not a hanging offense, you might think, and the Canadian people, of course, fully deserve their reputation as more than averagely decent world citizens.
The Canadian approach to financial regulation moreover has, as I have pointed out in a previous note, been a huge success. But here’s the thing: a clear majority of Britons want out of the European Union, and fundamental, quite tough and courageous decisions will have to be made in the next few years.
More than ever, it is important that the loyalties of the governor of the central bank should not only be aligned with those of the British people but be absolutely unambiguously seen to be so. In the circumstances, a British passport would appear to be a minimal job requirement (and it always was in the bank’s previous history of more than three centuries).
Then there is Carney’s Goldman Sachs connection: he served the firm for 13 years in New York, London, Tokyo, and Toronto. Yes, things could be worse: he might have been a don in the Sicilian Mafia or a bagman for the Colombian drug cartel. But for anyone who knows how the world really works, a career of rising “success” in an outfit like the latter-day Goldman Sachs does not smell good. For nearly three decades now, Goldman Sachs has brazenly thumbed its nose at its previous reputation for probity: in plain language its ethos lately has been that anything goes, provided only you stay out of jail. Readers of the American and British press are aware of some of the problems. In the John Paulson affair, for instance, Goldman is on record as having defrauded its customers. Goldman Sachs’s flexible approach to ethics has also been central to the disasters that have befallen the citizens of Greece. To be fair, Carney has not been implicated in either the Paulson or Greek scandals. But, if Wikipedia is to be believed, he was on the scene in an earlier flap when in the late 1990s Goldman played a two-faced role in advising investors in Russian bonds. That said, what concerns me more than anything is Carney’s spell in Goldman Sachs’s Japanese branch. After 27 years of studying the Japanese financial system from a vantage point in Tokyo, I claim some expertise. Japan’s kyoiku mamas education mothers have long counseled their sons that gentleman do not take jobs in the Tokyo securities industry. Thus firms like Nomura, Daiwa, and Sumitomo’s Nikko subsidiary have long had to scrape the bottom of the educational barrel in hiring. What is less well known is that foreign securities firms in Tokyo rank even further below the salt than their Japanese counterparts. They do the work that even the Japanese securities firms consider beneath them. Ethical Western investment bankers posted to Tokyo are immediately appalled by what they are expected to do. Perhaps Carney was too but there is no record of this.
Then there is Carney’s Bilderberg connection. Founded in the Netherlands in the 1950s, the Bilderberg Group is ostensibly merely a top careerist’s mutual aid society –nothing more than the Freemasons on steroids. Carney is officially acknowledged to have attended the most recent Bilderberg meeting, which is interesting as the British finance minister George Osborne, who appointed him to the Bank of England job, is an avid Bilderberger.
For the British national interest, there is more here than mere mutual back-scratching. The Bilderberg group was founded by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, a German-born erstwhile Nazi noted throughout his life for his “everything is relative” approach to ethics. The group’s main aim in its early years seems to have been to rehabilitate Germany and to this day the group is viewed in Europe as a tool by which a crypto-mercantilist “Germany Inc” promotes the careers of those it smiles on. Basically you are received into the Bilderberg group if the powers that be in Berlin, Munich, and Stuttgart consider your views helpful to the German national interest. The trouble is that Germany’s advantage very often proves to be someone else’s disadvantage.
George Osborne seems to be no more a Peter-principled naif. The question the British nation should consider is this: is Carney, with his Harvard education and his spell at the sharp end of the Japanese financial services industry, a similar babe in the woods?