The London Disease

The phrase just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it! One even expects it to make sense. What, then, is the London Disease? Well,

Which brings us to an issue that is fast troubling global financial regulators: the so-called ‘London disease’. It has not gone unnoticed that many of the financial scandals in recent years have a Square Mile connection. Never mind Libor, it was the London offices of AIG, Lehman Brothers and Bernie Madoff that helped destroy them. The JP Morgan and UBS rogue traders who lost billions were both London based.

The UK is also arguably the centre of the offshore world. It is one of the biggest private bank centres and Britain’s non-domicile tax rules allow the global super-rich to legally avoid taxes on their overseas income while residing here. In addition, many of the UK’s overseas territories and crown dependencies such as Jersey, Isle of Man, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands are major offshore centres. This perhaps explains why the British government, for all its rhetoric, has failed to clamp down on the shadow financial system.

What is the “offshore world”? It is a place that mostly lacks legal and political accountability, where the oligarchy parks its money, where loyalty can be bought. The London Disease exists because casino capitalism exists, because The City is a place where the world’s oligarchs like to do business and because the British political system is intrinsically corrupt. The London Disease thus refers to a place where the morbidity of contemporary capitalism manifests itself with clarity. Wall Street is also such a place. Both have more in common with the “offshore world” than they do with Great Britain and the United States. Their autonomy is a political catastrophe without an identifiable conclusion.

Dean Baker compares the United States and China

The United States as #2 – Al Jazeera English.

China races to the top while the United States races to the bottom.

Quote of the day

Rebecca Solnit has the floor:

As you knew at the outset, it’s [the impetus for the lesser to take to the streets] all about economics. This wild year, Greece boiled over again into crisis with colossal protests, demonstrations, blockades, and outright street warfare. Icelanders continued their fight against bailing out the banks that sank their country’s economy in 2008 and continue pelting politicians with eggs. Their former prime minister may become the first head of state to face legal charges in connection with the global financial collapse. Spanish youth began to rise up on May 15th.

Distinctively, in so many of these uprisings the participants were not advocating for one party or a simple position, but for a better world, for dignity, for respect, for real democracy, for belonging, for hope and possibility — and their economic underpinnings. The Spanish young whose future had been sold out to benefit corporations and their 1% were nicknamed the Indignados, and they lived in the plazas of Spain this summer. Occupied Madrid, like Occupied Tahrir Square, preceded Occupy Wall Street.

In Chile, students outraged by the cost of an education and the profound inequities of their society have been demonstrating since May — with everything from kiss-ins to school occupations to marches of 150,000 or more. Forty thousand students marched against “education reform” in Colombia last week. And in August in Britain the young went on a rampage that tore up London, Birmingham, and dozens of other communities, an event that began when the police shot Mark Duggan, a dark-skinned 29-year-old Londoner. Young Britons had risen up more peaceably over tuition hikes the winter before. There, too, things are bleak and volatile — something I know you would understand. In Mexico, a beautiful movement involving mass demonstrations against the drug war has arisen, triggered by the death of another young man, and by the grief and vision of his father, leftwing poet Javier Cicilia.

The United States had one great eruption in Wisconsin this winter, when the citizenry occupied their state capitol building in Madison for weeks. Egyptians and others elsewhere on the planet called a local pizza parlor and sent pies to the occupiers. We all know the links. We’re all watching. So the Occupy movement has spilled over from Wall Street. Hundreds of occupations are happening all over the North America: in Oklahoma City and Tijuana, in Victoria and Fort Lauderdale.

Capitalism everywhere, protests everywhere

A Think Progress montage