Devastation by High Frequency Trading

From time to time important challenges emerge from the most unlikely sources. Like the Investor’s Chronicle’s dogged 1970s uncovering of Denys Lowson’s criminality, Lowson being a former Lord Mayor of the City of London. Or Computer Weekly’s ultimately successful campaigning against the bureaucracy’s claim of gross negligence on the part of the pilots of Chinook ZD576 which crashed in 1994 on the Mull of Kintyre killing all 29 occupants.

Thanks in large part to Computer Weekly the real cause was revealed as software error in the helicopter’s computer system. Now the magazine PCPlus, whose prime focus is on the latest computer hardware and software, devotes 11 full pages of its current issue to what it refers to as the ‘virtual money crash’, and the role of High Frequency Trading (HFT) in producing what it describes as the ‘unpredictable and unstable world economy’.
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Who’s Breaking Society Now?

David Cameron is following a long line of prime ministers claiming that British society is in moral decline and ‘broken’. The country has always been ‘going to the dogs’. Harold Macmillan suggested it all started when we stopped going to church on Sundays and so lost any regard for what he referred to as ‘Christian charity’. Three questions arise: Is it true? What is the cause? And what can be done about it?

The British system of social relationships between people, and the structure of social institutions and organisation which shape our association with others, are by and large fairly harmonious. Our daily experience of interactions with others, no matter the degree of difference between our ethnicity, gender, age, ability, or economic position, is generally based on mutual consideration and courtesy. Only among football crowds does consideration habitually give way to overt antagonism and even then it is almost invariably laced with humour. Rioting and looting is an exception, and the generous efforts of people in the clean-up operations confirmed the general rule: society is not broken. Yet.
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Looting and Rioting – Bob Diamond Again

Over the past few days, the famine in East Africa, the US loss of its S&P triple A credit rating, the Murdoch disgrace, the Eurozone indebtedness and Greece’s odious debt, and even the World Championship Hen Races in Derbyshire, have all been driven from the front pages, at least in UK, by the looting and burning street riots. Consideration of their underlying causes and recommended solutions have dominated the media. Prime Minister Cameron, for example, expert in policing and broken societies, apparently wants to appoint a native from gun-toting America, to show British police how to do their job.

This blog’s intent is to flag up the impacts of theory on practice. The focus is mainly on the management and governance of real economy organisations, because they are what pays for our education, health and security, and they are where most of us work. The broad contention which has emerged from postings on this site, is that the theory which impacts on those organisations has had a profound, very widespread and more or less wholly negative effect. And that almost certainly includes some motivation for the looting and burning riots.
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Pushing the Economy with AAA Rated String

Following the demise of Lehman Brothers almost three years ago, the then UK government, being committed free market idealists and N word phobic, pumped trillions of taxpayers’ money into the economy to keep it buoyant. But it did so by funding banks which would otherwise have collapsed, and then trying lamely to persuade them to pass it on to real economy businesses so as to maintain employment. But the banks were reluctant to pass the money on because they needed to rebuild their own balance sheets, having themselves made such a mess of them. The phrase ‘quantitative easing’ was really bank balance sheet easing, and had limited impact on real business and real jobs beyond the financial sector.

Now we are back in the same mess and the talk is again of quantitative easing for the same purpose. The insanity of persisting with the same dysfunctional strategy is the result of the apparently unshakeable belief in free trade, open markets, with minimised government, taxes and public spending. But quantitative easing won’t stimulate the economy and create jobs any more than it did the last time. The only difference between now and then is that instead of the banks being in greatest need, it is now nation states which are seen as the key problems and the focus of the credit rating agencies.
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