We’ve heard a lot from the apologists about how there was no alternative to the South Canterbury Finance bailout in the last couple of days.
It’s come with a whole lot of talk about the details focused on who let SCF into the scheme (answer National) who first allowed for finance companies to be eligible for the scheme (answer: Labour) and how the whole thing happened (answer: it depend who the scape-goat of the moment is) and, of course, a plethora of complexly financially-justified scenarios of what would have happened if we hadn’t bailed investors out.
At times like this detail is used for misdirection all over the place. Anyone who has done a lot of sharp business negotiations will know the tactic intimately: muddy the waters with detailed “analysis” that draws away from the main point, throw in a few what-ifs and whatever you do make sure you shift the parameters of the argument into as many blind side-alleys as possible.
The key thing is to create a sense of urgency and complexity that distracts people from the big picture or makes them doubt they understand it. It’s a kind of spin version of the Stockholm syndrome.
In my experience the best thing to do to neutralise this tactic is to cut through the bullshit, step back and readdress the main point.
In this case the main point is that the government has just spent $1.77bn of our money on bailing out already wealthy investors.
Over the next few weeks the shills will try all sorts of misdirection drawing on all sorts of peripheral financial and political arcana and there will be all sorts of technical-sounding claptrap spouted by commentators who have just discovered they’re finance experts.
They may even convince the public they’re right. They’ll certainly convince journalists they’re right.
I watched exactly the same thing happen back in December of 1987 when the fourth Labour government passed legislation to sell off public assets and transfer massive amounts of wealth from the public to a few private interests.
At the time they used the confusion and chaos created by the stockmarket crash just a couple of months before to help drive their agenda.
Of course nowadays nobody remembers the ridiculous sophistry used to justify that theft but at the time it seemed really important. Like really, really really important. Mostly I suspect people now just wonder how the hell we allowed it to happen.
The funny thing is I don’t doubt that in a couple of decades time people will be wondering the same thing about the decision to hand over $1.77bn of public wealth to private individuals.
The more things change, eh?