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Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

What is a good idea depends on what the feasible alternatives are

Kind of obvious really, but apparently not to Martin Taylor (Eton and Balliol) currently chairman of Syngenta and a former chief executive of Barclays. In his weekend FT op piece he makes a comparison between the current standoff in Euroland and the Treaty of Versailles. The strap line sums it up:
Reparations were essential to secure French support at Versailles in 1919. This did not make them a good idea.
Said with the unshakable confidence that Eton and Balliol selects for, but nonetheless balls. My point is not deep. In hindsight reparations after WW1  appear a bad idea, but at the time there was no serious support for the alternatives. Keynes lunched out on his (correct) prediction of some of the consequences but his was not a mainstream opinion. At the time no French support meant no Treaty and no Treaty was not a politically acceptable outcome. It's a strange mentality - maybe it's common among bankers (I wouldn't know) - that leads you to find fault in not choosing  an alternative that is not available to you. If you are on top of a hill and a clever (perhaps Eton and Balliol) banker exhorts you with Olympian detachment to reach the summit of a distant mountain  without descending into the valley, then feel free to take their advice with a pinch of salt.

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