Just over 300 years ago the Bank of England was founded in what was the old Mercers Hall in London, and then moved to its present building in Threadneedle Street.
Current public debt stands at about £840bn. In the first 300 years of the Bank of England’s existence public debt rose to £300bn; in the last 10 years it has more than doubled. That is largely because of printing more money. By a government it’s called quantitative easing; by an individual it’s called counterfeiting. Henry VIII debased the currency by adding more base metal to the silver coins, such that when they wore down, it gave him a new name – Old Copper Nose. So it’s nothing new. Governments have been doing it for time out of mind. That doesn’t make it right, except that might is right.
John Mowlem rebuilt large parts of London, and carted the reclaimed bits back to his home town of Swanage; so much so that Swanage was known as Little London. There’s the clock tower (no clock now) that stands at Peveril Point; that used to stand at the end of London Bridge, commemorating the Duke of Wellington.
And then there’s the facade of Mercers Hall, (you know, the original Bank of England) which was reclaimed and now adorns the facade of Swanage Town Hall, surely the most impressive small town hall facade in the land. But that’s all it is: a facade.
So is printing money. It brings to mind that old definition of corporate advertising: its bit like peeing in your pants. You get a nice warm feeling but no one notices any difference. Except in Iceland, where everyone has been asked to pay about 40% of their salaries to us and the Dutch for their banks’ mistakes. No warmth at all, and they have noticed the difference. The temperature has dropped here too, and soon we will notice the difference when we have to pay all this back.
Behind the impressive Swanage Town Hall, down a short narrow lane, is the town jail. No hint of facade here; its four stone walls, and a thick wooden door. Trouble is, it only houses one, and there’s such a list of candidates!