The role of government

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British banking faces its biggest meltdown since the early 1970s (I just recall them) as Northern Rock heads for the wall. I could write my opinion but near enough Will Hutton summarised it with this:

Proud finance has insisted it needs no regulation, that it can be trusted to deploy the nations' savings with care. The trust has been abused. We need a solid, social democratic government to reduce the risk of such recklessness in future, not tell us that finance should be left to finance while the taxpayer picks up the pieces. I hope Mr Brown is embarrassed. If he is not, so much the worse for all of us.

Actually, cut out the 'social democrat' bit: we just need a solid government of any hue to do this job because it is obvious that this is its role if markets are to achieve what they can within the obvious constraints within which they work.

There's only one bright side to this. For the next decade or so we can now safely ignore all free-marketeers. The evidence that they're wrong has been provided yet again. It will take a decade to forget it.