Thursday 18 October 2012

Trading Places

Reading some archaeology on human settlement in Iceland in Science Daily, linked from the Archaeologica web site, as one does, I saw that it suggested that a major volcanic eruption close to the Equator in 1258 had a major effect on climate.  The volcano in question has yet to be identified. 

But along with three other substantial eruptions in 1268, 1275 and 1285 it meant the end of the High Medieval Warm period and a lurch downwards in temperatures that culminated in the Little Ice Age.  In Europe, this together with the working out of the silver mines in Saxony, hit everyone hard.

In the 21st Century humanity does not need the help of Gaia or the gods or twitches in tectonic plates to do the damage, we are now equipped and able to cause our own man made catastrophes out of simple greed and stupidity.  Cause and effect are very different but human suffering remains a constant.

On Monday 17the September, I posted on “High Frequency Trading For Dummies” which linked to a major The Bureau of Investigative Journalism” feature on the subject of HFT.  This might have been enough but another post elsewhere caught my eye on Naked Capitalism.

This roundly calls for governments and financial authorities to get a handle on what is going on, notably by imposing taxes that will slow things down and discourage the high alpha male activity in this field.  It might be thought that with fiscal cliffs and huge budget deficits around this might attract governments in trouble.

Unluckily, the trading is done by the big money boys and their friends in New York, London and related locations.  As we know, when engaged in an activity that few understand fully, especially central bankers, politicians, the main media and the vast majority of the general public, when confronted with restraint they scream and fall down on the floor threatening The End Of The World As We Know It.

But when, in effect, the whole global financial system now has a key element of trading done by computers on auto function, traders high on Columbia’s finest and managers interested only in the biggest bonus bounties, one blown fuse could cause an almighty crash.

It is not just the computers that will crash, so will the companies involved, so will all the linked financial systems, so will the governments and most of trade and commerce.  We have been here before and many times.  But there have been some times in history when you do not restore what has been.

It is a little like dropping H Bombs into volcanic craters to see how big they need to be to trigger a major eruption.  If you keep on doing it, then it might happen.  HFT is just such a gamble and there are no signs it can be stopped or restrained.

So if the world economy really does go down the fissures of finance we won’t need volcanoes to cool things down for us.  We will have done it ourselves.

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