06 July 2016 UK
Are We Seeing A Clearing of the Woods?
British economy looks to be re-moulding itself as a post-financial landscape

(Picture: Perhaps we havent seen the wood for the trees?)
The pain of the UK exiting the EU cannot be denied. For many people this is a time of worry, confusion, and fear and it does no good for anyone to belittle or ignore their very real concerns. That said, a look at the past fifty years has seen periods where people in huge numbers have had to cope with change - and often without a good result for them or their families. But then again, often with positives.

Taken as a whole, the changes the UK has went through in half a century are mind-boggling. From being the most industrialised nation on earth, to a land of banks and finance houses in two generations is a change so fundamental it looks impossible to square.

That change consigned millions to the scrapheap and the pain lives on in vast areas of deprivation and lack of opportunity. It affected not only workers though, but those whose lives had for a hundred years or more been based on a seemingly never to end tradition of shipping, manufacturing, wealth, engineering and so on. At the very top and the very bottom, this change resulted in ruin for all.

Out of this came a new class of winners: those who dealt with the effects of change and sought to create new opportunities in managing either wealth or poverty and the UK became one of the most fractured societies on earth. As a result, manufacturing and engineering became a tiny rump whilst services, be they servicing money or lack of it, exploded into entire industries.

This created pockets of enormous wealth and pockets of extreme poverty. Power concentrated on those who could manipulate rather than manufacture. For a nation that has such a large population relative to its actual size and natural ability to support such numbers in terms of goods and opportunity, only invisibles seemed to have the answer to this difficulty and therefore, the UK became an importer of wealth as well as goods and for some time managed to balance the books - somewhat.

That model seemed to be coming to an end as a benefactor to the whole, if we are to be brutally frank and honest, which is very hard to do when any extant system of wealth creation is still in operation by millions and depended upon by millions, but to any sane mind it can be seen that the only way to maintain this kind of wealth creation is to permit it free reign to garner as much wealth as possible to only a few winners, who then control it and maintain it through fear. People hand over their earnings to those who promote security: in branded goods to insurance to feeling good you have won by living in a million pound semi. It leaves no room for growth rather like a forest of pines that stifle the ground and permit no true grass roots or truly inventive and progressive growth. The pen of the financier and bureaucrat is mightier than the pencil of the architect or engineer.

Leaving the EU has shaken the system to the core. Let us be brutal again. The UK has largely 'grown' its economy on inflated value. The GDP of these islands cannot in any way be taken as real value. Most of it is based on activities which depend on debt, credit, housing, property speculation and consumer spending. If these go down, so does the 'economy' and in a fast changing world, where giants are forming with middle classes and the poor of their own to create for, the UK's dwindling influence and relevance poses a problem - how do you attract cash when it is clear there is little reason for you to have it?

Much of the UK's swagger is just that. Sheer swagger. Without millions of people working with trillions of dollars, pounds, euros, roubles and so on, there is no economy to support high real estate prices, which in turn means less leverage for those who pay inflated prices for everyday goods and services and so it goes down to the wire and the economy is busted entirely.

To use old fashioned words: it is a fools paradise.

Now we may be seeing a new reality coming to the fore. A look at the risers and fallers on the stock markets shows an inexorable decline in the fortunes of the New Economy of Old. Housebuilders, property managers, challenger banks, banks themselves. Declining in value as investors feel the good days for these previous winners are over. Painful. Very painful and none of us should feel joy. But let us be honest, few of these 'industries' do us any good structurally, and in fact, skew our economy so far we are blinded to the structural problems that truly make the UK a very hard place to do business.

Starting a business in the UK is an expensive and dangerous task. Everything in the UK is based on the inflated values that keep the plates spinning. It is customary to blame the EU regulations, or red tape, or all manner of perceived barriers to business, but the truth is, the biggest barrier to true growth and opportunity is the ridiculously over-priced economy we live in. The tall pines have stifled real growth by demanding all those beneath them to be as tall as them or die.

We all know it is perfectly possible to come up with an idea that works or provide a service or good that sells, only to find that without a high value prestige address, an ability to understand the complexities of finance, marketing, competing with established and market dominating 'brands' , we are on a hiding to nothing. No-one values the true entrepreneur, the man or woman who starts from their shed and creates true value in their work. The artisan and the engineer are no longer respected. Only those that can manipulate the system to create a vast and complex structure to surround the simplest human need are given any credit.

How are the markets reacting to the Brexit decision? By seeing that financials and real estate are no longer assured routes to profits. It is as simple as that.

Shares are being sold off in these fields as investors realise that there money is best put in more secure stocks. Stocks that will actually grow of course, that is important to remember.

Yes there was a period of bargain-hunting, but the bargain-hunters took a gamble, then decided after all that the fundamental issue here is that this economy is going to change and change in a manner we never thought was possible.

Now that the pound has plummeted, the whole nature of these islands changes with it. A declining currency points to a nation in decline in terms of punching above its weight, and we are fools if we do not recognise that the UK has for some time not only punched above its weight, but has the darn cheek to remain in the ring wearing a dinner jacket.

Look at the thing long term, not in short term myopia. The pound a hundred years ago was worth five US dollars. Now we are looking at, within a generation if long term trends continue (and they will given the structural and political decline of the UK) , at dollar parity. Long term the UK will always be a net importer and will always be in serious debt, unless fundamentals change.

That means that acting as the world's clearing house, and supporting over 60 million souls is, to be as brutal as we can go, simply financial fantasy. With the next industrial revolution on its way, automating even more tasks: from transport to financial wizardry itself, pretty soon we are going to find many more idle hands and much more social schisms.

The only way to reverse that is to return to manufacturing and encouraging - nay slay that, permitting - new growth and ideas at the level of the people who actually know what people want and have the skills and capability to do that.

Our army of bureaucrats and servicing staff in finance and poverty management cannot do this, it is impossible, and very soon, as we can see, many of them will be joining the ranks of those who were thrown on the scrapheap a generation and two ago.

Frightening as all that sounds, it is no more frightening than it was for the unemployed engineers and metalworkers who spent there lives training and working hard in precision numbers to build the engines and machines in the first place that gave the UK the wealth and goodwill to spend on itself playing with it for fifty years. Now that that appears to have ran its course, we have to return now to getting our hands dirty and relying on true invention and creation from the minerals of the earth to create wealth to support our system. As simple as.

The high value pound and the over-priced economy were the real barriers to that, not the EU. If it was the EU then why are Germany, Italy and France still able to grow their economies using skilled labour and engineering?

Because their economies are not geared to attracting finance alone.

Their economies are not based on property ownership.

And they believe in work, real work.

It seems investors are not so much seeing this new found ideal in the UK, but rather seeing the UK has ran its course as a source of easy cash and safe deposits. Now that they have, we have to move quick. Pain is going to come to many, but so will opportunity. Investors will be looking to start-ups again, to ingenuity, to areas where true wealth can be created and perhaps, with an economy reduced to its real value, such investments will be made not in comparison to easy returns, but by comparing the work of the real economy's winners: those that can actually build things, make them, and sell them. And in a post-financial landscape, with property prices realistic and less need for flashy shoulder-rubbing with the tall pines, a new undergrowth can begin on the forest and factory floor.