After a blizzard of revelations of financial wrongdoing last year, what do the following have in common - Barclays forced to pay $360 million over its manipulation of Libor, HSBC fined $1.7bn for money-laundering and flouting sanctions, Standard Chartered made to pay $667m over breached sanction laws, BP penalised $4.5bn for criminal damage and regulatory failings over the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, GlaxoSmithKline fined $3bn for selling anti-depressants for unapproved uses on children, RBS awaiting a big fine over Libor fixing, Rolls-Royce under investigation for allegations of bribery, to name but some?
They are all British companies that have committed very serious offences, but they were not prosecuted by British regulators at all, only by US ones.
The pretence that Britain has a working regulatory system, when actually it is toothless, inefficient and incompetent, is a national scandal.
How can such a stark and reprehensible failure have happened?
It is because the politicians wanted it that way.
"Light-touch regulation" was the order of the day under Tony Blair since the real political aim was (1) to suck up to the corporate and financial elites, (2) to promote the City of London, (3) to attract inward investment and (4) to enhance the deregulated free-market paradigm of neoliberal capitalism in line with the so-called US Washington consensus.
Regulation didn't enter into it. The worrying thing is that nothing has changed.
Five years after the great crash, there has been no banking reform worth the name and British regulators are still well behind the curve either in taking any action at all and in lightness of wrist-slapping even when they do.
Shifting powers from the Financial Services Authority to the Bank of England, as the Tories are now doing, is merely a facade to give the pretence that something is really happening.
It won't while the Tory Party continues to draw half its funds from the banks and the finance sector.
Even when, rarely, penalties are imposed, their level is derisory.
Whereas Barclays was forced to pay $360m to the US authorities for rigging Libor, the FSA penalty was a mere £59m.
Such figures are regarded by rampant privateers like Barclays, not as a deterrent, but merely the small change that they have occasionally to put up with in order to continue with their life of untrammelled law-breaking.
The banks are laughing all the way to … the bank.
After the biggest heist in history they believe the system, or rather lack of it, has allowed them to get away with it scot-free.
The wild euphoria attending the appointment of Mark Carney as the new governor of the Bank of England will soon be put to the test.
In principle his "big idea" of targeting nominal gross domestic product - ie real growth on top of inflation rather than inflation alone - is good insofar as it gets away from the inflation fetish which has dogged monetary policy for the last 30 years and introduces, at long last, a focus on growth.
But the real scepticism over the Carney policy must be about exactly how the growth is intended to be generated.
It cannot be said strongly enough that the fundamental problem with the British economy over the last two years has been a lack of aggregate demand.
When interest rates are on the floor and FTSE-100 companies are sitting on unused cash surpluses of £0.8 trillion, the problem is not on the supply side - complaints about planning requirements or red tape are utterly marginal to the main issue.
Yet, astonishingly, the official agenda remains fixated on tweaking monetary policy while continuing to neglect the management of demand.
How Carney believes he can inject a new concern for jobs and growth when George Osborne is still dedicated to intensifying fiscal austerity remains a mystery.
If Carney is really serious about his nominal GDP idea, the really big confrontation in this next year will be whether he can modify the so far unbending rigidity of coalition economic policy in denying any direct role to the public sector in reinvigorating the economy.
The obvious policy would be the steady rolling out of a major programme of public investment in infrastructure, housebuilding, energy and transport and laying the foundations of the coming green economy.
The catch is that the private sector won't do it because in a flat or contracting economy there's no prospect of profit in it.
Britain has had its industrial base steadily eroded over the last 30 years.
But beyond this decimated manufacturing capacity, services essential for an efficient productive economy have also been degraded.
These include transport, energy and communications as well as education, health and housing. All of these have been, or are being, privatised and the results are devastating.
The McNulty report on the railways in 2011 found that costs were 40 per cent higher than comparable state-owned rail industries in the rest of Europe.
Far higher subsidies are required from the taxpayer to finance inefficient and inferior services.
In energy several parliamentary inquiries have exposed profiteering and inefficiencies as a result of fragmentation, as well as so great a rundown in investment as to threaten national security of supply.
Energy expert Dieter Helm believes that £500 billion investment will be required to achieve an internationally competitive level of infrastructure over the next decade because of the accelerating failure of privatisation.
Much the same applies to telecommunications and water. The most authoritative analysis of privatisation in Britain - The Great Divestiture: Evaluating The Welfare Impact Of The British Privatisations 1979-97, by Massimo Florio - utterly destroys the myth that privatisation has led to any long-term gains in productivity or efficiency, and documents the major costs in terms of welfare and communal benefit.
In addition there has been a key loss of strategic control. Previously, during the high growth of the postwar years (1948-73), R&D investment in energy, transport and telecommunications had positive feedback on manufacturing.
Over the last 30 years, however, the sharp decline in British R&D has cumulatively weakened the British industrial effort.
Strategic intervention in the national interest now hinges on the government trying to manipulate private investment decisions which, even if successful at all, is usually unnecessarily costly.
Notoriously, once the provision of housing had been handed to the private sector, no amount of government inducements can now get investors to meet the enormous shortfall in availability.
At the same time, however, the banks were frenziedly active in high-margin mortgage lending to those in desperate need of housing.
This inflated housing costs at double the rate elsewhere in Europe - 2.4 per cent a year in the UK against 1.1 per cent in the EU.
Much of this inflationary cost in Britain was due to speculative lending by the finance sector in conditions of housing scarcity.
Which points again to another critical factor in Britain's economic decline - the gross over-dominance of finance.
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