Six Hong Kongs

This was how a financial type recently characterized the City of London to me. The quantification may be arguable, but there’s no doubt the City is pulling the UK rapidly away from (relatively) impoverished Europe, and there’s a lesson here for the US.

We flew back yesterday from London to the Southern med, leaving streets full of $150,000 cars for sunnier and bumpier roads crowded with tiny plastic Euro-boxes.

London now feels much wealthier than NYC or any European capital. The place is crammed with excellent restaurants staffed by folks from all over Europe. Construction is going on round the clock. St Pauls has now been cleaned up and looks magnificent viewed from the across the new Millennium Bridge.

There are plenty of worms in the bud. Prices are very high, public behavior has declined. Blair’s domestic legacy is much like George Bush’s – tax & spend (over a million more Brits now live off the state), and a soft police state that oppresses the law abiding and protects the villains (think TSA-style policies across all policing).

But the balance is positive. Blair’s immigrants (100,000 have been made Brit citizens very year of his reign) are mostly productive. And the although the Muslim community has more than the average number of nutters, there are plenty of Muslims cheerfully working, talking, and living just like their fellow Brits.

The Brit MSM, like its US cousin, is doing its best to accentuate the negative and hide the positive. So, just as the NY Times ran on page 37 the story of the apocalyptic plot to burn JFK , the Brit papers are silent on the battlefield successes of their military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Incidentally, the piece predicting the most popular Brit name for baby boys will soon be Mohammed is just a scare. Robert at Expat Yank points out that a) it’s a very common name for Muslim boys (they have just the one leader, Christians have 12 apostles and numerous saints), b) the prediction combines all Mohammed variants, and c) of the top 20 names for baby boys, just 5,991 were Mohammed variants, while 80,936 were names like Jack, Paul, Luke, Mathew.

Going forward, Gordon Brown seems set to run the country for the next 5 or so years – the opposition Tories have alienated their base with a principal-free re-branding, so Brown will likely soon call an election.

The US can draw lessons from this. The Brits spent centuries of accumulated treasure and rivers of blood keeping the Germans from conquering Europe. And unlike the Germans (who simply went bankrupt each time they lost), the Brits then spent the 20th Century painfully paying the debts they’d accumulated in these wars.

So the new Brit wealth validates the strength of the Anglo social, economic, and political model.

If, as seems likely, the Dems win the presidency next year, they’ll be no more (or less) damaging domestically than Blair has been. But that’s just an 0.3% reduction of growth below the long-term Anglo trend of about 3.2%. So 8 years of Dem rule will cost the US about 3.5% of its expected national wealth – painful but survivable.

Of course Dem policies will likely lead to successful JFK-style hits, which have much more serious impacts on the nation (not to mention the Americans killed and maimed).

The other lesson for the US is that its legal system is turning it into a commercial pariah. Here’s the latest:

British businessman Ian Norris has won an appeal to have his battle to avoid extradition to the US heard by the UK’s highest court…

Mr Norris succeeds where the NatWest Three former bankers failed. The men were extradited to Texas, where they face fraud charges relating to the collapse of energy company Enron, after the House of Lords decided against a review of their case…

Mr Norris has been charged in Pennsylvania with conspiring with other executives to fix the price of automotive components in the 1990s and trying to obstruct a subsequent investigation. The executive’s legal team argues that price-fixing was not a crime in Britain before new rules were introduced under the 2003 Enterprise Act, and that to extradite him would contravene his human rights.

The Feds extradited the “NatWest Three” to Texas a year ago, preventing them from working and so impoverishing their families – presumably to force them to accept a plea bargain. Their case and that of Norris involve Brits living in the UK committing legal acts in the UK that US prosecutors claim had consequences in the US.

It’s a point of view, but the effect is as observed in previous posts – combined with the US tort system and the inability to claim damages from failed litigants, it makes the US toxic for direct or indirect economic activity by foreigners. And that hurts the US in the global economy.

Still, every bud has its worm.

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