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Wednesday, 6 February 2013


I have been offline for a month, as I got on with crucial jobs including a last attempt to re-present my basic ideas for the general interest. If that fails, I think I will abandon more than four decades of research and analysis.

Meanwhile, in the hope of belated success, I continue to comment on the matters of the day; seen from the perspective that my researches have endowed me with.

Under the Accounting Standard FRS 102 - supposedly bang-up-to-date and state-of-the-art - the powers that be have promulgated the crazy assertion that 'Financial Instruments' should be accounted for, especially in corporate balance sheets, at 'Fair Value'.

 Neither of those terms has any substantial meaning.

The term fair has prominently been used in the past 24 hours by advocates of the idea that homosexual people should be allowed to marry: at this stage, only in twos. Although an Anglican, I have no fundamental objection to people of any sexual orientation [or of none] taking steps to protect their reputations and to safeguard their assets on a basis of legal and social equality with other people. But I do find completely silly the notion that a legally recognised relationship of two people can be called a 'marriage' in any sense other than that which has been traditional throughout the world for thousands of years. Changing the lexicon to be 'fair' to people who want to annexe the words 'marriage' and 'wedding' to events that simply are not what the words mean is an abuse of lawmaking and an affront to common sense. To use 'fairness' as the motivation for a mutilation of language further devalues the already debased concept of 'fairness:' that has come to mean "whatever will pander to the next demand upon the political system from some interest group". Each such concession to unreason tends in the end to make society ungovernable and the implementation of the plethora of conflicting demand unaffordable.

As to value, the more that is written around the term the clearer it becomes that it is even more meaningless than fair. Millions of times quoted is the adage condemning an individual who 'knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing'. In this all-too-real world prices matter to almost everybody all the time: as prices increase faster than wages and pensions and benefits received by the majority of the population, so living standards decline. This inevitable aspect of the forced move that society must make, from the fake affluence of the pre-credit-crunch era to a materially affordable future general standard of living, is set to intensify as the failure of the coalition government's 'austerity' policy becomes more blatant. People will be forced to decide what they wish to continue to consume, and [at least by default] what they are consequently prepared  to drop from their shopping baskets. Some commentator may take the view that the resulting preferences reveal the relative value that different people apply to the items that have been in their pattern of consumption, but that simply means 'relative preference' and has no scientifically measurable or verifiable content.

The only possible meanings of 'Fair Value' that can responsibly be used to tell a firm or an individual what an asset is 'worth' are:
a] the current market price of the instrument;
b] a notional price [not being the price that exists momentarily in a specific trading arena], which is accepted by the current owners and by their actual and potential counter-parties as being an accurate average of the prices  that were struck on a recent succession of trading days. Thus any exceptional leap or dip in the price of the asset would not invalidate the valuation; on the assumption that exceptional price movements will be corrected in a very short period.

Either of these concepts is more accurately expressed in the words just given than in the ephemeral term value. Far from meaning something absolute, value means nothing-in-particular. For centuries, Political Economists and Economists have pursued the notion that there should be something more meaningful than price, in disclosing how humans respond to an intrinsic quality of goods and of services, which causes the commodities to be priced higher or lower relative to the material costs of their production or provision: and this quality is called value. No such thing exists. Defining the components of price, and how the prices of different commodities and services deviate more or less from equality with their measured costs of production will be the subject of my next effusion.