Deborah Orr: The radical left's wet dream, or chaotic market logic?

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It's the intellectual chaos that is the really frightening thing. Those who believe most fervently in the free market are the very people who hate most the spectacle of watching free-market favouring governments attempting to save it.

This is because they see ulterior motives where there are none. They imagine that everybody from the slightly less likely candidates – step forward, George Bush – to the slightly more likely candidates – stop giggling, Gordon Brown – has been poised breathlessly, awaiting this moment, so that they can usher in a new era of socialism. If only any world leader really did possess such a diabolical degree of strategic intelligence...

As for Gordon Brown's supposed enjoyment of the present crisis, he's merely hysterical with happiness that he's a couple of points up in the polls he's been poring over for so many months with such gloom. Tony Benn may be relishing the idea of nationalised banks, and a chorus of other lefties might be yelling: "I told you so!" But everybody else is just scared. And annoyed.

People in the real economy are simply gobsmacked that they now have to pay the Government money in tax, so that it can then be given to the banks, who will then lend it back to them with interest, so that they can buy the stuff that will keep China's economy growing, so that it can underwrite the US government, so that ... Oh lordy, maybe one or two world leaders do possess a diabolical strategic intelligence after all.

Or maybe the markets really do have a supernatural intelligence, and are every bit as good at self-regulation as James Lovelock explains that the planet used to be, when it was left to its own devices. What the Simon Heffers of this world stubbornly choose to ignore is that the collapse of the world economy, not its government-led mini-salvation, is the radical left's wet dream.

Environmentalism was widely believed, until recently, to be nothing but the last refuge of those who hated capitalism, because they despised themselves. The left's economic arguments had been roundly disproved, so they started banging on about sustainability, man-made planetary disaster and the perils of endless consumption.

Governments and ordinary people may latterly have started listening to these prophets of doom – who do, after all, have the entire scientific community behind them. But what they really couldn't work out was how actually to change people's habits or even change their own, in order to avert disaster.

Market logic dictated that economies had to keep on growing, which made the cutting of carbon emissions almost impossible to do. Creating new wealth, for politicians, seemed like the only way of guaranteeing ever-increasing revenues, anyway, for their ever more ambitious and misguided plans – whether those were plans to spread liberal democracy through invasion and war, or spread social democracy through clunky, prescriptive public services.

Anyway, if any government attempted too much to interfere in the market, the rich would get huffy, and it would be the poor who suffered first. No government wanted to risk too much of that sort of thing.

The market, it now appears, had no such qualms. It was no doubt impervious to the joys of its time as a popular hero, which made it so much easier to bring the party crashing to an end. Job losses, service cuts, bankruptcies, negative equity and dinner ladies apparently entombing themselves in freezers over their £400 credit card bills – the impact on real people in the real economy is happening already, and all British government intervention has got to show for it so far is, bizarrely, West Ham Football Club and Hamleys.

Now economists squabble over whether the coming "correction" will be a recession or a depression, and non-specialist commentators of a dystopian bent wonder whether we are entering a downturn that will see us fighting in the streets for a rusty tin of skipjack tuna, rather than simply surveying our ruined pensions and despairing. Actually, the bankers of the past 30 years have behaved no differently to the unions of the 30 years before, starting out with grand intentions, then letting hubris get the better of their sense of proportion. What never changes is that ordinary people bear the brunt when it all goes belly-up. At least this time around one can choose the philosophical course, and acknowledge that it is better for the economy to overheat, than for the planet to – whether you subscribe to the idea that weird and incomprehensible market wisdom has brought us here, or you don't.

Celebrity mothers who are slightly out of kilter

A recent paparazzi photograph shows the lovely Anna Friel, left, jogging near her home in Los Angeles, during a break from filming Pushing Daises, the American television series she stars in. Much is made of the fact that she is also snatching some time with her daughter, Gracie, who is three years old and being pushed along in a buggy like a tank by a young woman who is presumably a nanny.

It's not the first time that celebrity mother multi-tasking of exactly this sort has been snapped. Madonna does the same thing, and so does Gwyneth Paltrow. Sometimes the two of them can be seen combining motherhood with goddesshood together.

It always makes me laugh, though, because it seems to illustrate that these women are slightly out-of-kilter parents, and not the fully engaged ones they think they are. All of them have children who are way beyond the toddler stage, and it always seems alarming that the mothers so fully understand the importance of physical exercise, but fail to realise that their children really should be stepping out as well. What eventually alerts them to the advancing incongruity of it all? Seeing them strapped into pushchairs while wearing school uniform?

The phenomenon is by no means confined to celebrities, and it's easy to understand why. One misses the buggy terribly when it is first dumped, because suddenly one has to start lugging the shopping home instead of pushing it as it dangles from the handles. And, it is indeed a hassle to tramp about with your child when she is tiny, as what should be a brisk 10-minute walk can sometimes become a 45-minute meander. Further, a child in a pushchair can nap anywhere, so sleeping routines are not quite the tyranny that they can be.

Yet there's something rather horrible about the idea that young children should be mounted on wheels just because it's more convenient. I've heard of running before you can walk, but really...

'Biggest hacker ever' a compulsive? Astonishing

You can't help but feel for Gary McKinnon, the Scots-born computer hacker who has now been resisting extradition to the US for six years.

Accused of breaking into US Navy, Army, Nasa and Pentagon computers, he is described by the Americans as "the biggest military computer hacker of all time" and, they say, caused £550,000 of damage (seems teeny in an industry that counts everything in billions or trillions).

McKinnon gave an interview a couple of years back to that great investigative journalist of the absurd, Jon Ronson, and explained how he had got into the mess. He had watched a movie called WarGames in 1983, in which a young hacker eventually gets a job with the US government because they were so impressed.

Already interested in UFOs, he decided to see if he could hack into US Space Command and see if there was a cover-up. Finding a list of "non-terrestrial officers", he decided the US must have "some kind of spaceship off-planet". I'm more of the opinion that it means they have officers who are not working in the field, but I'm no expert either.

Anyway, he hacked all evening every evening, eventually giving up work to hack full-time. Even when his girlfriend dumped him over it, he continued to live in the same house as her, which was owned by her aunt, refusing to budge until the Feds arrived one day and carted them both off.

Now on the final, final of final appeals, his defence has had the bright idea of having him psychologically assessed and he has been told that he suffers from Asperger's syndrome. He has been diagnosed by no less than Simon Baron Cohen (yes, cousins), a pre-eminent figure in his field. Which makes me very, very proud, because I spotted that ages ago just from reading the interview with Ronson.

As for that promise at the Conservative Party Conference, of a two-year freeze on council tax ... the market appears to have delivered on that pledge with stunning alacrity, but maybe a little more literally than a politician would have necessarily preferred. Okay, we knew that Mum had gone to Iceland, but whoever imagined that she'd taken nearly £1bn in local authority deposits with her? What has she spent it all on? Liposuction?

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