Alice had been getting very
excited; since her visit to Brussels a couple of
months ago, she’d got the travel bug, and now she and some of her friends were off
to the United States.
And not only the US;
they were going to see the very heart of the Government, up on Capitol Hill.
Disappointed in Brussels
In truth, she’d been
a bit disappointed in Brussels;
she’d expected to meet lots of really clever people, but in the end she had
come away with the idea that she was smarter than they were, even though she
was just a little girl. Still, the US had got to be different; the
most powerful democracy in the world! And she was going to be able to sit and
listen to some of the discussions!
Now, as you know, over the last couple of years, Alice has been getting quite
interested in the metal market, so she was particularly pleased to learn that
she was going to get to hear the discussions of part of the Senate Committee on
Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. It sounded a bit dull to start with, but
then she found out that they were going to be talking about LME warehousing of
metals. She was bouncing on her toes as she queued with the Mad Hatter and the
March Hare to get into the building. She just knew she was going to learn a lot
from these clever people debating in the Chamber.
Attack on LME Rules
Some of the people sitting in that Chamber looked grumpy to Alice. When they started
speaking, she soon found out why. They weren't happy, at all. The LME Rules,
they said, were arcane and hard to understand.
shook her head at that. She’d read the rules, when she’d been talking to people
about metals before, and they weren't too difficult; true, some of the words were
long, and some of the rules dated back to an earlier time, but it wasn't
difficult to understand them, with a reasonable grasp of English. Alice wondered if perhaps
the man who made this statement was confusing his dislike of the rules with an
attack on their comprehensibility. She knew that sometimes, not when she was in
Wonderland, but when she was at home, she claimed she couldn't understand
something when really she just didn't like it.
Cost of Aluminium Cans
The next person to speak was from a company that put drinks
into cans. Alice
was definitely keen to hear what he had to say; she loved to have a fizzy drink
now and then. This man told them that some very powerful financiers had been
able to influence the price of aluminium, and that made each can of drink a
tiny bit more expensive.
The Mad Hatter, frankly, had been dozing off. But then the
speaker mentioned beer, and his ears pricked up. I’m sure you all know about
the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, but have a look under the table there one day, and
see what his real preferred drink is. He started shaking his head and
tut-tutting about the thought of beer being more expensive than it need.
But then he looked at
the March Hare, who had pulled some papers out of his pocket and was sitting
hunched over them, pointing something out to Alice. She nodded firmly and jabbed the Mad
Hatter in the ribs with her elbow.
Flaw in the Argument
“Look,” she said,
“this is a graph of the aluminium price. He said that because of what those
financiers have done, the people are paying more than they need. Well, I don’t
know about ‘need’, but the price has definitely gone down quite a long way, so
surely people should be paying less, not more?” The other two nodded sagely. Alice had put her finger
on the flaw in the argument.
Frankly, they were beginning to lose interest a bit. The
discussion went on, with one man claiming that the LME warehouses meant he had
to wait too long for his metal because there was a queue created by the
financiers. Alice knew that was silly, because only a couple of days earlier, a
man from an aluminium smelter had told her that he was just waiting for
customers to come and buy his metal – and he wouldn’t be imposing any delay.
“All this talk of
beer is making me thirsty,” said the Mad Hatter. “Come on, let’s go.”
As they left the building, they bumped into one of the
financiers. “You know what?” he said. “We can swap queue aluminium for
aluminium from our other stocks, easily. D’you think that will satisfy them?”
Understand it to solve it
looked at him. The Washington Wonderland didn't seem any more sensible than
what she’d seen in Brussels.
Slowly she shook her head. “I’m afraid not. Too many people who don’t really
think properly about the whole problem just love the sound of their own voices.
I think they’ll be arguing for a long time yet. Until they've understood it,
they can’t solve it.”