Three weeks in bed with ‘flu gives you time to think. In between pouring cough medicine and pills down your throat, fighting to breath under a mound of tissues full of the most vile bodily fluids – mainly from the nose, there are small moments of precious lucidity when the brain obliges and enables serious thought.
In the past twenty years, an infection of thinking about the way governments manage finance has led to this mantra – life, as we know it will end if the financial institutions are given moral guidelines. Global leaders tell us with disingenuous fervor, that the engine of the economy relies on the brilliant minds of the ‘rocket scientist’ bankers. These super human minds must be cosseted and appeased at all costs, because – so the myth will have us believe – the end of the world was nigh if they had to be regulated.
Now, as the financial edifices crumble, we see that these institutions are run by ordinary men and women like the rest of us. It’s a sobering thought to realize that the mess is totally self made and we cannot stick our heads in the sand and simply blame the buildings in Canary Wharf or The Square Mile . For the rest of us mere mortals, it seems to me that we have been guilty of that most human of condition – indifference, because we trusted too willingly and believed the bankers knew what they were doing. We emulated them and like a flock of plump sheep, we lived our lives to the financial max – just like them.
Looking back, I recall that I felt a bit of a wimp for wanting my mortgage explained to me very, very slowly before I signed on the dotted line. Maybe I should’ve be thinking a lot bigger and borrowing at least twenty five times my income, mimicking like so many other ordinary people, those ‘brilliant’ risk-taking bankers. My mission statement might have been: it’s only money – marbles on a pavement; you win some, you lose some down the drain – so what?
Now, as more and more of the financial debacle comes to light, we see that the scaffolding shoring up the banks and building societies is made up of numbers resembling the distances between us and the furthest reaches of the Milky Way. Everyone of us needs an MA in economics, for how on earth can we begin to understand where all the money has gone! Can anybody explain to me in words of one syllable, what quantitative easing actually means? Does anyone really know? Is it another case of the Emperor’s New Clothes? The money people appear to understand when they are interviewed by Paxman and his mates, but do they really know what they are talking about, or are they as baffled as the rest of us? Who will say the Emperor is naked first? Who can we trust now?
The figures that are banded about – five hundred billion rescue packages, thirty seven billion bailouts, seventy five billion quantitative easing, not to mention the trillion dollar plans put forward by Obama, are fantastical. I just can’t get my head around them. Can anybody? What I do know is that as time goes on, there will be fewer people working and paying tax and more businesses going into liquidation, also depriving the government from taxes to support the social structure of this country. At the same time, demand for benefits are starting to soar. The sums are not working out.
So why can’t we strike off all the debts and start again? Why do we have to create a money pit that daily grows deeper? Capitalism is the way our economy functions. I’m not saying it is the right way, just that it is how it has been for a long time. Because those brilliant brains haven’t come up with anything different, the intricate web of our consumer society can’t function without the banks providing credit. We are tied into a marriage called the credit system. It is a sorry state of affairs when if you have never borrowed money, you will have no credit rating.
So, unless some other way comes to light, it seems we have to start the vicious circle all over again once this present mayhem is over. We have to start spending. But I for one, have lost my appetite for it. Like the banks, I am sacred. I want to sit still and watch my money grow rather than see it fill the bottomless void by jumping back onto the consumer merry-go-round. I am descending in to purchase anorexia. I can’t afford to borrow a single penny and I won’t listen to mixed messages any more. One voice tells me to spend and help my country rise out of the mire and another voice tells me to be prudent and save; the same messages that are now being given to the banks.
They say that illness gives you time for reflection; pick over the problems in your life and see new solutions. Let’s hope the illness now being suffered by our financial systems and governments will do just that, because the next time it happens, I have a horrible feeling they won’t survive.
I’m not going to give it any more thought now, because I’m on to global warming…