Markets and Morals:
That?s right; I?m not tooling around East London on my fixie bike playing inane synth, I?m surrounded by middle-aged dreary suits moralising about societies? tenacious grip on debt. On my own. Tonight the floor is graced by Tony Greenham, Head of Finance and Business at the New Economics Foundation, Clark McGinn, a senior banker at the nation?s hernia RBS and veteran politician and chap about town Tony Benn, a gracious fellow who now fronts the Stop the War coalition. The running order, as politely introduced by our nervous host, outlined ten minutes introducing the topic from each speaker before opening up the floor to questions.
Now this has been the driving force behind my mental health problems since May 2002: when a host turns to the floor and welcomes questions, all every single person wants to hear is a question duly answered by the panel. Each time I sit there infuriated to the point of searching in earnest for a blunt instrument of death, helpless to intervene following the line I moved to England in 1982… I can only describe it as agonising rage when nobody instinctively rises to destroy the spectacle-clad assailant before turning to set fire to the homeless as testament to the sheer dumbfounded state of enduring such monotony. I subsequently became an apprentice at the old steel works. Is it possible to temporarily deafen oneself with self-inflicted brain injury?
A point made by Mr. McGinn did leave a lasting impression. His argument pivoted on society facilitating the conditions that subsequently sparked the financial crisis by demanding access to cheap credit. This could be interpreted as a reliable opinion on a complex issue or a smart shift in attention away from the banks who encouraged borrowing by the most vulnerable through extensive credit card facilities and 120% loans. It?s not as if the banks were then lumbered with this debt; it?s been well publicised that banks package the debt and then offload to a willing investor. To suggest that banks were behaving in a responsible manner seems utterly preposterous and patronising to a point that can only highlight banks? unadulterated greed.
Of course, issued debt was funded by banks lending money, that they didn?t have, to each other and, as one bank became reluctant to lend faced with uncertainty in the US housing market, the international credit market froze leaving institutions with enormous debt they couldn?t repay. This is nothing new, although I suspect there may be a deep-rooted culture underpinning this argument.
How is it possible for anyone to sell a kettle for 2 and make money? Simple: it isn?t. Supermarkets coin the term ?loss-leaders? for these products in the hope that they entice the shopper towards more profitable stock. Faced with a choice of a 2 kettle that will last about three weeks or a 10 kettle that will probably never break the decision is obvious: it?s the cheap one every time. Which is clearly ridiculous, but I know I?ll have to buy six of ?em before the expensive choice becomes more valuable so I?ll willingly place my bet. This is an analogy I use to describe consumerism to anyone who won?t tell me to shut up. We?ve been, err, ?consumed? by cheap goods for the past fifty to sixty years. I bet you can look around right now and spot something cheap you no longer use. With an unlimited range of ?stuff? paired with relative affluence it?s no wonder our emotions rudely interrupt for a cheeky, impulsive purchase. And why stop with access to such cheap credit throughout the 90s and naughties?
We occupy a society fueled by consumer capital that?s become so efficient at procuring our money it seems feasible that the cold grip of recession lay its roots surreptitiously whilst we put the kettle on.
By Jules Hallam.