The Big One is Coming

Two brothers. One got a real job and lived modestly at home with his parents. The other got the gambling bug and got clever at it. He found all sorts of obscure forms of gambling and developed sophisticated new techniques and methods and made a lot of money and lived a wild lifestyle. Till he lost it all and more, much more. And had to go to his father and plead to be bailed out. The amount was more than his father could afford. So he started to charge the working brother for his food and accommodation, and explained to his wife that they would have to tighten their belts so as to pay off the son’s huge debts. The brother grumbled but paid up. The important thing was, what did the wife do?

She considered her options. She could just walk away, but she wanted to keep the family together. The really important thing was to make sure it never, ever, happened again. After much thought, she told her husband she would only stay if he made the feckless one stop gambling and made him realise he had been gambling with all their lives. In addition he would have to be made to get a real job like his brother. And he would have to repay all the money that had been spent to bail him out, both to the parents and to his brother. If the husband didn’t agree with all that, she would leave.

At present, most of us are like the hard working brother: we are paying up but we’re grumbling. The politicians and the media are obsessed with the cuts, how much and how fast. Nobody knows the best answer to that, but anyway it rather misses the point. What we – that is people everywhere in the world – really need is for governments to make sure it never, ever, happens again. But governments are doing exactly the opposite. There has been no action to stop the financial sector gambling, or even to make it less attractive. There is no requirement for the gamblers to repay their debts. Or even to pay their due portion of taxes. And the sector is still seducing the brightest young people to go and work for it, rather than getting real jobs. With such negligence, governments are making it absolutely certain that it will happen again. The only question is how long it will take.

And in the meantime, money, which the financial sector should be investing in the making of widgets to employ real people, is used for purely speculative purposes. The bets are on food, oil, the internet, or any commodity or resource they can make to bubble, or ever more sophisticated imaginary “products” whose markets they can create and command. The possibilities, unlike in the 1930s, are infinite. This time it won’t be just a bubble that bursts though that’s bad enough. Unless the heat is turned down, it will be the whole bubbling pan that will boil over. And all it will leave is mess and destruction everywhere. Oh brother!

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