In my mini quest to find out what the hell has happened to the world economy, I stumbled across this book. It has a light tone, which makes it easy to read, but it has some very good, sensible ideas behind it. It is a book that I can see being used by future students as a contemporary account of our current situation.
The Gods in this context are ideas that have effectively taken over our lives – globalisation, liberalisation, privatisation and competition, amongst others. The authors’ point of view is that these ideas have been tried and have failed spectacularly, so it is time to go back to a time when the finance industry supported the country rather than being in a position where it dictates how we should live. “Private profit, public debt” is a big theme – that the people involved are willing to sell off the country’s assets, making huge amounts of money when times are good (when they tell government not to interfere and let them get on with it), knowing that government will bail them out when things go wrong (which they do, over and over again) because they are “too big to fail.” We all pay when things go wrong. Only a relative few (the “New Olympians”) benefit in the good times – but they benefit massively.
The first chapter tells the story of the collapse of Northern Rock, then the book goes on to explain the history of how this situation came about, the role of governments, how things could be worse, and (importantly) some ideas to help make the whole system work more in favour of everybody.
It’s not perfect (various typos spoil the flow and the services of a good proof reader wouldn’t go amiss) but it is a good guide and worth the time to read.
• The Guardian: Extracts from the book
The row (discussion?) over bonuses and who is to blame is only just kicking off…
• The Guardian: A sorry excuse for an apology