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Whoops!: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay. John Lanchester (2010)

March 16, 2013

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“Credit bubbles and asset bubbles don’t just happen without people joining in them, borrowing and spending more, betting on asset prices going upwards and the suspension of the never-untrue, never-popular rule that what goes up must come down. One thing which has been lacking in public discourse about the crisis is someone to point out the extent to which we helped do this to ourselves, because we allowed our governments to do it, and because we were greedy and stupid. It’s not just bankers who have been indulging in greed, short-termism and fantasy economics. In addition to our stretched mortgage borrowing, Britain has half of the total European credit-card debt. The industry did everything it could to egg us on, but that is still a horrible fact — and although it’s nice to reserve the blame for banks which made lending too easy, the great British public is just as much to blame. We grew obsessed with the price of our houses, felt richer than we should, borrowed money we didn’t have, spent it on tat, and now that the downturn has happened — as it was bound to do — we want someone else to blame. Well boo-hoo. Bankers are to blame, but we’re to blame too. That’s just as well, because we’re the ones who are going to have to pay.”

[op. cit., p. 187]

Manuel J. Matos‘s insight:

So true! And that’s why, when I’m on sinking ship’s lifeboat, I prefer to row than to scream for the lost pleasures of a voyage that is no more …

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