The Christmas holiday season is a time when you get to meet many of the more far flung members of your family, and their offspring – it’s always an interesting period. As economists around the world are still debating the undoubted impact of Paul Samuelson, the Nobel prize winning economist who died a couple of weeks ago, I fear I may have discovered the next generation!
There I was, gently digesting and deliberating after a hearty meal, when a young nephew comes up and asks me a question. Now he is a studious lad, takes an interest in the world around him and asks questions of adults when he doesn’t understand what is happening. “Can you explain to me” he says, with an angelic smile which disguises the demon lurking inside, “why governments have spent so much money to save the banks, but don’t want to spend the same amount to save the planet?”.
Wow! This boy has a future attending shareholder meetings and asking those awkward questions! Why indeed I pondered, considered the rather lacklustre performance in Copenhagen, compared to the enthusiastic approach to throwing taxpayers money into the financial system. I started to gently explain how important the financial system was to the effective operation of the world economy when I immediately realised that I was going to get caught in a temporal infinite loop worthy of a Doctor Who script – if we don’t save the banks we won’t get to save the planet, but if we don’t save the planet, do the banks even matter? Clearly I was going to have to come up with some killer analysis, and fast. I admit that I failed. At any rate I failed to come up with a simple enough answer to satisfy the innocent (or maybe not so innocent!) inquiry of a pre-teen citizen of the world. Fortunately, the more immediate demands of chocolate and other arriving relatives distracted him from my indecision.
It is a simple question, and attempts to deliver a simple answer appear only to highlight the short sightedness of our elected leaders. I would love to have an answer to satisfy such innocent simple curiosity.
Answers on a postcard please!
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