Saturday, September 27, 2008


I’ve never yearned to be rich.
Living “simply” (in Western terms at least) has always seemed to be a reasonable goal. Running an architectural practice for nearly 30 years meant that I had successful years, in financial terms, and years when I literally had to subsidise the practice. As a result, I have often joked (Moira hasn’t been amused) that I can only afford to live until I’m 70 – not long to go then!
The extremely volatile global financial climate of the past few days/weeks/months might mean that I have to recalculate my end date! For years, I have bemoaned the huge annual bonuses paid out to City high-fliers. A financial system where speculators, or "financial vandals" as I've recently seen them described, get massive rewards for taking risks with somebody else’s money (apparently with ONLY large rewards if they fail!) seems fundamentally wrong. I’ve read some wonderful descriptions recently, such as: “rich kids in bright shirts in London, New York and Tokyo who are making money at our expense” and “an irresponsible game of financial jenga”!
The root of the market collapse is the fear that banks and other institutions still hold too many “toxic assets”, which are based on mortgages that are now going bad. Should we be surprised by this - when young couples are offered mortgages on, what seems to me, ridiculous terms? Doesn’t anyone remember the non-boom times (high interest rates/high unemployment/stalled housing markets)? Short-selling (hedge funds being the main players) has now been banned in the UK for some specific financial shares – well, at least until January. It has been held partly responsible for undermining confidence in the UK's biggest mortgage lender HBOS (recently acquired by Lloyds TSB). The Green Party’s Patrick Harvey reckons that the “root cause of the problem is the culture of deregulated and buccaneer capitalism which all the other political parties have supported, celebrated and even courted."
I think he has a point!
Photo: I fear that this concentration on the “global slowdown” will result in eyes being taken away from the Climate Change agenda. It therefore seemed somewhat ironic to pass the Lloyds TSB building in Bristol last night with ALL its lights on!


Alice said...

It's such a scary time isn't it? Horrid particularly that those who bear the brunt are the ones who can't afford it. People who are already struggling are losing jobs etc. Feels like we are helpless to do much but watch and wait...

just Gai said...

Although it concerns me, I have to confess to trying not to think about it too much. There seems so little we can do about it, except trying to live as honestly to our convictions as we can manage.