Pointing the finger is easy; it’s identifying the right target that is more difficult.
That’s why the rush to blame bankers, not only for the financial crisis but pretty much everything else that’s wrong with our economy and public finances, makes me feel uneasy. There’s no denying that the banks appear to operate in a fantasy world with little relation to reality, but then the government’s light-touch regulation let them get away with it. Consumers also happily bought into financial products that were very high risk. How many times I remember people talking about self-certification mortgages which bore no relation to their actual finances.
If the banks were wrong to develop risky products, no doubt identified by market research as what customers wanted, should consumers have been more careful in choosing them?
The culture of greed and something-for-nothing stretches beyond the world of banking. We wanted, or want, cheap everything. We moan about lost jobs, dying manufacturing, yet quibble over a few pence or pounds to buy something cheaper. This inevitably means manufacture in a country where employment conditions and wages would not be acceptable to us.
And house prices. How many delighted in accumulating wealth as the value of their properties rose to perviously unimaginable heights? Despite several years of being assured that the economy would have a ‘soft landing’, again I remember countless people expressing views that it was unsustainable and that a severe correction was likely: just ordinary people, not economists.
Perhaps responsibility for our situation is more widespread, but uncomfortable to admit.
I wonder what part I played.