I’ve always been a words kind of person.
Numbers have never really floated my boat.
I can get by when it comes to maths and the self-employed life has certainly seen me using the number-crunching part of my brain far more in the last two and a bit years than in the previous two decades.
But the reason I’ve spent an awful lot of time scratching my head over recent stories involving the credit crunch, interest rates, the housing market, Northern Rock and most recently Bradford & Bingley doesn’t have anything to do with my rather simplistic attitude towards numbers and maths.
The figures just don’t add up.
Various experts trotted out on TV, radio, online and in print all seem to be saying the same thing.
It goes along the lines of: “Well, of course, the banks and financial institutions knew they were involved in a high risk strategy. In many respects the writing has been on the wall for some years. If things started going badly, then it was always likely it could take everything else down with it.”
If the writing was on the wall, then they were using invisible ink. Either that, or no-one understood the language it was written in.
Everyone now seems incredibly wise with the benefit of hindsight.
They seem to be adopting a “told you so” attitude.
The problem is, they didn’t actually tell us anything until it was too late.
It seems quite a few people – including our political leaders – could see the potential damage of some of these high-risk strategies, but they were more interested in the rich short-term pickings to be had. Equally, those commentators and analysts now telling us they could see such problems arising were fairly silent when the decisions were being taken.
There is an interesting summary in The Guardian today by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson.
They are releasing a new book this week – The Gods That Failed – a critical look at the world’s major financial players and the decisions they have taken and strategies they undertook. Plus they have launched a blog where they further explore the impact of the big banks and financial institutions on the markets and us.
They haven’t provided all the answers to the questions I’ve still got and there are still a fair few holes I want filling.
But it is becoming clearer that the figures never really added up, so why is it only now that we’re hearing dissenting voices?
Numbers still give me a headache. But it is the lack of words that I’m finding really difficult to understand.