After the excellent conversation between John Humphrys and economist John Kay on the Today programme this morning (BBC Radio 4, 8.55am) about the shortage of money supply.
Calm heads will prevail in financial crisis.
Who caused the financial crisis is still a topic of blaming someone else for some of those responsible. Greedy bankers and speculators and traders yes. Banks were lending to people they should not have lent to. Because those people were a bad credit risk or because they could not afford to pay back the amount they borrowed. People yes. People borrowed money that they knew or should have known that they could not afford to pay back. Builders and property developers yes. The property developers who kept ratcheting up prices and encouraging new buyers to overextend themselves with mortgages instead of selling properties at realistic and sustainable prices. The Government? I don't blame the Government for creating the problems but it became obvious to any sensible person that individuals and families were borrowing unsustainable amounts of credit and that banks were behaving in an irresponsible way. Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats warned several years ago that the 'living off credit' attitude was unsustainable. It was blindingly obvious to anyone that I talked about this to. The Government did not create this problem but Gordon Brown and Tony Blair should have stepped in with regulation to curb irresponsible lending when it was obvious that the banks would not. The credit crisis, caused by much more irresponsible behaviour by US lenders, was much worse than any of us could have expected but the Labour Government failed to encourage the public to live within their means, to rein in corporate greed and to help people with serious debt problems.
Who will solve the crisis? Unlike a normal economic slump straightforward Keynesian economics doesn't appear to work. Investing in public works for example to put money in to the economy and give people jobs. A Marshall plan like programme of investment in affected economies would probably cause even the US, EU and UK central banks to strain. Obviously because they are the economies particularly at the centre of this problem. However it must be the case that calm heads will prevail in the financial crisis. Panic selling of shares and targeting of solid institutions, panic actions by the general public and other investors, panic by Governments will not help. The media have a key part to play here. Some parts of the media, like the Express and other tabloids as well as broadsheets that should know better, have loved to talk up the crisis and put in headlines playing up the talk of panic. That does not help calmly solve serious problems to help us all. Bush, McCain and Obama working together is a good thing. The same should happen with all involved here – banks, financial experts, consumer representatives and political parties.