Dot writes: in the current London Review of Books there’s a piece by John Lanchester on the effect of the City on British life – the impact of the disproportionate wealth of City workers, the culture of City firms, and the financial games those firms play (futures and options and Collateralized Debt Obligations and so forth). I find City trading simultaneously fascinating and utterly beyond me. I’m like a nice labrador at a tennis match – watching everything with bright-eyed attention but no idea what’s going on. The explanation that has come nearest to enlightening me is this one. Anyhow, reading about the sub-prime mortgage market and the all-but-collapse of Northern Rock I was struck by how drastically differently our society approaches different kinds of risk. On the one hand, we are (as the navel-gazing papers I read keep lamenting) extremely risk-averse. We drive children four hundred yards to school until they’re fifteen in case they get attacked by an erroneously released psychiatric patient. On the other hand, we give all our savings into the care of people who spend them gambling on whether cleaners in Mississipi can keep paying their mortgages. Personally I am not too bothered about erroneously released psychiatric patients but very cautious about money. The result is that I am rather poor, but I go for lots of healthy walks.
P.S. No offence intended towards cleaners or labradors. Or psychiatric patients.