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2008 #4 - Some Thoughts on the Financial Crisis

The breadth and severity of the ongoing financial crisis is such that all will be affected. All people of goodwill will be seeking for ways to alleviate the attendant problems. The following thoughts are offered as ways to approach the topic.

TRUST

Much of the current turbulence in world markets has been attributed to a collapse of trust between financial institutions, and loss of confidence in the value of financial instruments. So it is worth reflecting on the meaning of this term.

RISK

Risk is an inevitable part of life, and those involved in finance understand this well. They are therefore concerned to quantify risk as far as possible, and to reduce it where they can.

GREED

Indeed, greed was present not just in financial markets, but also in the behaviour of borrowers – in other words, ordinary citizens – although it is doubtful that many borrowers fully understood the risks involved in their behaviour. The difficulty is that when money seems to be easy to make, there is always the temptation to do so, to throw just one more roll of dice seemingly loaded in our favour. So bank traders made that one more trade, and citizens borrowed that little bit extra for their dream home – only to discover, when the crisis came, that they were overstretched and vulnerable.

THE TRUE ROLE OF MONEY

When it comes down to it, the way in which vast sums of money have appeared and disappeared again, over the course of the bubble which has now burst, raises the question of just what the role of money and finance should be within society.