Jump! You Fuckers!

1. This is not a time for finger pointing
March 30, 2009, 8:27 pm
Filed under: 1 | Tags: , , , , ,

‘We can spend a lot of time talking about how it happened and how we got here.
But we have to get through the night first.’1   With these words Hank Paulson
launched his tax‐payer funded bailout of the United States financial sector in
September 2007. So what if this was the man who, in the wake of the Enron
scandal, had warned against losing perspective and rushing towards ‘harsh
regulations that are unnecessary’2? This was no time for effete analysis and soulsearching.
The fiercely independent Wall Street financiers needed vast sums of
public money and they needed it immediately.

Nick Clegg, the reliably wrong leader of the Liberal Democrat Party3 in Britain,
adopted a similarly statesmanlike tone. Staring at the chaotic disaster that is the
finance sector he announced that ‘when a ship is sinking, you send out the
lifeboats. You don’t argue about who has steered it into an iceberg. That can wait
for another day.’4 Whatever else Clegg may have done in a colourful and exciting
political career, he clearly hasn’t been on a sinking ship. As the passengers on the
Titanic would have no doubt recognized, there’s no better moment to start the
blame game than when a ship is sinking. Especially if there aren’t enough
lifeboats to go round.

As it is, the lifeboats are likely to be laden to the gunnels with the same plausible
chancers who insisted that icebergs were a thing of the past, that the vast
whiteness growing ever vaster was no more than a trick of the light, and that the
structures in place were unsinkable anyway. The rest of us are about to get
thoroughly wet. It is still not clear how bad it is about to get. We might be facing
the worst recession since the early eighties. On the other hand it might get really

So we should try to establish exactly what caused the crisis, who is responsible,
and how. And that does require a certain amount of finger‐pointing. Not because
it is fun, although it is, but because we can’t afford to be magnanimous to the
policy‐makers and opinion‐formers who steered us into this. If we do we’ll leave
them in place to manage the crisis as confidently and ineptly as its prelude. They
will seek to reconstruct a system on the same disastrous lines, they will fail, and
they will, with every appearance of regret, resort to ever more desperate
measures. You probably found this article online, so I shall say no more.