“When I arrived in Amsterdam recently I took a taxi to my hotel. Over the radio came this uplifting and heartfelt lyric: ‘I’ve had a s**t day and I’ve had enough’ (having gone through airport security I knew exactly how the singer felt). The following day, in the taxi on the way back, there came another lyric over the airwaves: ‘I know what I want, and I want it now.’
“Could it be, I wondered, there was what some people might call a dialectical relationship between knowing what you want and wanting it now, on the one hand, and having a s**t day on the other? That dwelling on your desires and regarding them as imperative was a sovereign path to dissatisfaction?
“I was reminded of the advertising slogan for the launch of a new credit card, Access: Access takes the waiting out of wanting.
“I was insensibly led, then, by an association of ideas and a chain of reasoning, to the causes of our current economic crisis. For is it not the case that one of those causes is that, on a gargantuan scale, we took the waiting out of wanting? Not only consumer credit but government deficit spending, largely to underwrite a standard of living that we did not go to the trouble of having earned, is at the root of our financial difficulties. The demand that our desires should be satisfied immediately, before we can pay for them, is a sure way eventually to have a s**t day, just as drinking too much leads to a hangover.”
- From Theodore Dalrymple’s ‘The Hilarious Pessimist’.
Difficult, really, to see how the banks could possibly make themselves any less
popular. Perhaps it will emerge that the late Sir Jimmy Savile was also
responsible for syndicated lending at RBS. Certainly, the revelations over UK PPI
(payment protection insurance) mis-selling as revealed in the Financial Times
last week make for depressingly consistent reading for bank haters. JP Morgan
reckon that the final cost of the PPI debacle will reach £15 billion (more than
triple the FSA’s initial estimates); PPI would apparently often add 20% to the
cost of a personal loan; some banks made a profit margin of 90% on selling PPI;
PPI looks set to become “the most aggressively mis-sold retail product in UK
banking history”; at the peak of the market in the mid-2000s, more than half of
banks’ retail profits were derived from PPI alone. Just so that someone could
distract the market from Barclays’ latest alleged fraud (in the US energy
market), Lloyds pitched in on Thursday with a further £1 billion provision
against previous PPI transgressions. “In some ways people miss the days of
PPI,” said one sales manager at a big bank to the FT; “It was very rewarding at
the time.” Hypothetically, some people might also miss the glory days of the
Black Death, but that’s an insufficiently strong reason to want to bring them
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