Money, Money, Money

A teacher once told me that I could be very good at mathematics if I would only add up.

Well, I can’t add up and a number of failed exams prove it.

I have a problem remembering numbers. I always have done.

My home telephone number sometimes just vanishes from my head and my mobile number, pin numbers, car registration number, well, don’t even go there.

I write these things down in secret places, just about keeping people from realizing just how stupid I am in these matters.

It is also so, so true about me and money.

I leave off naughts in calculations and I am in constant danger of buying things for ten or even a hundred times the amount I think I am paying.

I once bought what I thought was a very reasonably priced raincoat in Rome for £40, well it was raining, only to find when my debit card statement came in, that I had paid £400. I was lucky that it was not £4000.

Now I am very enthusiastic for Britain to join the Euro. Those inter-currency conversions spoil my holidays, filling me with anxiety.

So I never really know if I have got things right when I read the newspapers.

At first, I just assumed I had had another one of those mental slips, when I read that President Mugabe’s wife went on that $92,000 Asian shopping spree when her husband’s country was suffering from an inflation rate of 231 million percent.

I must have got that wrong, I thought, just like one of those classroom exercises when I worked out that you could buy 50 million apples if they cost 25p each.

I keep having these moments.

Did that director from the Merrill Lynch bank really buy an office wastepaper basket for $18,000 and a rug for $85,000?

And today, four members of the British House of Lords have been involved in a newspaper story where they appear to have agreed to support parliamentary bills for cash. One of them says that he did not think he had done anything wrong by agreeing to accept £30,000 for “advice.”

It must be my old problem of adding on too many naughts.

I still find it uncomfortable to read that President Obama, even with all his egalitarian instincts, pays £20,000 a year to put each of his daughters through their posh Washington school.

Sadly, I have checked and double checked all these numbers and they are correct.

It must be worse that all this is happening when the World is in the middle of an economic crisis and in the week when Britain officially entered a state of Recession – two consecutive three month periods when the Gross Domestic Product dropped – or something like that – what do I know!

A British Government minister, Lord Myners, got it right I thought when he attacked our top bankers, the so-called “Masters of the Universe.”

He said: “I have met more masters of the universe than I would like to, people who were grossly over-rewarded…..they are people who have no sense of the broader society around them.”

They and so many other captains of industry and, so it seems, members of our own hallowed House of Lords, have a warped view of life and their responsibilities in the World.

OK, I don’t really expect everyone to become like St. Francis and give away their wealth, strip off their clothes, giving all their possessions to help the poor. That just won’t happen….sad though the crazed idealist hidden inside me sometimes thinks.

Bill Gates, the microsoft founder whose income would just make my brain explode if I tried to work out all those naughts, he is a bit better is he not?

He is throwing some cash back into helping others, trying to make the World a better place.

I am sure there are others like him and I really hope that none of them own $18,000 wastepaper baskets.

When that Berlin Wall came a tumbling down, many people celebrated the fall of the Soviet Union, others celebrated the victory of the capitalist system.

Well, it hasn’t been just a bowl of cherries. That much lauded capitalist system let it all go to its corporate head, I fear. Those bankers really believed that they could get away with anything in the name of profit. Their actions which they thought were so smart, so unarguably right, led us on to the situation we are in today.

They, of course, have long since lined their own nests.

Maybe, if only the rest of us can use our votes to make a difference, maybe, the Credit Crunch is another Berlin Wall.

Could we move on from the rule of profit, market forces and greed?

It is just as likely, I guess, for those bankers to take up St. Francis’ example by stripping off their designer suits and preaching to the birds.


  1. Don’t we forget, sometimes, that money is just a form of exchange – nothing more, nothing less! Part of the difficulty is that we don’t really understand how it works – hence the latest crisis.

    A banker paying $1,800 for a waste bin won’t – in itself – prevent children getting clean water in the poorest countries of the world or people in the USA or UK getting new drugs. They are resources that seem to belong to a different system.

    What I don’t understand is how people can be happy being obscenely rich. Don’t get me wrong – I love going to good restaurants, and I’m tempted to save up for a treat (Glyndebourne comes to mind) – but I don’t want it simply because other people can’t have it.

    I think it was Dorothy Parker (it usually is) who said “If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people he gives it to.”

  2. Claudio, I just love Dorothy Parker…so funny.

    I am no St Francis either and I also go to the opera at Glyndebourne but, as you say, it is amazing to me that people can be happy to be obscenely rich.

    I wish the rest of us, the vast majority, could only act to stop some of this.

    Lets at least embarrass them and try to take the enjoyment out of their gorging themselves in their over-supplied feeding troughs.

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