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Saturday, 6 August 2011

The great panic: how about a little perspective? Take a step back in time

Are you worried about what's happening. About governments printing money, for instance?

Then come with me on a visit to the '70's.

In 1972 the amount of money in circulation in Britain went up by 28%. And just to make sure there was enough to go round, the government printed another extra 29% in 1973.

In 1974 we were only allowed to work three days a week as there wasn't enough fuel to go round.

Not long after, the government was busy printing petrol ration books, whilst the IRA, bless them, were busy sending out letter and parcel bombs to people they didn't like.

The head of the civil service was so distraught by what was going on (many feared armed insurrection or a right wing takeover) that he had a nervous breakdown after taking all his clothes off and lying on the floor talking gibberish.

He ended up as chairman of one of the big five British banks (why am I not surprised?)

These facts, and many more of a like nature, are from a very funny book by Francis Wheen called Strange Days Indeed - The Golden Age of Paranoia.

Isn't it surprising that we survived all that? And we will survive all this.

An interesting piece in the Money and Markets Letter quotes what they consider the best analysis of what's happening, by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. This suggests economic growth will be less than before the 2007 crisis, unemployment will be around 5 percent higher and house prices will stay 20% to 50% below their peak.

I'm sorry, but this doesn't sound like the end of the world, or "Armageddon" as the same publication is calling what's happening. Things were infinitely worse in the Great Depression.

Two things come to mind, though. One of the most interesting things I have read recently was from a wise man who said, as far as I can recall: "Anyone who believes indefinite growth is possible in a world with finite resources is either mad - or an economist."

I have long thought this. Why do we always expect things to get better and better? Why should they? What did we do to deserve it? What is terrible about growth being "less"? I don't know about you, but I've had a few years when my "economic growth" has hovered around minus 50%. I just did without.

The other thing that comes to mind is - going back to the '70's which were my worst years - I got by by developing my skills.

I did things I'd never done before. I learned how to write different things for different people. I wrote speeches and presentations. I ghost-wrote parts of books. I developed my direct mail skills, which were not that hot to start with. I made a film to sell property in Spain. I sold investments on the phone. I worked as a temporary creative director. In 1974 I was marketing director for a swimming pool firm. I sold franchises. I hid from the tax people.

I hated a lot of it. I did what I had to do.

If you want to do well develop your skills. Do what you have to do. And keep calm.

By the way, the picture at the top is my passport cover. I am near Valencia, staying with Jose Maria Gayet Fort of Doyouspain.com, a very successful business.

I hope to ask him how he did it.

Actually, if you come to EADIM you can ask him yourself. He will be one of the delegates


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