“The people in Britain are, to use a technical economic term, …..screwed. Economies across the whole world are struggling. Because nobody is spending money, even relatively blameless countries such as Germany, with low levels of debt and workforces who actually make things, are having a difficult time. Germany’s economy is predicted to contract by 5.4 percent this year. A banker explained it like this: ‘When your country’s economy depends on people buying a car every three years, and they decide that they’ll only buy a car every five years, you’re f*****. Off a cliff.’ So the German economy is f***** off a cliff. But it will recover, when people start buying cars again, and when it does, at least their underlying levels of debt are manageable. Something similar goes for Spain, where the ending of the property boom has caused a spike in unemployment to 17.4 percent, almost doubling in a year, or Ireland, which has contracted by a truly horrendous 8 percent and where people have gone from owning private helicopters to losing their homes in six months flat. All of these countries are in deep trouble. But there are four things you don’t want to have, going into the current crisis. 1. You don’t want to have had a boom based on a property bubble. 2. You don’t want to have a consumer credit bubble. 3. You don’t want to have an economy based on financial services. 4. You don’t want your government to have just gone on a massive spending spree. We have all four of those things that you don’t want.”
– From ‘It’s Finished’ by John Lanchester, published in the London Review of Books, May 2009.