Who do they think we are: dumb or something?


It is with growing bemusement that I continue to read stories about the UK and World Government's response to a downturn in the economy and uncertainty in the markets.

So-called 'wise men and women' from the World of finance and economics who postulate theories about how to stimulate confidence, recovery, stability and growth, continue to rigidly support the bizarre belief that 'spending our way out of recession' is still the best solution.

Who are these people, who live in splendid isolation from the rest of us mere mortals? Either locked up in the ivory towers of academia or sitting comfortably in a world of extravagant salaries and indexed-linked government pensions, these people have absolutely no grasp of the reality which most of us have to deal with day in and day out.

Keeping our jobs and paying our bills is what exercises the mind most in these current, turbulent times. Not whether a 2.5 percent reduction in the UK's value added tax means that we should now buy that 42" flat screen TV we've always longed for.

In the UK, retailers are finding it very hard going at the moment. Many are going out of business, as are many small and medium-sized businesses in other sectors. All of this means that more and more people are losing their jobs, their security and their confidence. So, is this really the right time to be suggesting that all will be well, just as long as we continue our spending habits of the last 18 months ?

I think not.

I don't profess to be an expert in finance and economics. I'm just an ordinary 'Joe' like everyone else, but it really doesn't take too much brain-power to see that most people's behaviour reflects the huge uncertainties which these times have created.

People everywhere around the World are seeking assurance and some kind of certainty. The ground on which they stood so solidly a year ago, is now blanketed by the misty shroud of uncertainty. That means that they are now in a fundamentally risk averse mindset.

Now, ask yourself the question I've been asking myself, these past three months ? Do risk averse people in an uncertain economic climate go around spending like there's no tomorrow? No of course they don't. But this isn't what the gurus and wise men and women advising governments from around the World would have you believe. They would have you believe that by reducing the cost of borrowing, we are all suddenly going to become gripped by a fever of spending; whereas, the truth of what people are trying to do is totally different.

My straw poll, which is completely random and totally unscientific, suggests that most people are just content to hang on to what they have. Whether that's their job, their income or their savings.

But hold on a minute, what do you do with any income or savings that you've managed to hold onto? Well traditionally, you might have put it somewhere secure and safe. But then, what is secure and safe these days? Is a flat screen TV any more or less safe that a Bank or a Building Society? Perhaps, the good old-fashioned way, of stashing cash under the mattress is now the safest best of all.

I certainly don't profess to have any of the answers, although I do have some simple suggestions should any economists be remotely interested. However, I do find it somewhat ironic that no one has yet picked up on the predictability of human behaviour in situations such as those we currently face, and tailored a financial or economic package to support and underpin these behaviours.

After all, in times of uncertainty, if there is anything predictable, then it is how most of us will ultimately react, when faced with the inevitability of an uncertain future.

I've titled this piece, 'Who Do They Think We Are… Dumb Or Something ?' I must admit to some plagiarism on behalf of this title, which I must attribute to a line from the film 'Singing in The Rain'. It comes from the lips of Jean Hagen, who played the actress Lina Lamont, to the studio head, R F Simpson, played by Millard Mitchell, when discussing her contract with the Studio. It somehow seemed prophetically ironic.


About The Author

Charles Helliwell
Charles Helliwell

For almost 20 years, Charles Helliwell has been enjoying a lifestyle and making a living as a behavioural and relationship mentor specialising in the personal and professional development of individuals and teams in the workplace.

Older Comments

You say that you have some simple solutions should any economist be remotely interested but you don't expand. My question is 'and..........?'

Alasdair Goulden

OK...Alasdair. How about this for an unconventional approach ?

Instead of the government pumping in billions to get the Banks lending again, how about they pump their billions into providing low interest rates for borrowers, whilst supporting individual investors in banks and building societies by subsidising interest rates for the next 12 months, to those who wish to invest up to a maximum of say £10,000 in a savings account in an UK bank or building society ?

The deal is very simple. Enable anyone who wants to, to buy government bonds up to a maximum value of £10,000, through any UK bank or building society, which will pay a guaranteed interest rate of say 6% (4.5% over base). That will get all of us saving again by investing in banks and building and societies and provide much needed private liquidity to get the banks through their current liquidity crisis. The banks then lend the money out at say 2.5 - 3.00% of what's invested in them from government bonds and the government covers the interest on the balance between what's saved and what's loaned.

In one fair swoop, you've stimulated savings, whilst encouraging lending, and saved billions of tax payers money into the bargain.

Charles Helliwell London, UK