It started with the ‘Silly Sixties’, when anything was permissible, and coincided with the new age of the computer. Prior to the sixties the average man in the street had pretty parochial horizons and ambitions, because he was not wealthy, but he was sure of his own security of tenure in employment and some if meagre support in old age. Mortgages were for the wealthy and upper middle-class, Joe Bloggs paid rent weekly or monthly, and the repair of the property was not his responsibility. He had no car to maintain and replace, he didn’t need it, public transport was efficient and abundant, and his house was unlikely to contain many electrical goods apart from a radio. About this time foreign travel started to become more available, where office boys, on low salaries could have aspirations to sun themselves on a beach in the Costas, and this financial relaxation also applied in every aspect of our lives. Exotic foods were brought in, new cheap furniture replaced the family heirlooms of mahogany and oak, because the design was alleged to be chic. People ran about half naked, and the crease in someone’s buttocks was a common sight. In effect it was all change for the sake of change, from the type of soap that we used, to the new electrical labour-saving equipment we bought, all of which became a must-have, and we as a nation became borrowers instead of savers. This was accentuated because the warehouses that used to sell spare parts, enabling the repair of damaged products, rather than buying new, went out of existence, causing the throwaway society to become established. Takeovers became common and competition for markets increased, enlarging the availability of different designs of the same product, which in turn encouraged people to keep up with trends. People no longer shopped as a necessity, instead shopping developed into a pastime, which had a price. If the money wasn’t available, it was just too easy to use the credit cards so gratuitously rained upon one. Finally there spawned a new market, car boot sales, where products that had cost not only tens of pounds, but some 100 of pounds, sold, in pristine condition for a pittance.
Global meltdown results primarily through the existence of the World Wide Web. Previously traders could not make instant assessment and instant decisions which were instantly implemented. In which case Greed, always with us in every walk of life, would have been discovered and dealt with before it became dangerous. Before the computer, trading was done by telephone, by telegram, and by Telexes, and this meant that the information at some point had to be written down, or typed by hand. In other words the whole process was slowed down to a pace whereby reflection was possible, and it was more likely that the instructions would require a second opinion before being sent. The new traders were not playing with their own money, were given a smack on the wrist if their performance was poor, or a thumping bonus if they made a killing. They presented an entirely different and new set of circumstances. People in charge could now be in office for a short time, and their contracts permitted them to leave with a golden handshake commensurate with their success.