Of late there appears to have been an absolute deluge of programmes on ITV and the BBC about the credit crunch and the consumer. The latest one to pique my attention was a series on BBC2 consisting of a multitude of experts urging consumers to "read small print" and "be careful to budget".
While it would be easy to mock BBC2 and its hordes of well-meaning presenters, for stating, as my dear father would put it, “the bleeding obvious”, it did strike a chord with me. People were literally hanging off his every word in a way comparable to how I would image the crowd looked at Jesus when he made his speech on the Mount.
And that’s when it hit me. Back in the day people were taught “few things worth having are easy to get” yet this now appears to have been replaced by “if it is worth having it should be easy to get and someone else should do the thinking for me”.
And this is where I have to say I get quite cross. I can honestly say I am truly fed of people filling my screen who want sympathy for failing to engage their brain.
“Oh I took out a £200,000 loan and I only earn £20,000.” Well, I hate to say it but that is your problem.
“Oh a broker told me to do it and then the bank said it was a good idea.” Great, so if the broker told you to sell your granny and the bank recommended opening up a brothel in the driveway on the grounds of it being a good “business opportunity”, would you do it?
A year ago I was looking to buy a house when a mortgage broker told me pretty much the same thing. He even recommended taking out a residential property on a buy-to-let purchase, suggesting there were institutions which would be prepared to offer me five times my salary with a "bit of wangling". Guess what I said? Thanks but no thanks. I knew I couldn’t afford it and it didn’t matter what that guy said.
Now there is a current argument that consumers “don’t know”, are “unaware” of financial matters and should be “taught” the basics. I can accept this as, indeed, the general public do appear to misunderstand basic financial concepts but since when did common sense have to be taught? As the FSA has been saying for years, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
I am not asking for calculations similar to those enacted by PhD students from Cambridge. I am not asking for great thoughts similar to Einstein when he discovered E=MC2. I am not even requesting a "Eureka" moment from the public at large in the style of Archimedes. I am merely asking people snap back to reality and start understanding that just wanting something does not mean you should have it and education can only go so far.
Responsibility for oneself and for one’s actions can not be taught in schools and ultimately there has to be an end to this situation where people are always allowed to blame anything and anyone except themselves for their own predicament. And get compensation and rosy TV footage as we are encouraged to lambast banks, the prime minister, the cat and Mrs Higgins at No 43 in the process.
England did not cover itself in glory during this year’s World Cup but the general population remained unmoved as they had been engaged in another sport, that of navel gazing for a fair while.
And if there is one thing I hope the credit crunch ends, it is this.