simon zadek

Hangover Remedies in the Age of Austerity

“There is no such thing as the perfect hangover”, argued Indigo Jones in the History of the Hangover, “although anyone who has known more than one of them seems to have the perfect hangover cure. The roast beef sandwich, I’ve heard it said repeatedly, can’t be matched”. Like such cures, there appears to be a profusion of ‘keys to economic recovery’ currently in vogue, ranging from the well-worn calls to ‘spend, spend and spend’ through to the magically curative effects of garbage, emissions contol and women.

Unity“, reported Al Jazeera on the conclusions of a World Economic Forum meeting in Qatar helpfully titled the ‘Global Redesign Initiative’, is the key to recovery. At the other end of the universe, Life Science reported that “For Haiti, key to economy recovery might be in the garbage”, referring in fact to the most practical of enterprises in creating internationally marketable material from recycled garbage. Due South, the Community Board reported that the St Lucia Tourist Development Council, perhaps having attended the Qatar meeting, had concluded that “public-private partnerships were the key to recovery’. Meanwhile, one Marcia Rhodes, writing in Best Companies in Arizona, concluded that “employee engagement” was in fact the secret ingredient of economic recovery, whilst Forbes reported on the phenomenon of “She-orientation”, where the author “believes it is time to take a fresh perspective on how women can help shape America’s economic recovery and future”.

Such innovative perspectives should not over-shadow the more conventional views about keys. Forbes, once again at the forefront, reported on Warren Buffett’s considered opinion that “housing is key to recovery’ (referring of course to their price rather other more homily qualities), whilst ABC’s This Week reported on his namesake, Warren Buffett, insisting that “tax hikes on the rich are essential to an economic recovery”. Pascal Lamy, meanwhile, perhaps biased by his role of head of the faltering World Trade Organisation, argued that international trade was in the fact the alchemical clue to recovery, whilst President Obama chose to hedge his bets in going for a broad portfolio of solutions that included small (and big) businesses, innovation (and discipline), confidence (and humility), and quantitative easing (and tax increases). And it would be remiss of me not to mention the Treehugger for reporting on a new Potsdam Institute report that concluded that if Europe established a target of 30% cuts in carbon emissions, it would be, yes, you guessed it, ‘the key to economic recovery’.

My father, after a lifetime devotion to Freud, concluded (and I summarise here), “we know so little about what it takes to make people sane let alone happy, we might just as well hit them with a hammer and see if it does the job”. He at least confessed to understanding nothing about economics.

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