Why the nation’s economic forecasters have been relieved of their jobs, and why it doesn’t matter.
Now I don’t have anything particular against bankers and their chums. That is not to say that some of my best friends are bankers. In fact the reverse is true; none of my best friends are bankers. But I have always assumed that by and large, as with every other industry and trade, there are your good bankers and your bad bankers. For the last 30 years our country has fallen under the spell of Bad Bankers.
But I must admit I started to look upon bankers in a different light when I recently took a friend on a tour of docklands using different modes of transport.
We used the Docklands Light Railway (the train with no driver), Emirates Airline (the cable car that takes you over the Thames), the standard Underground, the Greenwich Tunnel which allows a gentle stroll under the river from the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich, and the ferry from thence back to Westminster.
In between our travels I decided to take in lunch at Canada Square and it was here that I discovered that bankers in Docklands now have their own free newspaper: The Wharf.
Nothing wrong in that of course – there is all the latest news on the financial district, some sports information (mostly about sports I’d never heard of, but I think these people have a different lifestyle from me), lifestyle comments (ditto) and then, to my absolute surprise a page called Witch of the Wharf.
This was indeed a full page which covered mystical readings and prognostications, although not including, I was sorry to see, anything related to which shares were worth buying pending their rise the following week.
There were, however, lots of tips and hints relating to how one could make one’s particular way in the world as, I suppose, a financial wizard.
Their prime recommendation seems to be to the placing of a lump of fire agate on a business proposal, leaving it overnight (presumably protected by a bevy of armed guards) and then retrieving it (while, I guess, returning the fire agate to the vault).
In case you are not familiar with fire agate it is a gemstone found in Mexico, Arizona and California. As such it is rather valuable, which is why the notion of leaving it out overnight probably sends shivers down the spines of insurers.
The page also has some rather dubious advice for certain people telling them whom to be aware of and whom particularly to avoid.
Reading all this I began to wonder if there wasn’t some sort of underhand, underworld and quite possibly under the table, financial dealing going on here, the sort of thing that involves shady characters, armed escorts and bank accounts in Panama.
Turning back to my table as our food arrived I then found that the waiter had left me with a leaflet advertising a meeting of the Canada Square coven, and this really did begin to spook me a little.
I do know that we hold a small collection of witchcraft paraphernalia in our storage facility for one of our clients, but I took this in on the basis that none of it was actually real or likely to have any effect. But if our nation’s esteemed financial experts are getting involved in the dark arts, I wondered whether I should not be questioning what exactly is being stored within.
So I called my customer, and he agreed to pop round to put my mind at rest.
Over a coffee he said, “There is an expression to the effect that economic forecasters only exist to give fortune tellers a good name.” As I pondered this, he went on…
“The economic forecasting industry has been responsible for more financial disasters than any other branch of the fortune telling industry. While Gypsy Rose Lee might tell you that you are coming into a large sum of money, or your daughter might meet a tall dark handsome stranger, the economic forecasters predict the route of the entire economy – and always get it wrong.
“Thus following the stock market crash of October 19, 1987, known as Black Tuesday the Venerable Guild of Economic Forecasters gave up their learned studies and took up astrology instead.”
“Does it work?” I asked.
“The results are much the same as before,” he admitted, “but it does mean that the economists get out more and spend less time in the pub at night. Anyway, in return for giving the banking industry free advice, the astrologers and other luminaries are given space in The Wharf to advertise their wares.”
“Hasn’t anyone noticed that economic forecasting is in the hands of a load of fortune tellers?” I asked.
“I am sure they have,” he replied. “But I think by and large the fortune tellers tend to charge less than economists, and since the accuracy of the results is pretty much the same as it was before, everyone is happy.”
He bade me good day, and I was left pondering.