Friday, 17 October 2008

Great Storm, Black Monday and Worse...

Uncharacteristically, I missed the anniversary of the Great Storm of '87 on Wednesday/Thursday. I remember it well - who in the Southeast doesn't? It's not often, in suburban Surrey, that you get up to find your road blocked with felled trees, your telephone and electricity gone, and great swathes of local woodland flattened as if by a massive explosion.
The Great Storm was followed, the Monday after, by the less well remembered - until, for obvious reasons, very recently - Great Crash. Black Monday saw the biggest ever single-day fall in share prices on the Stock Exchange. The two events might even have been related - with power down, many City types not making it to work on the Friday, leaving the place in the hands of juniors, and with 'stop loss' computers programmed to sell as prices fell below a fixed level... Yes, the weather gods might well have had a hand in that particular bout of market madness. It's always good to be reminded how powerless we puny humans really are when weather gets serious.
Now, 21 years on, the madness of the financial markets seems unresponsive to all treatments, and this is not good news. As Keynes sagely remarked, 'The markets can remain irrational for a lot longer than most people can remain solvent.'
Still, however bad it gets, we can count ourselves lucky we're not albinos in Tanzania. Here's a grisly story I came across by chance. It sometimes seems to me that the Enlightenment Project is not quite complete...

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