Fans of 1950s British comedy could also be forgiven for thinking that there's more than a little whiff of The Mouse That Roared about this week's outbreak of distractive shenanigans between the British and the
It's a real shame that The Mouse on Wall Street never got filmed
There is something genuinely comical about a country with 200 times the population of Iceland, with a claim to being one of the great financial centres of the world, getting reamed quite so badly by inhabitants of a tiny little volcano surrounded by fish
What isn't so funny, or is if you enjoy reading about people who had more money than you losing their life savings, are some of the stories coming out from Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander (Isle of Man) depositors who have almost certainly lost everything they had in the bank.
(It's worth bearing in mind that many UK-based banks won't open accounts for non-residents and so a lot of people who have retired or are working abroad open offshore accounts out of necessity. Any sense of schadenfreude on reading about their losses will almost certainly be misplaced in at least some cases)
And, reading through some of the KS&F depositors' stories, it seems fairly clear that KS&F were disappearing customers' money, presumably over to Iceland, days before the bank's parent went bust - which is what is technically known as thieving
This is the tip of the iceberg. The majority of people, in debt up to their eyeballs, are already in the bag. The harvesting of the minority of people who actually have a decent amount of cash put away has begun.
The number of people who will lose money in collapsing banks (taking their deposits but not their loans with them) might turn out to be small. That's a relatively crude and obvious way of thieving from people
The number of people who will lose out due to hyperinflation and hyperdeflation, a much more refined method of thievery, certainly won't be
One thing that did strike me as curious when reading through the KS&F customer stories is how could people shrewd enough to accumulate such relatively large sums be so daft as to stick everything they had accumulated into a single shonky bank
One of the answers to that question is that a fair few of them aren't that shrewd at all
For the last fifteen years or so virtually any Muppet who assumed risk, particularly property risk, made money
If you were prepared to take on multiple mortgages on multiple properties it was virtually impossible not to make a stonking profit off the back of the relentless price rises
A cautious nature, or any sense of decency and restraint, were positive handicaps
(It wasn't an income thing. In the course of a previous life I met a fair few people who had built up scarily leveraged property portfolios off the back of little or no income. They did, however, all have boundless and totally unjustified optimism for their lucrative future, along with a capacity to fib shamelessly at strategic moments)
Even if you do have a cautious nature, the quality of your assessment of risk is highly reliant on the information you are fed by mainstream sources
And, until a couple of weeks ago, the chances are your average punter was more scared of the risk of, say, Islamic Terrorism and roving bands of Internet-based paedophiles than getting fucked up the arse by the banking system
Well, shucks, gee, we live and learn don't we
I can't help noticing that Nassim Taleb is starting to pop up on tele a fair bit lately. Ah well, only about five years too late...