A leading international banker writes:
"Hello. Over recent weeks, there has been much huffing and puffing over the thorny issue of bankers and their huge bonuses. And I'm bound to say that it is, for the most part, stuff and nonsense. The world financial system is in turmoil right now and I would simply like to ask you this: Who do you reckon's going sort out this infernal mess? Politicians? Mandarins? Technocrats? Not bloody likely! What do they know about the complexities of financial systems??
"Let me offer you an analogy that might explain the predicament we're currently facing:-
"Just imagine for one moment, if you will, that you have decided to take your family on a bit of an adventure holiday this year. You possess a state-of-the-art 4x4 and you fancy going on a trek, venturing out to some sparsely populated region of, say, Eastern Europe or Asia.
"Of course, your family members are not quite as gung-ho as you and are concerned that the region you've chosen is not somewhere you'd want to break down.
"You re-assure them that your 4x4 is too big, expensive and technologically sound to fail. You tell them that these 'mommas' just do not break down. And anyway, even if you do encounter minor difficulties, your Premium Insurance Plan will pick you up from anywhere in the world and get you to the nearest registered dealer - however far away that may be.
"So, off you go, exploring the more unspoilt regions of Eastern Europe, encountering no problems whatsoever, until, on day six of your trip, you discover that a problem with the automatic clutch transmission is creating a strange clunking sound whenever you pull away from junctions (assuming they have any junctions in this God-forsaken part of the world!)
"But it isn't a problem. You can still drive the damn thing and eventually you make your way to some fellow claiming to be a registered dealer in the nearest town one hundred and fifty miles away. He says that he knows what the problem is and can sort it out if you leave the car with him overnight. You check into the local five star hotel (assuming there is one) on the assumption everything will be okay by morning.
"But when you return, what do you find? The idiot has somehow blown up the engine and it is going to cost you a fortune to have it fixed. You expect him to do the job for free since he caused it, but he refuses. He says it was "circumstances beyond my control, Sir". What are you going to do, drive it away to the next town? You can't, it's buggered. Have it towed away to the next town, only to find some other goon who will charge you even more, and who might create even greater havoc?
"You get onto the insurance company and they tell you that since the car is already at a registered dealer there is nothing more they can do. You'll have to use this guy or fork out for the car to be towed to the next town, to the next overpriced goon.
"So you stick with the devil you know. You tell the mechanic to go ahead. You're stuck in this hell-hole for two weeks, whilst he ships in the parts and drafts in the (monumentally overpriced) labour to help sort the job out. You end up paying ten times what he quoted and you probably won't be able claim it all on insurance.
"But what else could you do? He was a registered dealer at least. He ordered the right parts and managed to get your car back on the road (eventually). There was no-one else qualified to do the job (apart from the idiot in the nearest town two hundred miles away).
"But hey, look on the bright side. At least you're motoring again!
"So anyway, where was I?
"Yes, what I was going to say is that we bankers, we're a bit like that car dealer /mechanic in my analogy (or the dealer in the next town or in the town beyond that.) We might have caused the problem in the first place. We might charge an arm and a leg to sort out the problem. You might feel that we've got you over a barrel.
"But - and this is a big but - who the hell else do you think is going to get you back on the road?"