Never saw it coming – the parable of the high flyers


Using “economic growth” based on change in GDP as almost our sole measure of national or regional wellbeing (as many of our politicians tend to do) leads them (and us) into some very strange and unfortunate behaviour. 48470558-aircraft-cockpit-pilots-airplane-captain-pop-art-retro-style-aviation-and-travel

Consider flying a commercial aircraft that has only one gauge operating. Some smart person has got the idea that the purpose of planes is to fly really high and really fast. So everything else has been disabled except this gauge that shows us a reading of speed x altitude (they have forgotten that the actual purpose of passenger aircraft is to get everyone safely and comfortably to some destination).

So the pilots, locked away behind secure doors for their safety (so that they won’t be attacked while they do their work) gaze intently at their one gauge and push us higher and faster — because that is their job after all (and they get bonuses for doing it well)!

GDP IndicatorMeanwhile, back in the cabin the passengers are getting uncomfortable from the turbulence, while the pilots are blissfully unaware that the air back there is stale, the food is inedible and the frantic cabin crew are beginning to abuse the upset passengers who are now fighting amongst themselves over who gets the clean water.

Soon wounded, sick and suffocated passengers are being quietly jettisoned out the back. This makes the plane lighter, so of course it can go faster and higher. The pilots hi-five and do quick calculations on small scraps of paper about how much their bonuses will be!

At this sustained high speed parts of the structure begin to shake loose and fall off. The pilots loose directional control – but direction was never the point anyway – just speed x altitude and that’s great without those extra bits.

Meanwhile the cabin crew are finding it too tough and parachute out, again making the plane lighter. Faster and higher! Baggage starts streaming out the door left open along with the bodies of the remaining passengers – all asphyxiated now by the lack of air at this altitude. But we can go even faster and higher now!

The pilots are of course unaware of what is going on out the back behind their protective door. Even when their fuel runs out their massive velocity towards the ground keeps their instrument registering positive results. In the final seconds they look at each other with pained expressions of surprise.

The recovered Black Box reveals their final conversion:

10:02:14 I never saw this coming, we were doing so well.

10:03:35 It must have been a bloody terrorist.

10:04:41 End of recording

(Alan Greenspan – Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006, wrote an article in 2013 about the 2008 Global Financial Crisis famously called “Never Saw it Coming – Why the Financial Crisis Took Economists By Surprise”)

By Clive McKegg, March 2016

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