Tuesday, January 13, 2009

David Bowie killed the economy

Who should we blame for the terrible mess that the financial world has got itself into?

Evan Davis thinks its David Bowie's fault, for creating Bowie Bonds in 1997:

It meant he no longer had the money coming in but instead had a lot up front. His investors were guaranteed a good income. It was a good deal all round.

And the banks were catching on to the idea. They thought, “We have billions out there in mortgages which are going to pay us back very slowly. Why don’t we sell those and get the money now?”

So the banks started doing what Bowie had done – in a big way.

To be fair, it's not like Bowie was the first person to think of selling bonds against future earnings. Or, come to that, that Bowie suggested bankers should do the same thing with mortgages. It's true that he didn't expressly say at the time "this is fine if you're talking about a few quid from the Absolute Beginners soundtrack, but I think you better not do that with mortgages that are probably going to default." And you would think that if bankers really knew what they were doing, they could tell the difference between a self-certified mortgage at seven times earnings and 135% LTV, and royalties from Space Oddity.