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December 19, 2006

Money to burn

Passing through London this week, I found the atmosphere to be even more crazed and febrile than is normal even at this time of year. I think I know why: City of London staff (ie the financial hub part of London) have been promised a record £21 billion in bonuses. Some of the biggest deal-makers expect to receive more than £10 million. Each. All told, 4,200 people, just in London, will each receive a bonus of more than one million pounds ($1.9m, 1.5m euros). Now if you're one of this lucky (but of course deserving) group of people, you might want to check out the the unsettling presentation by Margrit Kennedy at Doors 8. Read that (the file loads slowly but is worth the wait) and you may well conclude that the worst thing to do now would be to hang onto your dosh. If you don't buy Kennedy's argument (she is, after all, an urbanist, not an economist) then read the alarming because matter-of-fact warnings of your fellow deal-makers and economists. (I was especially charmed by this quote from one trader on the irrelevance of reality: "I don't care about the numbers, the economic data, whether Iraq is in a Civil war, if the President gets impeached, who controls congress, what a company does, whether we fall into a recession or if China buys Europe and turns it into a Disney theme park. My world is defined by what I see on my four 20 inch monitors in front of me. Everything else is noise"). I know, there are too many killjoys and negative thinkers in the world, which is a warm and wonderful place. But it's Christmas, so at least consider the following: If all you lucky 4,200 people were to donate your bonuses to HIV/AIDS-prevention programmes, more than 28 million lives would be saved within six years. It would be win:win. You'd feel good about yourself - and you wouldn't have to worry about losing the money in the coming crash.

Posted by John Thackara at December 19, 2006 08:51 AM


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