The conventional wisdom has it that the recession is the result of the toxic loans which caused the credit crisis leaking into the rest of the economy. As a story it’s always had a bit of a hole in it for me; the length of time between ‘debtonation day‘ in August 2007, when the banks stopped lending to each other, and the start of the recession a year later. The economist Jeff Rubin has suggested that the recession was caused instead by the high oil prices earlier this year.
One of the interesting things about catastrophe stories is that the thing that’s blamed for the catastrophe is close to the deep fears of the moment. In the BBC drama series Survivors, now four episodes in, it’s a pandemic. Russell Hoban’s 1980 book Riddley Walker was set after a nuclear war. In John Christopher’s mid- 50s story The Death of Grass – written in a world where food rationing was a very recent experience – cereals and grass are destroyed by a virus.
The emergence of the “database state” has been one of the more insidious effects of the falling cost of technology, especially in Britain, with its centralising tendencies. Evidence includes: The growth of CCTV cameras (more than 4 million, making the UK the world leader), the rise of the national DNA database; and intended legislation to let the state access emails and phone call records. Now it has run up against another strong trend – the increased concern over human rights.