This morning I just received my copy of Matt Ridley’s latest book, The Rational Optimist: How prosperity evolves. I must admit that, despite being a big fan of Ridley’s writings, I found myself somewhat disillusioned since his role in the subprime mortgage crisis at Northern Rock. In particular, I was always confused as to why Ridley never defended himself against scathing attacks from the likes of George Monbiot. Maybe it was an admission of guilt? Perhaps. But I now have a somewhat more satisfying explanation for the silence:
I am writing in times of unprecedented economic pessimism. The world banking system has lurched to the brink of collapse; an enormous bubble of debt has burst; world trade has contracted; unemployment is rising sharply all around the world as output falls. The immediate future looks bleak indeed, and some governments are planning further enormous public debt expansions that could hurt the next generation’s ability to prosper. To my intense regret I played a part in one phase of this disaster as non-executive chairman of Northern Rock, one of many banks that ran short of liquidity during the crisis. This is not a book about that experience (under terms of my employment there I am not at liberty to write about it). [my emphasis].
So there you have it: a contractual obligation to keep schtum. It’s a shame, really, as I would hate to be in a position where I am not even given the opportunity to defend my position, especially on a topic that generated a massive amount of news and speculation.
As for the book: so far, so good. It’s also a lot larger than I expected. I do have some minor quibbles, but they can wait until I write a more thorough review.