Join John Lanchester to talk about Whoops! - our book of the month - Tues 2 Nov, 8pm

(83 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 12-Oct-10 11:37:07

Hi everyone, Tilly is in outer circles of internet hell so am posting on her behalf.

We've chosen Whoops! by John Lanchester as our October book of the month.

It's highly topical given child benefit cuts and the impending comprehensive spending review (ie even more cuts) because it succinctly and wittily explains why the credit crunch happened and what led to the current dire financial mess.

We're really pleased that John can join us for our next book club discussion on Tues 2 Nov at 8pm.

Whoops! is out now in paperback (a manageable 200 pages). Read more about it and John's other books, plus glittering reviews of Whoops! by many book club authors we've already discussed.

Hope you can join us, should be a great discussion.

domesticslattern Tue 02-Nov-10 23:51:12

Thank you for coming on and sorry that I missed the webchat as RL intervened. Your answers are really interesting and I am greatly enjoying your book. Sorry I missed the chat.

Avaggdu Tue 02-Nov-10 22:40:42

http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/campaigns/campaign-resour ces/there-is-an-alternative-the-case-against-cuts- in-public-spending.cfm

LeninGuido Tue 02-Nov-10 22:22:50

SuiGeneris, that's because the link is in my head smile

I just think that there is a lot of unfairness around flat rates and there are always people on the cusp who suffer when systems are tinkered with. Make everything tapered and progressive and I don't think people would feel the bonuses and so on are quite so objectionable.

Avaggdu Tue 02-Nov-10 22:21:21

John,

What are your thoughts on the current UK's government persuing a political agenda to reduce the public sector workforce by nearly 500,000 people, with a resultant additional 600,000 job losses in the private sector, when there are already 2.5 million unemployed and only 0.5 million jobs available?

How is the private sector supposed to compensate for these job losses, and what effect do you think this will have on the economy?

Also, when there are alternatives to the public sector cuts (such as persuing legal tax evasion by corporations and banks), which could negate the need for these job losses and the resultant strain on the benefit system...do you think the current government's tack is intelligent, let alone moral?

AttilatheHen Tue 02-Nov-10 22:19:38

John,

Thank you for at least giving my question a shot.

I didn't want to discuss other countries because it clouds the issue i.e. the fundamentals of the money system. (I know profits have to be recycled but I don't think they can be held responsible for debt-money system.)

In the long term view people have benefited; but here's a thought.

Abraham Lincoln used non-debt money issued by a democratic government. He fought and won a civil war, industrialised the country, and set the groundwork for a trading superpower. Oh, and no unemployment either.

Perhaps capitalism would work even better under that system?

SuiGeneris Tue 02-Nov-10 22:07:31

LeninGuido: I am all for progressive taxation but must have missed the link between what we are discussing and it.

poppyknot Tue 02-Nov-10 21:05:10

Could we send them in bulk to the treasury?

Sorry, crossed messages there.

Thanks again for a great evening. I hope that there's a copy of this book in every politician's pocket (maybe we should start a Mumsnet campaign?)

JohnLanchester Tue 02-Nov-10 21:03:31

Blimey, that zoomed past and was both great fun and very hard work. Thank you very much and I'm sorry I didn't get to answer every question.

I have to go finish-finish the book, which I hope will be in the next few months, and then the publisher will take about a year to bring it out. You can shorten that year but you have to be willing to tell them what's in it and so on before it's fully finished, and I prefer to get the whole thing done and dusted first. Thank you for being interested, it's a great encouragement.

Thank you again to everybody for your very bracing questions!

TillyBookClub

That hour seemed to go incredibly quickly - there's still so much I'd like to ask but we should let you go and have supper/a stiff drink/a rest from the keyboard.

John, thank you very very much indeed, both for coming to talk to us and for an exceptionally clear, fascinating and illuminating book.

Looking forward to your next novel and how all this plays out in fiction - are you allowed to tell us when it is likely to be published?

ScrimshawTheSecond Tue 02-Nov-10 21:02:39

Ah, my word, late as ever. Just wanted to say thanks for an interesting discussion, I shall seek out the book.

poppyknot Tue 02-Nov-10 21:00:57

Thanks John and everyone. I am a lot clearer grin

Oh, and if you can possibly answer Attila's question in the next 2 minutes then that would be marvellous (but it might be rather a large question to pack into 120 seconds)

JohnLanchester Tue 02-Nov-10 20:59:01

You won't let me discuss other countries so it's impossible to answer. As you know, a debt somewhere is likely to be a credit held somewhere else, and the West's debt is largely owned by China—you could even argue (many do) that it's largely manufactured by China. You can't consider debt on purely a national and local level. So the short answer is no, but the consequence of growth are on the long, planetary view more important than those of debt. Most of the world is richer than it used to be, and lives a measurably longer and better life—which matters more than a largely abstract consideration of how levels of debt have grown.

AttilatheHen

John,

I'll have to be Paxmanesque:

Can we have economic growth without people/companies taking on more debt?

(Even in your younger years the system was still built on debt?)

That hour seemed to go incredibly quickly - there's still so much I'd like to ask but we should let you go and have supper/a stiff drink/a rest from the keyboard.

John, thank you very very much indeed, both for coming to talk to us and for an exceptionally clear, fascinating and illuminating book.

Looking forward to your next novel and how all this plays out in fiction - are you allowed to tell us when it is likely to be published?

LeninGuido Tue 02-Nov-10 20:57:35

So why not just have progressive taxation SuiGeneris?

AttilatheHen Tue 02-Nov-10 20:55:44

Thank you TillyBookClub for flagging up my question.

LeninGuido Tue 02-Nov-10 20:55:41

Agree about pensions, it's the first thing people swap for salary at ours because they've got student debt and new flat costs.

JohnLanchester Tue 02-Nov-10 20:54:06

The chairman is John Vickers, who is a tough-minded academic economist, no stooge, and one of the other four members is the FT writer Martin Wolf, who predicted something like the crash and has been very tough about the systemic failures in banking. So I'm pretty confident they'll come up with strong ideas; less confident about their implementation.

poppyknot

Who is on the commission? How nuch common sense is there?

JohnLanchester Tue 02-Nov-10 20:51:09

The first books I remember being utterly crazy about were—this is almost too embarrassing to admit—were the Billy Bunter books. Then it was Biggles, then Henry Treece, then I don't remember what until Tolkein. Because I grew up in Hong Kong the cultural frame of reference was slightly different and there are lots of great classics I'd never even heard of until I had children myself and started revisiting the area—I was forty before I'd even heard of Tom's Midnight Garden, which is pretty sad.

TillyBookClub

Taking a breather from credit crunch for a second...

John, what was the children's book that you most love/most inspired you, and why?

We've only got 15 minutes left so I'm just going to flag up a few unanswered questions upthread (apologies John if you're already onto them)

poppyknot - who is on the commission (about the banks)

Attilathehen - can you have growth without debt?

champagnesupernova - is the 'you're worth it' attitude to blame?

(and there's my ones too but I won't be offended if you don't get to them...)

SuiGeneris Tue 02-Nov-10 20:46:35

LeninGuido: Whoops is an excellent attempt at educating the general public about some of what went on, but even it, brilliant as it is, cannot convey the complexity of the subject and the trade-offs that must be made.

Champagnesupernova: personally I think a good proportion of what went on can be attributed to the attitude you describe. Arriving in London as a young graduate I was stunned to discover that my fellow trainees were thousand of pounds in debt AND were taking on more to buy a car, a flat etc. I can well remember a conversation with two of them who could not understand that it was nuts not to put x% of their salary in our employer's pension scheme, so that the employer would add 2x% to their pots. To their minds, that x% of salary was better spent on the car/flat deposit etc rather than on the pension or on repaying their debts. It took the entire evening to get them to understand they were essentially turning down the 2x% pay that could have gone in their pension pot. And these were very bright graduates from the best universities...

JohnLanchester Tue 02-Nov-10 20:44:53

Yes, quite a bit of it is to do with that—mind you, I think we didn't go quite as nuts here as people in some other countries. I met a waitress in a cafe in Reykjavik while I was researching the book. I asked her in what way her life had changed. She said that now, when she went on holiday, she'd go camping with her friends, and she no longer thought it was normal to take a plane to Milan for the weekend and go shopping on the via Linate—on the proceeds of her job in the cafe and the strength of the krona.

champagnesupernova

Hello

Sorry I'm a bit late and John, I must confess haven't finished the book yet blush.

So apols if you get to this later in the book and I haven't got there.

How much of the credit issues do you think is down to the L'oreal attitude "because you're worth it" -i.e. why not have x or y NOW?

I can remember as a graduate on a salary of peanuts at the time, £14,500 in London 11 years ago looking at my peers on the tube and adding up what they were wearing - designer handbag, top-end high street coat, high-street-but-still-£100 boots and wondering how on earth they afforded it?

poppyknot Tue 02-Nov-10 20:42:36

I still wonder champagnesupernova. I think I am really a dour Scot at heart......

LeninGuido Tue 02-Nov-10 20:42:30

poppyknot, it's interesting, I do save up or just don't buy stuff, mostly because I had a modest student loan and overdraft just under twenty years ago and it took forever to pay off.

Taking a breather from credit crunch for a second...

John, what was the children's book that you most love/most inspired you, and why?

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