Special thanks to Ollie and Anna for organizing an amazing evening, and to Laurie Penny, Nick Dearden and John Hilary.
I’m a writer of fiction. It’s fair to wonder why I’m here. I’m the last person who should be standing here talking about a book about real tragedies and economics. I come from a world where even the signposts are fictional. Follow the white rabbit. Second star to the right and straight on till morning. And a more recent one, from forty years ago, the fictional direction given by a mysterious man to an eager journalist: follow the money.
Economics is an art form. It’s the art of the invisible. Money is fictional.
The folding cash in your pocket isn’t real. Look at it. It’s a promissory note. “I promise to pay the bearer.” It’s a little story, a fiction that claims your cash can be redeemed for the equivalent in goods or gold. But it won’t be, because there isn’t enough gold to go around. So you’re told that your cash is “legal tender,” which means that everyone agrees to pretend it’s like money. If everyone in this room went to The Bank Of England tomorrow and said “I would like you to redeem all my cash for gold, right here, in my hand” I guarantee you that you all would see some perfect expressions of stark fucking terror.