Introducing ... the world's most boring people

IF THE Asian financial collapse didn't exist, the world's most boring men would have had to invent it. In case you haven't noticed, some of the world's greatest drones - it is an appointed position, not a birthright - have descended on Asia to soothe the nerves of investors.

I don't know about you, but the nerves of the investors I know are just fine. The average City trader or fund manager is probably rather enjoying the whole affair. He gets home at night and flips on the television - not one of those cable shows that four insomniacs watch but a real honest- to-God television news show, with an audience - and instead of hearing about some non-event he sees people talking about ... HIM. Or at any rate his financial persona. Everyone seems to be worried that he is going to lose confidence in Asia. What he thinks about Asia all of a sudden becomes interesting.

Except there is a catch. In exchange for having people worry about his views on Asia, he is forced to listen to some guy from the International Monetary Fund or the US Treasury or God knows where else yapping away to Mr Anchorman - let's call him Lou Dobbs. Mr Dobbs was created to make boring men appear as if they were hiding something interesting inside them. Lou shares their concerns. A month ago, Lou couldn't have cared less about Malaysia. Now he is deeply, deeply concerned. Just like the guy from the IMF.

Now, I know that being boring is another way of conveying high seriousness. Seriousness is what is called for in a financial crisis, at least from people who work for places like the IMF and the Treasury. Everyone knows that. But there are a couple of things the boring men keep saying that I don't understand.

The first is the mantra-like statement that every Asian country is different. They say: "Well, Lou, you know the problems in each one of these countries are very different. Malaysia is not Japan." This is the sort of thing that people say, and very knowingly, when they have just discovered where Malaysia is on a map. It implies that the speaker actually knows what the situation is in each one of these countries. He can do this without the slightest fear of exposure, since no one person is blessed with such omniscience. Certainly Lou will not question him.

But if it is true that Malaysia is not Japan, which is not Korea, which is not Indonesia, then why are they all going down together?

The more likely explanation is that the problems are pretty much the same in each country. To put it simply: a bubble has burst. A lot of Asians borrowed a lot of money that should never have been lent. Asian capitalism has always been different from Western capitalism, and particularly so in its attitude toward capital. Having missed out on a couple of millennia of anti-capitalist Christian propaganda ("neither a borrower nor a lender be" and so on) they are ever so slightly more prone to gin up for themselves a speculative bubble.

It's the solutions open to each country that are different from one another. What the boring men from the IMF should say is that the main difference between Japan and, say, Malaysia, is that Japan has the boring men by the short and curlies. The Japanese are sitting on several hundred billion dollars worth of US Treasury bonds which they can, and will, sell in a pinch. The boring men can only pray that they do not do this.

The Malaysians, on the other hand, are ruled by Mahathir Mohamad. The boring men who meet with him emerge from the event and pretend that all is well. But how can that be when just a few months ago the man was explaining how he was the victim of a Jewish conspiracy? More to the point: how can people who are forced to discuss billion-dollar loans with this man sound so dull? They must be having the time of their lives.

q Michael Lewis is the author of 'Liar's Poker', the best selling account of Wall Street in the 1980s.

Copyright: IOS & Bloomberg

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific