LETTER:Remember the South Sea Bubble

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The Independent Online
From Professor Chris Adams

Sir: Reading today's coverage of the plight of the small minority "caught in the negative equity trap" ("Homeowners, you've never it so bad", 2 June), I am almost sorry that I never had enough cash in the Eighties to treat housing as an investment.

Everyone has a hard luck story. Growing up in the Sixties, my partner and I believed Harold Wilson - we followed science careers, stoking the white heat of the technological revolution; we begat children, believing that the state education system would give them the riches we enjoyed in the Fifties and Sixties, and we grew older fully expecting that dignity in old age was a universal right.

By our reckoning, we are currently a million pounds down on college contemporaries who went into marketing or the City, and we have also shelled out pounds 100,000 on providing privately the standards of education for our children which the state was unwilling to provide; everything else is saved for an uncertain old age. Not that we are complaining; life has been rich and full. We would just like someone to pick up the tab for the decisions we made which did not work out as planned, since the current paradigm clearly insists that it was not our fault.

Every individual makes decisions on the basis of the information which she or he chooses to have available at the time of the decision; sometimes one listens to and accepts bad advice, sometimes one gets swept along by the mood of the times, sometimes the unforeseen happens. But good planning involves thinking through adverse circumstances as well as rosy circumstances, and taking decisions accordingly. Sometimes people get it wrong.

Life cannot be made risk-free. Society cannot be founded on reimbursing individuals for taking unwise risks. Even today, after countless years of a Government whose relationship to the finance industry compares with pimp to whore, society cannot be so founded. Universal suffrage requires universal responsibility. The only sure way forward is the education of future generations - in the street, in the home and in school - to acquire the judgement and skills needed to be responsible adults in a complex and potentially dangerous world.

I look forward to Gillian Shephard including the lessons of the South Sea Bubble in the National Curriculum.

Yours sincerely


Birkenhead, Merseyside

2 June