Review: Robert Peston – The Party’s Over, How the West Went Bust (BBC iPlayer)

Review: Robert Peston - The Party's Over, How the West Went Bust (image copyright BBC)The Party’s Over: How the West Went Bust
On BBC iPlayer, duration: 2 times 1 hour episodes

It may not be a new show, but believe me, the the ongoing Eurozone crisis, the US debt crisis and pervasive economic doom and gloom, this is a finance show that will prove you’re not going insane and may broaden your understanding of how we got here.

Love or hate his peculiar delivery, the BBC’s business editor Robert Peston (Britain’s own cross between William Shatner and Allan Whicker) takes a sane look back over the events of the International financial sector meltdown, the one that some of us saw coming. Peston produces a string of experts who all say: “nobody saw the downturn coming.” Which is to say that none of the so-called ‘experts’ saw it coming through the shiny rainbow wall of the financial bubble, when the rest of us outside it clearly did. And these bozos are running banks and universities because…?

This two episode, two hour documentary reviewed the causes and the consequences of the financial crisis. Episode one, Illusion, goes back thirty years to the Thatcher, Reagan, Deng Xiao Ping years of freer-market liberalisation and the subsequent irresponsible waves of deregulation (yes George W. Bush, that means you). Peston interviews bankers, politicians and economists, with the conclusion that the boom before the crash was based on an illusion, in a world economy so unbalanced that the West is now suffering the economic hang-over of a three-decade party, in denial of all rational understanding of market economics.

Episode Two compared the lives of Chinese and British workers, concluding that what Britain needs is a radical economic re-think; a country so dependent on the retail-dependent consumer society, it produces less and less tangible goods but more and more complex financial products in the control of the City of London, where the short term, quick profit mentality dominates. Contrast this with Germany’s life-habits of thrift and investment, where a powerful manufacturing and exporting sector of medium-sized companies thrive. Re-balancing the British economy is far from easy and Peston predicts years of economic stagnation, not only in Britain but across the world as the ‘developed’ economies struggle to attain any kind of growth with the current model.

Don’t mistake Peston’s light, sardonic touch, full of irony, as lacking weight. Interviews are sometimes shocking for asking the questions those in power and influence chose to ignore, and for the answers given now. 20-20 hindsight may be a dubious commodity, but it does leave you with a very poor view of the get-rich-quick city folk and the blinkered politicians leaving the tough decisions to someone else after their terms in office expire.

Batten down the hatches, tighten the belts, take some Valium and perhaps, my fellow Rip Van Winkles, it will all be better when we wake up. Or not. AJS

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