A few years ago, a multi-millionaire friend of my husband gave us a great lecture on leveraging. We had set up a business, but had no appetite to borrow further to expand, happy to grow slowly and sustainably.
He however, had been buying property in London and the South East as though it were going out of fashion (turns out it was...) and his debt vastly outweighed his assets.
He maintained that "debt equals wealth" and we butted horns for quite some time over what I saw as ridiculous double-think. I, the leftie, argued that no, debt equals interest payments, insecurity and...well...debt. He, the Thatcher-loving rightie (he has a picture of them together on his piano) argued that debt was hunky dory and could only lead to growth.
He and his buddies in the city borrowed and leveraged and borrowed some more until the whole house of cards teetered and fell.
We sold our house, paid off our debt, battened down the hatches and hoped to ride out the enormous storm we could see looming on the horizon.
Why would I tell you this little tale? Because it is a microcosm of society today.
The wealthy, the city, the banks and the entrepreneurs borrowed and leveraged, twisted and obscured, creating clever logarithms and computer programmes to convince themselves - and us - that it could, and would go on forever.
In a desperate bid to keep up, ordinary people borrowed too. They wanted a slice of this economic revolution, so they re-mortgaged and took out loans and maxed-up credit cards.
But even before the crash, "ordinary" people started to see that it couldn't last. They stopped spending, they stopped borrowing, they started to save and pay off debt. OK, maybe just a few at first, but once the credit crunch struck, it became a flood. And that is recession in a nutshell.
That is why governments must step in to prop things up in tough times. Because families, rightly, won't and can't.
But this is a straw man argument now. Things have gone too far. Osborne knows it, the banks know it, the city knows it and the global economy knows it. Osborne insists that eye-watering austerity and paying down debt will help, Labour argue that stimulus and growth will help, but actually, will any of it help at all now?
For decades we neglected our economy, we stacked it high and sold it cheap, we sacrificed quality to chase every financial bubble that appeared and we borrowed and borrowed and leveraged and obscured until no-one knew what anything was worth at all and there's a very good chance that in fact, it was worth nothing.
So, the naturally debt averse lefties are now the one's getting the blame for spending and leveraging, whilst the corporate righties have the astonishing cheek to claim we all need to be frugal. That the debt they courted was unsustainable, that the leveraging they adored had nothing to do with getting us into this mess. That the "light touch regulation" they called for less of was the real fault.
But under every right winger is a deeply held belief that it can go on forever, that capitalism will provide all the answers. There is an absolute confidence in the private sector to have the answers to the very problems they caused. There is total certainty that free markets and less regulation will get us out of this.
Isn't it all just amazingly incoherent? If you give it even a moment's thought, it seems fairly clear that they literally have no idea what to do. None of them. They are so totally thrown by the collapse of their house of cards, they can only use arguments they always used, only come up with suggestions they always thought would work.
Growth??? We'll be lucky to avoid a further crash that makes 2008 look like a street party. This is a global problem - everyone was at it. There is no money and there is no top hat from which we can magically pull a growth-rabbit. What will happen to personal debt when interest rates rise? Which businesses exactly are going to find export markets strong enough to pull us forward, feeding the capitalist growth monster in sufficient platters to fill him? How exactly are we going to "re-balance" our economy if those in charge have no appetite - comprehension even - of what that will actually take?
And who are the geniuses who will pull us out of this mess? Who are the new thinkers, the innovators, the dazzling brains who can see of all this and have answers? Osborne? Berlusconi? Sarkozy? Geithner? Lagarde? A few ex-bankers and gigolos so married to the current system that they can't see an inch beyond it?
Well, I have a horrible feeling, that like the last days of Rome, they are venal, corrupt, lazy, ignorant, selfish and incapable.
I have a feeling we need to show them a different way. the days of mind-numbing faith that these ridiculous political clowns have a clue what they're doing may be limited. We need to create excellence, pay down our debt, strengthen our families and communities and build businesses that actually make things we all need. We need to innovate for the future, create new technologies and sustainable energy sources. We need to square up to powerful lobbies that have made all of this impossible for generations. I have this horrible feeling they're not going to have the vision to actually make any of these things easier and I'm more and more convinced that people need to wake up to the long, hard slog ahead.
Working our way through this together, might be the only way forward and the more we listen to those in charge, the worse things might be about to get.