Her Majesty would like an explanation of how her beloved country has fallen into a deep and undignified recession. Six months after a tour of the halls of the London School of Economics -- where she carefully enunciated, "Why did no one see it coming?" -- Queen Elizabeth II now has conflicting answers from a pair of rival camps of British intellectuals.
The first reply, penned by a group of leading economists and public servants who call themselves the British Academy, arrived on July 26, and focused on the usual suspects: bankers, the government, and a general failure to assess mounting (and gargantuan) financial risks.
The Academy's response was nothing out of the ordinary, and perhaps more of an apology than an explanation, concluding that the disaster was due to a "failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole."
But the second letter -- whose authors include such eminent and eclectic intellectuals as Anthony Seldon, a teacher at forward-thinking Wellington College; Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce; and Lord Giddens, former director of the London School of Economics – carries a distinctly different message.
According to the Financial Times, their letter, which arrived days ago at Buckingham Palace, explained to the Queen that the British Academy had missed the point by focusing on "imbalances in the global economy." As the authors of the second letter see it, "The key to addressing our current situation is to recognise the far more serious imbalances between our insatiable hunger for energy, its finite nature and the environmental pollution in its use."
As ever minding her p's and q's, Her Majesty has written to invite her pen pals to "join with us in a public dialogue about these issues." What she means by "public dialogue" is open for interpretation. And, knowing the Brits, it could be anything from a raucous House of Commons–style debate to a volatile argument fought through the printed word. The losing side will, no doubt, be banished to the Tower of London.
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