With apologies to George Orwell – if you change the story and enough people believe it, can it become the truth? Can we ignore the latest ONS figures?
OK, so technically we are in recession. It is not what I was expecting and I know one or two others also see this as something of a surprise.
However, despite the government cleverly doubling sales of petrol in March*, and despite the spell of good weather increasing sales of summer clothing, and despite business confidence increasing this year, we have a double dip.
So how much is perception and how much reality?
Obviously, there were a few problems that sparked all this off: Robert Peston appeared to create a self-fulfilling prophecy for Northern Rock by telling people to queue round the block and take their money out; then the law of gravity suddenly woke up to the fact that many in the finance industry were building large and weighty products on a foundation of thin air; then Pareto’s Law dictated that 80% of the Eurozone were fiddling while only 20% were burning the midnight oil to actually produce anything of worth.
Have I missed anything out?
Now, there is no question that very real problems exist, but surely a large part of any recession is loss of confidence. Unlike our wonderful governments, we have to worry about things like jobs, mortgages, savings and where the next order is coming from.
This leads people and businesses to cut costs, hoard what money they have and reassess their plans for growth. Which, of course, though understandable and often necessary behaviour, makes things worse.
Not only are these problems real, but there could be more to come from the Eurozone. Not to mention unemployment, the struggling construction industry, rising petrol prices and inflation generally – which may well put pressure on interest rates. Nevertheless, we could have been forgiven for thinking things were getting better.
I do not accept this recession
One answer might be to focus on the positive and encouraging signs. We have been rubbing along the bottom for a while now and, arguably, should not let a few tenth of one percentage points either way steer us from, albeit slow, recovery. There are too many exciting things happening, too many innovators and too many highly skilled people around for us not to believe and invest in the future.
I see companies in Bristol leading the way in cutting edge technology, evidence in my own building of successful product innovation and manufacturing and businesses getting to grips with their marketing to push forward. Not to mention numerous events, well attended by people eager to keep updated and network with their peers – last nights’ Tech Talks was a case in point.
Unlike Big Brother, I cannot say we were never in recession. But, if I want to believe it, I can say we are not are not in recession now.
What do you think? What influence can psychology have on reality?
*This time I think the conspiracy theorists must be right: this was a deliberate and ingenious ploy by the government to increase retail sales in first quarter to help avoid the double dip. I mean the alternative explanation is stupidity from our government ministers – which surely cannot be true.