"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity", so goes a wise crack.
The way the world is going in 2008, it looks like Debt and Fraud are going to the two most common elements in our lives. Never in economic and social history have these subjects taken so much of our daily lives. Even my school going son has heard of 'sub-prime'
- words that were the exclusive bastion of credit professionals. In my school days, we only knew about prime numbers in Maths!
Let us take debt first. Debt in all forms - mortage, credit card, loans, student, toxic, ninja ..... has permeated our daily lives. So much so, that debt is beating global warming as the greatest urban obsession. Never before have so many parts of our society
looked at debt. I think more people now across the world are aware of the indebtedness of Americans and its likely implications on the rest of the world. A wonderful example of how much debt dominates our lives is indicated at the following event laid out
in http://www.keepitinyourpants.org/. A video contest has been launched offering a top prize of $5,000 for the best student-made public service announcement regarding credit cards. A new contest for budding filmmakers
is the growing problem of "Debt Disease" among young Americans. The first-place winner of the "Keep It In Your Pants" contest -- open to students 14 years of age and older enrolled in middle school, junior high, high school, college, or graduate school --
will receive a $5,000 scholarship for school-related expenses.
Another event indicating our love for debt -Leading U.S. and international scholars will gather to examine the phenomenon of debt at “A Debtor World: Interdisciplinary Academic Symposium on Debt,” sponsored by the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI) and
the University of Illinois College of Law. The symposium, scheduled for May 2-3, at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Ill., will feature a paper and presentation by each of the expert speakers on a topic related to the accumulation, psychological effects
or resolution of debt. The purpose of the Debt Symposium is to take a scholarly examination of debt as a phenomenon, rather than as a problem or solution. It will feature leading U.S. and international scholars who have written about debt or issues related
to debt in a wide range of academic disciplines such as sociology, psychology, history, philosophy, law, neuroscience, business, economics, finance, strategic management and organizational theory."
The other subject dominating our lives now is the F word - Fraud. KPMG's recently released Fraud Barometer - http://www.kpmg.co.uk/news/detail.cfm?pr=3028 confirms our worst fears on vulnerability
- with record levels of fraud coming into the open in UK. I suspect that Fraud will continue to engage our attention. In a perverse way, Fraud is simply a follow up on Debt. The classical theory of Fraud states that for Fraud to thrive, it requires an incentive
and circumstances. In the present debt driven times, stretched debtors have more than enough incentive and willing to take the risk; circumstances also present themselves! Organized gangs and phishers are going to find many ordinary people willing to be mules
- with so many burdens. As a wise soul put it -"Fraud is like electricity; shocking and follows the path of least resistance".