Cameron’s encounter with ‘the black swan’
18/09/08 Max Wind-Cowie comments on a breakfast event with David Cameron at the RSA...
This morning I saw David Cameron in conversation with Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of a portentous book about high-impact, random events. They were discussing how government can prepare for the improbable and it was, as one can imagine, truly frightening stuff. Hyperinflation, the great crash, political unrest and energy insecurity were all raised – a bracing start to the working day.
The thing I took away from the event, however, was the crucial importance of learning from the cataclysmic events that have already happened. Too big-to-fail was an oft repeated phrase and it brought to mind the comments made by George Osborne about the prospect of breaking up state owned banks to make them smaller and to contain risk. This is an idea that the Conservatives seem to have backed away from – to the chagrin of many on the party’s progressive wing. By their nature, ‘black swans’ are difficult to spot the first time round, but few would forgive a government that failed to protect us from a second attack.