These days, the media is full of depressing but thrilling news about the financial crisis. It is regularly implied that we are all doomed, that banks will fail, governments will fall, and nothing will work in the future. But somehow the world continues turning. It's enough to make one hit oneself over the head with a brick and yell, "What does it mean? What does it all mean???"
So here, in the simplest possible terms, is an explanation of the financial crisis and how it affects us all. Let's start off by explaining what an economy is.
Whenever you buy something in a shop, whether it's a bunch of bananas or a vibrating wheelchair, the product is scanned and recorded on a database. This is called the National Economic Database (NED) and it is kept in an underground lair near Dorking. There, hundreds of faceless bureaucrats and their bespectacled secretaries push punched cards through slots in an enormous whirring machine. The technology may be old, but it has been counting the UK's economy since 1953 with only occasional repairs needed. The machine is called Timothy, and it tracks the number of items sold throughout the UK. Once a month, this information is printed out - it takes about 1000 pages to list everything - and that information is distributed to all retailers in the country. Retailers use this information to calculate how much of their stock has been sold, which they can then use to decide how much more stock they need to buy.
So what caused the financial crisis? Well, somebody spilled a cup of tea on Timothy and now he doesn't read the punch-hole cards properly any more. This has led to chaos, and NED have had to invent their sales figures for the last few months.
The government has a plan to build another machine to replace Timothy, using a new-fangled technology called a "computer". But experts at the National Economic Database have said they would prefer to continue using the old punch hole card machine. "We just need to replace a few cogs and sprockets, and send in a chimney sweep to clean out the pipes, then Timothy will be as good as new," said head engineer, Edgar Crump. "Just because the Germans are using a so-called 'electronical computer', doesn't mean we should copy them. Besides, Timothy is much more resilient to spilt tea."