A woman gets into her car, and waves at her husband, who is crossing in front of the car. Pressing the pedal to the ground, she puts it into gear . . . and steams forward at full speed, crushing him against the wall of the garage.
Is she a villain? It rather depends, doesn't it?
Thus does passive-aggressive society girl Megan McArdle construct an analogy for the current financial disaster, reaching the happy conclusion that, since everyone is to blame for the latest bubble and the most recent crash, no-one is to blame.*
This is in response to accusations that some of Wall Street's most prestigious firms may have deliberately manipulated the crisis to their own advantage and everyone else's great detriment. As noted previously, this implies that the notion of the planet's leading financial whizzkids actually knowing what they are doing is a hilarious, ridiculous conspiracy theory.
Coming as it does on the day that Goldman Sachs announced a $3.44bn net profit for April to June, it's tempting to observe that perhaps they do in fact understand this economic system based upon self-interest stuff rather well. This means that average staff windfall for Goldman employees is $384,000 for the first half of the year, in the middle of the worst recession of our lifetimes.
Still, this Financial-Crisis-As-Horrific-Car-Accident excuse should conjure a rich bounty of automotive imagery, from the financial genius under the car selling the brake fluid for short-term gain, to a metaphorical raft of Clinton-era deregulations that allowed manufacturers to build motors without airbags or seatbelts.
The analogy that should be seared onto our brains for the rest of our lives, however, is this - that seconds before the smash, a multi-billion dollar industry of politicians, pundits, bankers, experts and trustafarian bloggers were crammed into the back seat, commanding the driver to stamp on the accelerator while joyfully screaming, Go right! Go right!
Or I could be wrong - perhaps those self-interest advocates like McArdle, who walked away from the crash without so much as a career-threatening scratch, are merely trying to help those still being cut out of their cars. I'll leave you with this thought, from the same article...
Once you have tens of thousands . . . or tens of millions . . . of people in the dock, you don't have villains. You have a system that has gone badly wrong.
Reader, I put it to you that blaming the system has not aided the hundreds of thousands of drug addicts in America's prisons, but then, it might all be so very different if those same drug addicts were drafting the laws.
*On this "We are all to blame because we were all greedy and stupid" theme - I owe the bank around £600 for a loan I took to buy a new TV when my old one bust; have a £200 overdraft, and I still have four grand to pay off on my student loans after three years of making repayments. Can I be counted out, or is that evidence of the very vices that broke the banks?