The inauguration in London of the Shard, for now Britain and Europe’s tallest skyscraper, reminds me that some time ago Barclays compiled a ‘skyscraper index’ (pfd) which shows, as they put it, “an unhealthy correlation between construction of the next’s world’s tallest building and an impending financial crisis: New York 1930; Chicago 1974; Kuala Lumpar 1997 and Dubai 2010“.
They trace the phenomenon back to the world’s first skyscraper the modest (by modern standards) 142 foot eight story Equitable Life Building built in 1873 New York but I suspect it goes back millenia. Could it be that the account in Genesis 11:1-9 of the Tower of Babel records the catastrophic aftermath of an early debt crisis? The scribes who wrote down the story long after the actual event would have been working from a verbal tradition that remembered the moral lesson but not the design flaws or debt crisis (as the case might have been). Even today most of the Great and the Good of the world of economics cannot agree on what is at the root of the problem and therefore what to do about it. Babel (which apparently sounds rather like ‘confused’ in Hebrew would seem to cover their situation perfectly.
What is certainly unchanged over the millenia is human nature, in this case a collective hubris. As the saying has it, ‘pride comes before a fall’.