New Edinburgh library of financial mistakes opens

Lord Lamont  opens the library. Picture: Toby Williams
Lord Lamont opens the library. Picture: Toby Williams
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A bizarre addition to the Capital’s seats of learning has emerged chronicling the worst cases of financial mismanagement – a Library of Mistakes.

Aptly launched by Norman Lamont – the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who presided over Black Wednesday when he was forced to withdraw sterling from the ERM (exchange rate mechanism) – the resource is said to be an unparalleled reference centre of fiscal mishaps and disasters.

Located at Wemyss Place Mews, the Library of Mistakes boasts more than 2000 volumes exploring tales of mismanagement, including the Parable of the Talents through to the Great Depression of the 1930s and the 2008 credit crunch.

In a wry speech, the former Conservative MP suggested that a wing of the library should be devoted to the euro.

And perhaps reflecting on Black Wednesday, Mr Lamont said: “You might find a little mention of myself in there.”

The charitable venture has been opened courtesy of the generosity of several donors and its contents will be available to those who register as readers.

Russell Napier, keeper of the library and a consultant to Asia’s largest stockbroker, CLSA, said: “At the Library of Mistakes we can see the beauty in mistakes.

“Mistakes can sometimes be serendipitous, but even when they are not, their study still has value as human progress is based upon learning from mistakes.

“The more we know about why smart people do stupid things, the fewer stupid things we might do.

“The Library of Mistakes provides a resource for the study of such mistakes as we fulfil our motto Mundum mutatu errore singillatim – changing the world one mistake at a time.”

Mr Napier is a keen student of financial mistakes having written the acclaimed book The Anatomy of a Bear: Lessons from Wall Street’s Four Great Bottoms, which was published in 2005.

By examining the lessons from Wall Street depressions, he predicted the financial implosion of 2008.

He said: “This is a free resource to the public.

“The public is making very serious decisions about their personal finances and they are not well-informed,” he said.

Another aim is to move the study of economics away from the dry mathematical models, characterising the “dismal science” in school and university.

Mr Napier added: “I want to stress that the audiences are the professions – that would be bankers and fund managers, students and the public.

“We want to lure students out of the universities and away from writing lots of economic equations and get them down here to study things that have actually happened.”

Edinburgh may be considered an appropriate location for the library as the base of Fred Goodwin while he presided over a dramatic fall from grace with the Royal Bank of Scotland.