One of the reasons we know this crisis is no ordinary recession is the prodigious amount by which it is likely to push up the national debt. Before the collapse of Northern Rock, Britain's net public debt to gross domestic product ratio was down at below 40pc – the level widely considered to be consistent with a well-managed economy. In a couple of years' time it is likely to be rather closer to 100pc, thanks to the extra debt incurred in the bank bail-outs, the tax foregone because of the recession and the cost of trying to keep the economy afloat.
But as threatening as this is, it is nothing in comparison with the effect of ageing on our economy. We have committed to paying generations set imminently to retire pensions more generous than we ought to have; providing healthcare more expensive than we anticipated. Tie this to the fact that the population is greying, meaning there are ever fewer taxpayers to support those in retirement, and you have the recipe for a full-scale fiscal disaster.