Muphry\’s Law is, of course, that any complaint about spelling or grammar, any display of pedantry, will contain itself a greater error than the one complained of.

As a corollary might I suggest Hadley\’s Law, after Hadley Freeman?

Any article complaining that people do not understand finance will contain statements which shows that the writer does not understand finance?

The root problem here, as with the other current financial disasters, is that most people don\’t know how to read financial records and are easily cowed by supposed experts\’ obfuscation.

OK, fair enough.

Gordon Brown – prime minister during the financial crash, chancellor of the exchequer leading up to it – should know better than anyone that the obvious step would be to make understanding finance part of the national curriculum, because this is the stuff the world is built on and small misunderstandings build up to a big ol\’ mess that affects everyone.

How true.

And so Madoff alone was convicted last month of bankrupting thousands of people after a strikingly swift trial. So far, only $1.2bn has been recovered. No doubt Bernie is squirrelling the rest up his prison-issued jumpsuit.

Ah, no.

Of course, this is about as likely to happen as recovering Madoff\’s missing billions,

Umm, no, you see, Madoff\’s billions aren\’t missing. We know just where they went. For, you see, he was running a Ponzi scheme.

He paid money comng in from new investors out to old investors as their profits. You see, that\’s what a Ponzi scheme means. That\’s what we use the phrase to describe.

The money isn\’t missing and Bernie\’s not squirrelling any of it anywhere. It\’s been paid out to the early investors. That\’s what a Ponzi scheme means.

Hadley\’s Law has a certain ring to it, doesn\’t it?

Worth noting: Hadley Freeman is the Guardian\’s fashion features writer

Fair enough.

Now please analyse the following statement

“The government should take measures to help the housing market recover”.“Bernie’s not squirrelling any of it anywhere. ”

I suppose a little bit of it (a billion or two) might have been purloined. Chump change.

“the obvious step would be to make understanding finance part of the national curriculum”. Laughable, I’d have thought, until I was told that the tiddlers are no longer taught compound interest. Does anyone know if that’s true?

dearieme, if my perusal of specimen exam papers is anything to go by, exponents are indeed deferred until GCSE. Logs are scarcely taught at all, which renders the whole thing rather pointless (i.e. you can ask, “I invest £100 at 5% interest. After 5 years how much will I have? but not, “I invest £100 at 5% interest. How long will it take to have £700?”)

Of course learning how to do this is no more learning about finance than learning how to balance your chequebook is learning accountancy.

“And so Madoff alone was convicted last month of bankrupting thousands of people after a strikingly swift trial.”

Madoff didn’t have a trial. He pleaded guilty to all of the charges. I suppose this error further illustrates Tim’s point.

David Gillies:

Logs aren’t taught because there are these wizard things called calculators. Strangely Napier’s rods and abaci are also missing from the curriculum.

The problem with GCSE isn’t the lack of logarithms – its the fact that they are too bloody easy and most of the answers are in the handbook at the back.

I don’t mean they are ‘not taught’ in the sense that pupils are not expected to look them up in log tables anymore. They are ‘not taught’ in the sense that pupils, be they possessed of ever so shiny a calculator, do not have a fricking clue what the ‘log’ button does on it. Anyway, even if you do know what the log button does, let’s see you use it to calculate ln(arcsin(6/5)). Quickly, now!

David Gillies:

There were once three constipated mathematicians. One worked it out with pencil and paper. Another used his slide rule. And the last one used logs.