Banks and stable doors
Stable doors and horses come to mind when reading the Bank of England's survey of conditions in the lending market.
Our banks have suddenly rediscovered the risks of providing credit - but it may be a bit too late for their or our good.
In the years leading up to last summer, many banks lent too much, too cheaply and with too few strings attached.
Now that the economy is slowing down, they are pushing up the cost of credit, reining in the availability of credit, and demanding improved collateral.
The Bank of England's survey shows that's true for residential mortgages, other consumer loans and for lending to business.
But the survey indicates the horse may have already bolted.
There has been a significant rise in the rate of default by companies and individuals - and banks expect more businesses, homeowners and consumers to experience repayment difficulties in the months ahead.
So arguably our banks have behaved in a way that may seem rational for each individual bank but may be irrational for the economy and all of us.
Many of them made it too easy to borrow in the up phase of the economic cycle and may be battening down the hatches too much in this downturn.
Or to put it another way, they inflated the boom and are exacerbating the downturn.
But then that's how it's always been - and can't possibly change unless regulators are prepared to impose lending constraints on banks when the times are good, which would be removed when the economic going gets tough.