Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Money’s Swan Song

August 11, 2019

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Well a lot has happened since then.

Our Creator had done some amazing creating through that original sparkle, and has given us the wherewithal to jump in there and participate in the creative playing out of all things in our domain.

The power to create was not given to other species on our planet—only to us.

We humans have done some pretty amazing things with our God-given talents.

After hunting and gathering, we planted, harvested and ate the fruits of our labors.

in the course of history, we have moved far beyond just eating, drinking and homesteading.

It’s been ever onward and upward for us, since we got a hold of this divine spark thing that we call creativity.

We’ve built pyramids and great walls, temples, mosques, cathedrals, skyscrapers, great bridges and machines that move across those bridges.

We’ve built roads, rails, blazed trails, had great successes and fails. We’ve devised tools, schools, lots of rules; we’ve forged implements, arts, coins, currency, and we’ve maintained a steady errancy.

We’ve painted, sculpted, interpreted the real world as works of art. We’ve disrupted, interrupted, corrupted and upended nature itself.

Now our carbonized creation turns—in some ways—against us.

Back at the olden time, when we received the power to cultivate earth, we were instructed to subdue those elements of the natural world that seem to be active against us—like, say, lions and tigers and bears. Such critters we had to subdue, so they would not make mincemeat of us.

Earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, tsunamis, etc.— these adverse forces we could not subdue, so we took shelter. As the ages rolled by, our sheltering instincts developed into elaborate structures.

And we have done pretty well with that. We homo sapiens have taken control of the planet—or at least we think we have. The planet may yet rise up to bite us in the ass. We shall see what happens with that.

A major sea-change that happened along the long odyssey of our progress was: we devised ways to substitute real goods into artificial representations of wealth.

Better known as making money.

MoneySwan

Land, food, livestock, clothing, shelter and such commodities that are essential for survival—all these are now exchanged by monies, currencies, paper-backed assets. And the latest thing is: electrons seem to be our new currency.

Our ancestors carved trails out of the wilderness. They gathered grains, sowed seeds, domesticated animals, and sold to neighbors or merchants all the produce thereof.

As those primary goods coalesced over the ages as markets, their value was measured and traded as money. This we called trade. Then we called it commerce, then business, and now. . . economics. We humans invented the system a long time ago because . . . well, because . . . I don’t why.

lt’s just what we do I guess.

For one thing, it made the process of manipulating wealth easier.

In economics, wealth was and is evaluated in terms of dollars or yuan or yen, or marks, francs, drachmas, denarii, zlotys, rubles, pesos, pounds sterling, etc.

Euros are the new kid on the block. They seem to have trouble making that one work.

The difficulty with retaining true value in these currencies is related to the fact that they’re—in real survival life terms—not really worth anything.

They only represent wealth. But they are not really the real thing.

I say the EU is having trouble establishing the value of their Euro. This goes way back.

The Brits, for instance, were having trouble in the 1930’s retaining the value of their pound. It seemed that their constructed currency could not maintain its value compared to gold.

Who the hell can compete with gold?

Gold goes way back.

Way back.

The second chapter of Genesis, for instance, mentions gold.

“The name of the first (river) is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.”

I suppose there’s a reason why gold goes way back in our history. Even though you can’t eat it, drink it, or keep your household warm with it, it is . . .

quite shiny.

Beautiful stuff, that gold. Precious!

Back to the Brits. As the world economy was falling apart back in the ’30’s, many savvy persons decided they would trade their British currency—pounds—for gold.

So many savvies were wanting to get back to gold, that the British government quit selling it.

What would happen after such an arrangement?

I think it was that fellow Keynes who figured out that—guess what—the economy just kept on cranking—all the goods and stuff and commodities and products and financial instruments and whatnot—just kept swirling around in international commerce.

The world didn’t stop turning. Business just kept on doing their thing. Rich get richer and poor get poorer and hey what else is new.

What else is new? Nothing. Nothing new under the sun.

Guess what. We didn’t really need gold to back currency! It was just a phase we were going through—the golden age of gold.

Back in ’73, Nixon pulled the same trick as the Brits had done in the ’30’s. He and his Bretton Woods powers-that-be decided we could no longer afford to sell gold for dollars. Too many folks wanted the gold instead of the dollars.

So we see that man-made currencies are not foolproof, and the gold bugs are always trying to make a comeback.

Money is a habit; that’s all. A very old habit.

Folks are born and bred into this modern economic world.  We are commercialized, or socialized (depending on your politics) to just keep spending those pounds and dollars and cents and euros and yuan and yen and SDRs and thusandsuch.

Nowadays we don’t really even use the money any more. Now it’s just electrons flowing around that represent debits and credits.

And that’s why—I suppose— the central banks of the world can keep cranking out their reserves, because the right to assign value is now reserved to them. It has nothing to do with gold or fiscal guarantee.

The central banks, in the fatal footsteps of every financial crisis, have reserved the right to “create money out of thin air.”

I told you we were creative!

The greatest discovery of the modern world:  we don’t even need anything to take the place of gold.

Money is just an old habit we have; we’ll never put it to rest. So somebody has to be “printing” it somewhere.  We spend so much money that all the .govs of the world are running deep debts trying to keep all the citizens fat ‘n happy.

There’s so much liquidity in the world today that the dark swan of excess has smooth sailing. Someday, some Leninish strongman will come along and dissolve all that debt into even more liquidity.

It will be a meal ticket for everybody. Yes, Virginia, there is a free lunch, doesn’t matter who’s paying for it.

It’s only money.

Glass half-Full

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Tappin’ the laptop rap

July 28, 2012

While we nodded, nearly napping, suddenly

There came a tapping, rapping on my laptop door:

 

Let us build a free nation, they said in 1776,

Let us mortar it with liberty; we’ll use this vast continent for bricks.

So then came our great exploration, on horses, on wagons, then on rails,

in a century of expansion, steeped in sweat, and debt, with bundles of tall tales.

‘T’was an age of corn and wheat, a time of tobacco and great toil,

boiling in a cauldron of soil and coal and oil.

On farms and orchards swelled our sweet fruits of sweat labor;

in pastures and ranches our blooms of prosperity’s favor.

Iron horse came a roaring over trestle and prairie

through a land ripe with harvest, rich with mineral and dairy.

 

We were milking the dream, skimming the cream,

moving on muscles and running on steam,

Across the tracks and over the roads, here rode the passengers, there the heavy loads;

extracting the mother lodes, knocking up white picket abodes.

Sodbustin’, soon with internal combustion, we rode, driving cattle and pigs with our pokes,

we volks and them blokes, all manner of folks with their yokes, ever now ‘n then tellin jokes,

we came casting off troubles, heaving the rubbles, and wielding our worn steel shovels,

we went building our houses, our stations and shacks, and nailing up mansions and hovels.

we’re blazin’ trails with ole Dan’l and Davy, eatin’ biscuits and gravy, ‘bibing a wee nip o’ liquor,

through sagebrush the saga and ragtime the raga with bustin’ raw rigor and unlimited vigor.

 

Let us build a rich nation! Let us form companies;

Let us develop, and envelope, opportunities.

We’ll raise capital, and stock it and sell it, until all the shares are sold.

Let us hammer out a Great Northern Railway, on tracks of steel, burning Appalachian coal;

We’ll wrangle our way to the West, dear partner; we’ll wildcat our wells while we roll.

Out of raw earth we summon a Standard Oil, a USSteel, and a B&O;

Across the wide prairies we’ll fence ranches and dairies, with windmills and farms, high and low.

Let’s sign up the hires and string up the wires, tapping Morse signals all the while as we go,

Till we’ve rolled and we’ve tolled and we’ve bought and we’ve sold all the long way to San Francisco.

~~~

Mr. Edison says let’s turn on the light; Mr. Bell says oh yes, and hello

Mr. Morgan proffers finance and wealth, while Mr. Ford cranks up our engines to go.

Summon the lawyers for incorporation, in big divisions, with a company town.

Call Wilbur; tell Orville: let’s drum up some capital, and get this great work off the ground!

Pack me a sack of groceries, will ya, from the corner at the A&P,

and buy us some trinkets and widgets and blinkets from the dime store, or the big new Kresge.

Here in our houses with spouses, in our homes with our loans, we’ll make and we’ll do and we’ll prosper;

now we’ve adorned Lady Liberty with a fashion outfit, and fed her and bled her, and yet we’ve not lost her.

And ‘though the folks in the old country drag us into their wars,

we’ll not lose sight of our stripes, nor dim our bright stars.

 

Let us run our great machines on American dreams!

Drive our Chevys to the levees for beer and ice creams.

Punch us an IBM card and we’ll flip out the bucks, at Kmart and Walmart and Radio Shack.

Bring in this Microsoft, this Apple, this modem and fax. Hey, buy me some Windows and Cracker Jacks.

Truck in the autos; pump in the gas; toss me a loan and float me a boat.

Fling wide the fridge!  Bring me some chips; hook me up with the tube. Where’s the remote?

Sign me up for a card; don’t make it too hard.

Just give me some credit; you won’t need to vet it. Approve my home loan; I’m ready to get it.

You know it don’t matter I’m makin’ half what I used to; I’m presently performing some credit jujitsu.

 

But our great yankee contraption having now been built,

and the boomer consumers all leveraged to the hilt,

the guys down on WallStreet were feeling the pinch.

With fewer and fewer equity opps, they’re no longer a cinch.

Traders squinting for spreads, on margins and bets,

our great growth machine slows, then it sputters and spets.

So let us whip up some synthetic collateralized debt obligations! they said

We’ll bundle those low-grade mortgages in convoluted configurations, and we’ll follow the Fed.

Let’s slice em and dice and twice em and thrice em

to pump up a million, trade up a billion, swap up a trillion, maybe gazillion.

Slap me some MBS, shoot me some CDOs and credit default swaps;

those sub primes are hot, triple-A, so S&P say, too complicated for regulatin’ by SEC cops.

 

So our great American ranches morphed to securitized tranches.

Maybe we shouldn’t have let the big players get in with bank branches.

Was this dot.com trouble– that real estate bubble, our last great Kapital hoorah?

Is this all we got left–this bubblin’ Booyah?

Have we bought for too long on the troughs, have we sold out too short on the peaks?

Are we so severely crippled by our insider leaks?

Have we reached the end of this long leveraging line? With our great capitalist expansion now running out of time?

Has our American Dream Machine run out of steam? Has it sputtered in the gutter  of avaricial schemes?

Say it aint so, entrepreneurial Joe!

Quoth the Trader, “Nevermo.”

 

Now that’s a rap,  on my laptop tap.

Glass Chimera

Spare change?

July 14, 2012

Flip a nickel; turn a dime.

Let’s spend our money one more time.

And when it passes twice again around,

we hear its jingle-jangle sound.

We go to town.

 

Spend a dollar; pass a buck.

Buy another pickup truck.

Pump some gas and drive a mile,

shine it up and drive in style

for a while.

 

Scan my plastic; pass my card;

software data, currency hard.

At end of month the bill comes due.

I’ll pay a lot and then a few.

What’s it to you?

 

Build a country; churn the economy.

Fuel the industry; grow some agronomy.

Dems want gov to do it all;

Repubs want private sector out of the stall.

That’s all.

Not quite.

 

Tea Parties cry don’t tread on me

while Occupyers want everything made free.

Get outa my way vs. soak it to the one percent:

two polarizing passions that won’t relent.

But uh oh; it’s time to pay the rent.

 

It happens every month; it comes around every year,

with principal and interest so steep, so dear.

At midnight our stimulus turns into a pumpkin.

But I’m no bumpkin: I’ll spend a dollar; I’ll turn a buck;

‘though our limo has morphed to a clunky pumpkin truck.

We’ve stayed too long at the ball.

That’s all.

Glass Chimera

Wage Deflation

April 11, 2012

It is no coincidence that the last three callers–Shawn in Cincinnati, Philip in Louisville, and Edward in Baltimore– on yesterday’s Diane Rehm show made comments about wage deflation, because this is what is happening in America.

The developing world, BRIC countries et al, are now cranking consumer goods much cheaper than we can. No way around it. The great expansion of national wealth and productivity that we were manifesting a hundred years ago is what the emerging countries are now in the midst of. There is nothing wrong with this; its the way the world has always been. The lean and vigorous youngsters have always surpassed the older folks . This applies to nations and whole economies as well.

I enjoy listening to the Diane Rehm show immensely, and frequently. I caught it yesterday while painting and cleaning a vacant apartment, which is part of my job. Thank God for my job.

Susan did a nice job of filling in for Diane, as usual, although no one will ever really fill Diane’s unique footprint in public discourse. The panel was, as usual, well-chosen, with Jim, Jerry and Betsy, all of whom are highly qualified to talk about their topic at hand, jobs and the economy.

But the illustrious panel spent the first twenty minutes or so, as is typical for today’s talking heads,  in the predictable media obsession about what Bernanke said, and the snail’s pace increments of labor statistics and GDP and all the gov numbers and blahblahblah.

I got a little upset when Jerry said the major reason we’re not getting job recovery is because growth is slow. Well that’s like saying the sky is blue and leaves are green. Now Jerry had some very good points, as did the other panelists, points about international competition in business and manufacturing, discouraged workers and their segment of the unemployment statistics, the “sugar high” of Fed-generated liquidity, the “still real dangers” that threaten our hyped-up recovery, gains in the first part of the year with declines in the second half of the year and how that may be a pattern in the last few years, whether and how/why companies are producing more goods with fewer workers and less pay, the necessary once-and-future skills development and job training programs that our country needs and the emperor’s new clothes and so forth.

But those three callers from the rust belt–they really drove, and without planning it, the point home: wage deflation. Too many people looking for work in a short production economy–wages go down. Its just supply and demand, as supplied to employment. No rocket scientist needed there.

But its time that some Americans start taking new directions; we need to find something else to do. And it is no coincidence that the first caller, Chad in Lansing, spoke about his chosen field of training and employment–agriculture–and how strong that sector is in our economy just now.

Agriculture has always been the heart of our great American expansion, and perhaps it always will be, because we have an abundant resource that many nations have a shortage of–land. And, as Jerry pointed out during the enlightened part of the discussion–the demand for food is high. Always will be. Not to mention energy sustainability, appropriate technology, etc. which is another topic altogether. Gotta go to work now; have a nice day.

Glass half-Full