Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fictional History

I was doing some reading on the flight back and forth to Hawaii. Over 9 hours out. Just over 8 hours back. That’s a lot of reading time. The good Lord knows you can’t sleep in the seat they give you. Well, at least those of us over 6 feet tall can’t sleep in them. Here’s an excerpt from the book I was reading:

He shook his weary head. “These are bad days for an economist, my friend. We have gone past the frontiers of theory. There is nothing left but one huge ugly fact.”

“Which is?”

“There is a debt of perhaps two trillion dollars out there, owed by governments to governments, by governments to banks, and there is not one chance in hell it can ever be paid back. There is not enough productive capacity in the world, plus enough raw materials, to provide maintenance of plant plus enough overage even to keep up with the mounting interest.”

“What happens? It gets written off?”

He looked at me with a pitying expression. “All the major world currencies will collapse. Trade will cease. Without trade, without the mechanical-scientific apparatus running, the planet won’t support its four billion people...."

Okay, there’s only so far you can go in an old book before a fact or figure gives it away. We’re past six billion people now. The quote is from a Travis McGee novel -- The Green Ripper by John D. McDonald. (That ought to bring back some memories for the old-timers.) It was published in 1979. For those that might be interested in the series, I’d suggest starting with the first book in the Travis McGee series -- The Deep Blue Good-by.

(If a tune comes to mind and it’s bugging you, click here and listen closely to the first line.)

Anyway, my point is that we’ve had gloom and doom forecasts before. For those that can’t remember, 1978 wasn’t such a great year. (The December 15th entry ought to interest you.) My grandfather remembered when people were worried about running out of firewood -- and laughed at those worried that we were running out of oil. Oh, and the book The Green Ripper was about a left-wing religious/terrorist cult. Economic hard times are nothing new. Neither are crazy people. We’ll survive. We’ll find new ways to heat our homes, travel and feed ourselves.

One constant did come to mind while I was crammed into the economy-class section; Airlines don’t make money. Oh, they pretend they do. Occasionally, they’ll even post a profit. But the government props them up. It always has. And it always will. From paying for the R&D, to subsidizing the industry to plain-old bailouts. I figure if it’s going to cost us anyway, we might as well be in comfortable seats and let the people working in the industry make a decent living. Oh, and let’s bring back the mechanic’s jobs from El Salvador or Mexico or where ever it was that we outsourced them.

These decisions are ours to make. We created the “Free Market”. We are not powerless. We can change the rules.

Don Brown
September 18, 2010

(Note: I knew there was something else I was supposed to do. Link added.)

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