Friday, 13 March 2009

Economy, Politics, etc

Ah, how these words echo across kitchen tables throughout the world now. I have always been mildly interested in politics (not as much in economy), but I, too, am on the bandwagon. Many a conversation or debate has been started in our home, mulling over the different points of view and courses of action.

As a fiscal conservative, it is hard to taste the word "bailout" or "spending" and not choke on it as I swallow. There is a harsh voice that creeps out from me: you made your bed, now lie in it. But my emerging understanding of economics is slowly teaching me that it is not that simple. I heard an interesting concept about hard times like these, known as the Paradox Shift: what is good for the individual (saving) is ruinous for the country. The tighter people hold to their money, the more jobs are lost, which causes people to hold on tighter to their endless cycle that spirals us into an atmosphere of fear. The only security people will trust these days is to see security in their jobs. Hence the government bailouts (to keep private companies providing jobs) and infrastructure spending (to create public jobs).

I don't like it. I don't like that we got ourselves in this mess to begin with. I don't like that my children and grandchildren will also pay for our mistakes, when they inherit our enormous debt. But the "take-action" part of myself reminds me that hindsight is 20/20. We should never have gotten to this point, but here we are. So let's just deal with it the best way we can.

Our market had been set up to be self-regulating - that people would spend when they had excess, and save when things were tight. It is obvious now that we as a collective did not have that kind of restraint. We didn't save for a rainy day. We didn't spend within our means. We didn't practice conservative spending. Rather we jumped for joy at the incredible boom and through money into the air, dancing and reveling in the streets as it rained down on us. The entire scene plays out like an indulgent, excessive Greek tragedy. Gaudy baubles and sparkling gems and chains of gold draped around our bodies, we ate and drank ourselves into oblivion. But now the morning has come, and with heads thumping and minds a blur, we stumble into the sun as it sheds light on the irresponsibility of the evening before.

The question that has now been answered: humanity does not have the ability to self-regulate. We do not understand restraint. We spend lavishly when we have, which creates a false economy and chasms of debt. We feverishly grip a few wads of bills when we realize we do not have, which spirals the economy into a fearful state of job loss. Human beings appear to have no centre, no balance. We have failed the test of self-regulation.

What is most disheartening is that this has all happened before, and it will all happen again. our generation may have learned a lesson that will stick with us for years to come. Certainly our ancestors of the Great Depression era remember the hardships they endured. But the cycle of upswings and downturns keeps spinning, and some time down the road our descendants will enjoy another boom and another bust.

I feel a little wiser, now. Thankfully this whole mess hasn't had it's fingers on my life, and hopefully because of the balance I was taught I won't find myself in the plight of the hundreds of thousands of other. I am grateful for the increase of understanding that has bloomed in me, in an area that is important to be knowledgeable of, but has held zero interest to me in the past. I have no doubt things will get much worse before they get better, and the optimism we hear so much of is nothing more than a painted smile. I wonder why we humans can't ever seem to really get ahead - 'history doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme.' (Mark Twain).

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