Dark Age?

I have a huge interest in economics.  Fascinating topic.  Not because I have much interest in money, however.  In fact, I have no interest in that medium of the devil since I am minimally comfortable.  Well, comfortable enough to get through the foreseeable future, anyway. After the basics and the necessities of life are handled, I lose interest in what is simply greed and hoarding by another name. On the other hand, I like economics.  Go figure.

Well, the figuring is easy, really.  Here it is: Economics is really just the study of group behaviour; it is psychology in an area that has lots of indicators and variables.  One could study, say, sports-watching fans and there are a lot of indicators to watch and measure in sports but for variation, surprises and drama, there is little to compare with the human story as told through economics.

I hate to admit it but economics is a much better story teller than even Cheap B shoot-em-ups.

So, what is economics telling us these days?

Lots.  And all of it interesting.  But before we go down that road, a little side-bar: money is not really economics and economists even say that.  They are mostly wrong but they say it.  And they are partly right too.  Money, to them, is like an indicator rather than the force or variable it really is.

I say that they are wrong because money is so fluid, so transitory and so much out of the control of people, economics or our business group psychology as we know it, it is not really a measurable a factor anymore but it is a huge influence, nevertheless.  An almost invisible one. Put another way: any government can simply print any amount of money they want and call it quantitative easing.  Money that is NOT there can be borrowed on a signature.  Money has become more than ephemeral, it is almost conjured-at-will.  Money is a con-job.

So now money is too easily produced, hidden, diluted and converted and so it is. So easily, in fact, it is done all the time and most money sources are way, way out of control.

We don’t know how much money there is out there.  Literally: we don’t know the numbers. Trillions, Gazillions, Bazillions?  M1?  M2?  M3?  M4?  (the ‘M’s are types of money that are not money but are used like money – like credit card debt). If you try to use the ‘measuring sticks’ they give you, you’d have to be way out in front of the ‘money counters’ and employ huge computers and you’d have to factor in debt and credit and gold and, well, it is an impossible task.  So, they mostly don’t do it.

And yet, you have come to rely on the common understanding that a pair of shoes costs $100.00 and so does a nice dinner for two or a tire.  We are still exchanging goods using a medium that has no credibility.

To the neo-classical economist, the study of the economy is based on the continual rationalization of group-think as it applies to product and services.  The idea being that the consumer or person-in-the-market does rational things with their money, the purchase of the odd line of coke or a diamond ring notwithstanding.  The simplest discrediting fact to that premise is that we do not, as individuals or as families or as groups or even first world society’s always act rationally.  We just don’t.  So the classic economic model is founded on a faulty premise.

Worse: money has no credibility to us consumers anymore.  That fact is slowly seeping into the collective psyche, too.

That we are all as, as Adam Smith might posit, rational, is patently ludicrous.  And that has been proven so often time and time again.  We do not always act rationally even when we have all the information to make a rational decision and we have never had all the information with which to work.  No one has – but especially the last and lowest man on the chain, Joe Six-pack.  Too many variables.  Too many filters.  Too much play money. Too many inside traders in too many industries.  In fact, any real study of the economy would conclude that, for the most part, the market is not all knowing and all-wise but vulnerable, blind, stupid, easily manipulated and fickle if not out-right mad.  And Joe watches too much TV and drinks too much beer to think right anyway.

The market attracts too many crooked people as well.

Studying markets is a waste of study time.

But studying people, on the other hand, is easier, more fun and the results are likely more accurate.  Economics is, after all, the study of people.

So, what are the people saying?  What is our collective group-think thinking? They are saying, “Fuggedabout numbers, stats, GDP and money supply. Fuggedabout what the government tells you and what the corporations tell you and what you read about as fact and data-based research. What are the other average people saying?  As a group?  What is everyone’s mood?”

I don’t know how much they listen to Trump, Netanyahu or the latest shill for hate but I listen too.  I hear them saying they don’t trust BIG anymore.  They don’t trust their governments, the corporations, their laws, their police, their schools.  They don’t trust foreigners.  They really do not trust banks.

I do not see revolution in all that so much as I see some rejection and some withdrawal. More than just a little fear and trepidation,too.  People are stepping back.  It seems to me they are saying that the trajectory society is on feels collectively wrong to them.

Britain Brexited the EEU.  The reasoning was irrational, it was instinctive.  It was protest. Greece wanted out but were already too indebted so they were forced to stay. Faith in the EEU has waned.  Is it faith in the EEU or is it faith in institutions?

Syrians are adding to the ever increasing amounts of refugees.  People are fleeing their countries.  That’s raw fear, plain and simple.   Chinese money is fleeing Asia.  That’s a form of fear.  There is a lot of that out there, it seems.

Refugees and immigrants who made it to other countries are also now feared.  Trump wants a wall.  So does Israel.  Both want some people kept out, others sent packing. Trump doesn’t trust anything because he is so ignorant but how indicative is he?  Quite indicative given his following; they are insecure and feeling like victims.

And face it – some of them are victims or, at least ‘collateral damage’ from a system that didn’t deliver!

We may have lost the faith.

We aren’t borrowing and consuming like before.  We are afraid to do so.  We aren’t reproducing like we did.  We are pessimistic.  We aren’t investing in our country or even our children.

And how is our society reacting to court decisions?  How are we reacting to police actions?  What do we think of public education?  Who feels safe in a hospital?

Generally speaking, I think we are losing trust in our international, national, provincial and regional institutions and, to some extent, in our own future.  Our fear levels are increasing. And climate change doesn’t help that in the least.  In fact, climate change may have been the last straw.

When people lose hope, despair becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And THAT’S economics.

18 thoughts on “Dark Age?

  1. The powerlessness of the one’s class against a more powerful social class, the “elite class” leads to a feeling of powerlessness. It is the frustrated feeling of being decisively overcome by someone more powerful, …[elites telling the under dogs what was in their best interests.] “You must stay in the EU.” The self described powerless person responding by “Cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.’ by voting to leave. Nietzsche describes this powerlessness as resentment.
    (bitter indignation at having thought to have been treated unfairly) ”
    If I can not have EU benefits then no one should.” Grandfather voted against the best interests of his grandchildren who might lose employment access to Europe because grandfather fears an influx of Turks. It is an irrational fear but grandfather thinks “We took our country back.” Without immigration who will provide grandfather’s end of life care?

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    • The power of a catchphrase – “We took our country back!” Or, worse – “Make America great again!” Everything boiled down to a neat phrase, something the media and the two second soundbite love. Amazing. You have to wonder what we do with the largest brain and, presumably, 3-digit IQ’s if a catchphrase, a hair curl or a nice smile can make your mind up for you.

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  2. It amazes me with Economists and political scientists with all their theories and charts and studies about “macro trend” this and “macro trend” that they cant stop the car , roll down the window and just listen……
    I had a bunch of stocks in the FTSE and decided to sell them about 6 months ago. My financial advisor tried talking me out of it but I just didnt like what I was seeing and hearing coming out of Britain. I was worried about a majority leave vote and or the Pound falling if it was close either way.. Either way I wanted out.
    When my “expert” advisor asked me why I told him almost exactly what you have stated.
    “People everywhere dont trust what politicians are telling them. They dont trust what the leaders of corporations are telling them. They dont trust the accountants that audit the companies, they dont trust the Rating agencies , They dont trust the media. They dont trust the bankers, lawyers, judges, police…….. ANYONE in “authority”…. and THATS why I think a majority will vote to leave.”

    I sold it all and moved it.

    No one has any credibility anymore and the braying populist donkeys like Donald Trump have dragged the political system as it stands to a whole new lower level of gutter intelligensia.
    We’re heading down a dark tunnel and our lights are being extinguished one by one.
    Too many internet extremist “voices” spewing out hatred, suspicion, conspiracies, lies, “truths”, etc.
    Winston Churchill hated referendums because he felt the average person was too lazy and too ignorant to objectively listen to reason…….and that was before the internet and all its millions of “soapboxes”.
    The scepticism I see and the unbelievable conspiracy theories I hear about everything almost on a daily basis makes me want to run screaming to an asylum and demand to be admitted.
    At least I’ll be locked in with the “known” crazies.

    Brexit is only the beginning. Other voters in other countries will demand “their turn” .France (65% in favour of leaving ..unlike Britains 52%) will be next. Something about an ongoing terrorist “state of emergency” might be influencing those voters I suspect.
    A years long , slow motion financial meltdown like Japans economy…..
    Coming to a rapidly aging population near you.

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      • Good move. Being an independent thinker is not easy. And, of course, even if you are one, there is no guarantee that you’ll think correctly. It’s a crapshoot – intelligence vs the power of the crowd. My advice: when in doubt, run for the hills.
        As for Nigel…I heard him interviewed and it was quite incredible. One of his responses was “….yes, well, it was very unfortunate…..blah, blah, blah.” The implication was that it was somehow an accident that they lied throughout their campaign. Shades of Christy Clark et al.

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    • Should you ever try to get admitted, please feel free to use me as a reference. I will swear you are as nutty as anyone I know. That is not quite true. I know some real crazies. But for admittance criteria, you are clearly worthy.
      No gratitude need be expressed. I just tell it like it is.

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  3. A “Dark Age” perhaps? It appears to be an era waiting for the denouement. Things are falling apart or are they reconfiguring? Thinking of past decades one need only mention the ‘dirty thirties’ and images of bread lines, Hoovervilles, Oakes, relief camps, Wall Street crashing are evoked. In the future what will be evoked by images of Brexite, Trump, Obama, refuges, going green, free trade, globalism or the new tribalism, all emerging? The year 2000 teens will be remembered as the ‘clash of values era’ or what?

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    • You make a good point….only in retrospect does it all become clear. I, for one, think Brexit is a mistake logically but more than understandable emotionally. None of us like faceless bureaucrats and especially ones that influence from far away. They become all too easy scapegoats. Illogically, perhaps, but normal human behaviour. Nobody in western Canada is fond of Ottawa, for instance. Hell, most of us hate Victoria. Mind you, this is an OTG’er talking.

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    • Wish I had said that. Brilliant.
      Having now heard it…………one has to wonder: sense and sensibility is accountants and rules and order. Pride and prejudice is primal, emotional and visceral. And history is replete with the primal….not so much the accounting.

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    • Well, that could be said for anything where acrimony is promoted but sometimes acrimony is rebellion or, at least valid criticism. Were they trolled in the popular sense? Dissent for the entertainment value? There may be something in that. I suspect that trolling only gains some cred when the feelings are already there.

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  4. You’ve used a strawman argument, haven’t you? There is no economic school that I know of that states that individuals *always* act rationally.

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    • I don’t think so, Edward. The rational man hypothesis is a foundation of market economics. Presumably, we always act in our own best interests. Ergo, rationally. But that is not our history so it is a faulty premise. Admittedly, markets experience irrationality but those are considered mistakes that the the market invisibly corrects. Like bubbles. But the point made is still correct I think.

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      • OK – I see you’ve used the word “always” again. Does this mean that one single exception, somewhere, at some time, invalidates the theory?

        Sometimes people gamble. Sometimes people drink to excess. Sometimes people make financial decisions that are plain dumb. Sometimes we are seduced by fancy packaging. Rarely is a decision perfect, and always, people act on their own perceptions of the world, which can never align perfectly with reality. etc. etc.

        And sometimes when perceive someone else to be acting irrationally, it is because we fail to appreciate their circumstances. For example, I’m a city guy, and for me living in a cabin on the edge of Powell Lake (or wherever) would be utter madness. Too far from the cinemas, cafes, grandchildren! But maybe a friend who chooses that life has PSTD or some other demon, and the challenges of wilderness living is their way of sorting themselves out?

        The marketplace works because the majority of the players in the marketplace act, on *average*, over time and in the majority of circumstances, in a way that is *approximately* rational to their own particular circumstances.

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      • Well, Edward, you are clearly a defender of the faith and have some points to make. But, you actually made my point with your last response. And that is: that rationality DOES NOT prevail in the markets. Not even ‘averaging’ helps make it rationale. The average person has bought into planned obsolescence, real estate becoming more valuable with time, police, experts and politicians are good and working your life away to stay consuming is a worthy pursuit. And they are paying taxes to support it all as a duty rather than the extortion it really is. Seriously, dawg……you have faith in the system, I do not. In fact, it is that system that has helped destroy the planet. And I don’t believe for a second that most people would choose the path they take if they knew there were other choices. Living in a BIG BOX LIE limits perspective, freedoms and choices. Hie thee to a forest far, far away and you, too, will start to wonder what the modern system as we know it is all in aid of but most people know in their hearts already it is not about serving them or the planet.
        Still, nice of you to write.

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