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.