From the desk of Senator J. W. Bulworth
DATE: November 13, 1998
TO: Readers of The Progress Report
RE: "Psychonomics and the Global Panic"
It's Friday the 13th. Scary, right? Well, with an economic system based on some unknowable mystery, it's no wonder people are superstitious.
Every day, the entire world lives in fear of the inevitable, dreaded, financial meltdown, which, by most accounts, has no understandable source, no real reason behind its hideous onslaught. According to the "experts," it's actually triggered by human emotions, so, whatever you do, don't panic!
Strange, isn't it? Every field of inquiry is a science except economics? The most esoteric and amorphous subjects of study, like psychology, hypnosis, sociology, acupuncture, theology and quantum physics are perfectly explainable. Even phrenologists can at least explain how feeling the shape of your skull enables them to describe your personality. But economics? Forget it. It's too complicated for mere mortals to comprehend. Even freakonomic experts can't predict what'll happen from one day to the next. We may as well be sacrificing virgins on the altar of some "Eco-Deity."
Would you like to understand economics? Do you dare enter the realm of "the root of all evil"? (Run away!) Can you stomach all the gory details in this chamber of horrors? (Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.) Getting woozy already, are you? See if your head starts spinning when you imagine yourself studying "subjective value theory." It's gruesome, I know, but try to keep your lunch down. Ready? Value isn't determined by utility or availability, it's determined by peoples' thoughts and feelings, by their personal viewpoints. Don't believe me? Ask a student or professor of economics what determines an object's worth. See if they don't say, "whatever you think it's worth." Yup; it's all in your head. Van Gogh was actually a horrible painter until a hundred years after he died. Then, while just a worm eaten corpse, a skeleton, he somehow acquired great talent and skill. Terrifying, isn't it? Hey, I'm no economist, just a fictional Senator, but I find this "subjective value theory" a tad absurd.
America's Great "Depression" in the 1930s must have been the result of widespread financial hypochondria. Or, perhaps, it was just an incredibly coincidental stroke of bad luck. But, why, do you suppose, everyone in the country got the same "subjective" confidence affliction at the same time? Could it be that their attitudes were the result of their economic conditions? No, no, it's all psychological. If you don't "think" your rent is rising faster then your wages, you'll have plenty of money. If you don't "feel" like you've just been laid off, you'll have a job. Right. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain (the shower curtain). Is that a shrieking violin section I hear?
I guess stockbrokers should be checking horoscopes instead of stock listings. Maybe investors should trade their Wall Street Journal subscriptions for Prozac prescriptions. Does Jack Daniels have more control over our economy than Alan Greenspan? If the nation were to undergo mass hypnosis, could we avoid the next eeek!onomic recession? Instead of "austerity" measures, shouldn't the International Mortuary Fund and the Weird Bank recommend "frivolity" measures?
According to most witch doctors (I mean, economists), recessions and depressions are unavoidable. They're like earthquakes, typhoons and werewolves, an unstoppable force of nature. It's "the business cycle." So, the best our mighty institutions of education and the all powerful press can offer us is "what goes up must come down." Hmmm ... the last time I checked, that one had something to do with gravity; does gravity cause recessions? Besides, if the economy is fueled by our attitudes, couldn't they have chosen a more upbeat metaphor, a less cynical cliché, something fun like "trick or treat"?
Personally (subjectively speaking, that is), I find all this a bit suspicious. In this day and age, with all the amazing accomplishments mankind can claim, with all our technology, our accumulated wisdom, our vast, incomparable understanding, we still don't know what causes poverty? Nobody has figured that out yet? We can transplant kidneys and communicate with the other side of the planet in 5 different ways simultaneously, but we don't know what causes economic recessions? We know how hurricanes form, why Pluto is green and the reason rats can count higher than monkeys, but why most people are slaves to a few other people is beyond comprehension. We're wasting our time trying to solve this eco-nigma -- it's just the way things are -- "God's design" for our plane of existence ... I ain't buyin' it, folks.
For instance, what happened to Japan's economy recently? The banks caught a cold? No, the flu. It's the "Asian Flu," an airborne psychological virus which attacks the brain and makes people think they're going broke. It had nothing to do with land speculation, since, of course, the value of land is whatever you think it should be. Brazilian banks aren't bankrupt because of land price inflation either, it's a "storm," a dark, gloomy cloud that only bank bailouts (funded by you) can disperse. Russia's problem? Corruption. Russian banks aren't over-invested in land that nobody can afford, they're just corrupt. And, as we all know from watching movies, corrupt institutions always fail ... like, maybe, universities and media companies when they try to explain economics? Seriously, though, the "flu"? Financial "storm clouds"? Give me a break ... call me "Agent Scully" if you want, but there has to be a more scientific explanation.
So, how about this? The reason most people are slaves to a few people is that the few own the land. Of course, nobody can live without using land, so, most people have to pay a few people for the right to live. And the reason economies go bust is this: despite the fact that nobody can live without using land, the profitability of land speculation forces the price so high, eventually, people just can't afford it anymore. Then, the banking system (which invests largely in land speculation), goes bankrupt. Doesn't this make more sense than "psychonomics" or am I crazy? (If I am, don't get frightened or anything; the bank might repossess your house.)
Speaking of "possession," maybe that's what's wrong with our universities and media corporations; they're "possessed" ... by land speculators. That's the reason they can't explain why rent costs an arm and a leg and why our houses are haunted by these 30 year mortgages. It's time for an exorcism of these evil spirits and their confusing, nonsensical mumbo-jumbo. We need a return to reality, clarity and science. Don't be fooled. Economics is no mystery.