Long way to go, us


I don’t really know where to start, so I’ll just put some basics.

Usual disclaimer – I am not an academic. I just think about things, and whatever I write is what I think.

Well firstly I think, having thought about it, that the most sound and long-lasting basic economic productive unit is not a company or anything like it. Universally and through history the basic economic productive unit is and probably always will be the extended family. It’s flexible, allows for niches, has multiple layers and interdependencies and can cross borders and even transcend time to a limited extent – dynasties don’t last forever, but they manage to prolong influence for a goodly while. Even if formally hieratic, usually the power shifts between family members depending on a number of factors. The nominal head is not necessarily the most powerful member at any given time, if there even is a nominal leader. The structure allows for multiple ages, genders and degrees of competence. It is no big surprise really, that copies of the extended family structure (eg gangs) spring up almost spontaneously – an extended family operating economically comes pretty naturally to us.

Secondly, like the laws of physics, the mechanisms of economic activity require large amounts of reality to be extracted, and they operate very badly at any extremes. I’m sorry if I’m leaping about. There’s too much to cover. Family structures can distort the wider economy in many ways, tldr – just think how easy it is to move money or goods within such a structure regardless of geography and without record.

Thirdly economy is not solely reliant on currency. Money is not real – it is only an agreed convention and can only be useful if that convention is maintained. Most of the work done on planet earth by humans is unwaged, or rather, not rewarded in currency, starting with the labour of your own good mother. I doubt she was paid for bearing you. And going right on through to the ne’er do well unemployed person who called the police upon seeing someone break into your garage and made themself available for all the tedious police proceedings that ensued. People spend their time on others very often without currency in recompense. For every waged worker an entire support system of unwaged work must be performed. (Such as someone dropping in to chat to your old mum or quite possibly a family member giving up a waged job to look after her. Do you pay someone to iron your office clothes??? If waged, the chances are you are supported domestically in some way by someone who isn’t). In other words most of the “economy” is missing from the figures. The amount of people of (waged, legal) working age and also earning a wage is a not the majority.

Nonetheless, in the wider economy,  when things are on a reasonably even keel, movements and trends do betray the underlying principles, like bones beneath the flesh. Just that there are so many things on top, so much reality that distorts, that it’s not really a good idea to rely too heavily or too starkly on such notions as supply/demand creating price. It just doesn’t happen anywhere near 100% of the time.

Golf club guy (my imaginary err not sure what to call imaginations you use to let you access patterns that aren’t obvious) is moving his stocks into basics – pharmaceuticals and some metals. That is to say hard times are a-coming. Mostly we’ve wound ourselves into a corner and things will slow, to put it gently. Actually might be worse than that, but it’s being masked by domestic spending.

A lot of the world is trying that.

Domestic spending is like money going around in a washing machine. Round and round. It moves, but only internally. It looks good. Figures actually shift. But it is not external trade – it doesn’t bring anything in. What happens ultimately is that the money going round and round coagulates in favoured places. Little clumps of rich get richer, people or institutions, everything else degrades slowly. But the money wishy washies about quite a bit before that point. Big building projects, infrastructure, service industries (domestic)  etc, but it’s all internal stuff.

The slowly degrading rest of the economy (including the unwaged economy) and the people dependent on it resort usually to borrowing.

And that’s where we are now. Paying a de-facto tax to whomever we have to borrow from to keep going either as individuals or as businesses or as countries, lending being totally uncoincidentally the only thriving part of any economy that is currently shrinking. It would have been far better to make sure there were a few more legs than one under to support the table but that needed to have been sorted out long ago. No farmer allows one pig to eat all the rest.  If the only thing growing, bringing in currency is lending, the economy has a very serious tilt indeed.

On top of that, yet another layer,  we have always the endless hee-hawing of the currently economically favoured, doesn’t matter who they are, it changes with the time and place – this is only important for the fact that it obfuscates any meaningful discussion about the workings of the economy at ground level, here amongst ordinary folk. For example: There is no “trickle down effect”, it’s a myth. Internally revolving money coagulates where it is allowed or encouraged to do so and there it stays until removed by force of history or sometimes by annoyed mobs with pitchforks. Well maybe they’re the same thing on occasion. “Greed is good”, that kind of hee hawing. Greed is unsustainable and antisocial and betrays an inability to deal with the concept of “enoughness” for lack of a better word. “Enough” might be hard to define, lets not go there for heaven’s sake. Definitions of things like “enough” serve zero purpose anyway. It’s not as if you can put it in a bottle.

A person’s idea of enough for themself (assuming they have got as far as thinking about it)  has to be set against that of the society to which they belong. And a sort of friction occurs resulting in something close enough to the concept “enough” for everyone to understand and operate by. So someone declaring that only hundreds of palaces is enough, would be told in short order by the neighbours to tone that down to 3 hovels at most and 7000 riding-unicorns is definitely a no. A bounce between the individual’s concept of sufficient, and societies ideals is pretty forgiving, unless the society is very rigid – but at the moment we have an overlay of braggy loudness which doesn’t allow that to happen because the self-interested definitely don’t want a dialogue about “enoughness” ever or anywhere between anyone and definitely not on a societal level.

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2 thoughts on “Long way to go, us

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