Economic Crisis is Entirely Complicated

AIG should follow through with its badly-negotiated contracts, and should do so without using one dime of the bailout money.

The roots of our economic crisis are actually really, really complicated; we’ve learned to do things with money that are so dizzying that we really have no idea what’s going to happen next. It comes from the belief that since we invented the stuff, we must understand that laws it behaves under. I’m looking fnordward to seeing how that theory turns out, but in the meantime we’re stuck sorting through a hip-deep pool of securitized instruments that’s had a slew of interesting derivatives poured into the mess.

To quote myself:

The reason why you should never invest in something you don’t understand is because if you don’t understand it, someone is going to increase their own profit with your ignorance.

These complicated financial instruments were created because someone found an obscure loophole or a clever sales pitch and manufactured something that would make money hand over fist – but that clever person never spelled out whose hand, and which fist. For all the money you hear about the securitization industry making by slicing and bundling mortages into investment vehicles, you can be sure that lots more got made in ways that none of us really understand yet. If it’s complicated, it was designed that way to obfuscate its true purpose.

Luckily for us, not everything in the recovery is going to be as complicated as the downfall. For example, the current flap about the insanely large bonuses given to AIG employees – the same ones that brought the company down? I think the solution to that egregious violation of the public trust is to make AIG pay the bonuses, but with their own money. I wonder how quickly they would backpedal if they had to cough up every cent themselves?

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When Money is Worthless, What Next?

I understand that inflation is one of the effects of supply and demand; increasing the supply of money in an economy lowers demand for it, making it less valuable. Zimbabwe’s economy has taken that to an extreme, with an estimated inflation rate of 90 sextillion percent.

Blink.

I can’t even wrap my mind around that number. It dwarfs inflation in Weimar’s Germany, which was a mere 850 billion percent and made wheelbarrows much more practical than wallets, at least for citizens that didn’t have five-billion mark notes kicking around and needed to buy a loaf of bread or two.

So when so much money has been printed that it becomes effectively worthless, what can be done? Is there a restart button that can be pushed? I know that other countries have devalued their own currency, effectively doing the opposite of printing more money by requiring people to exchange their existing cash for bills that actually have a value, but what I can’t figure out is how people function in a country where money really has no meaning.

If I have no money, I’m poor. I can’t buy the things that my friends and neighbors can. I will either do without, or people will give me things (goods or money), or I will find a way to earn more (converting my mental, physical, or spiritual energy into a form that I can convert into goods and services). But what if my friends, neighbors, and government are all poor as well? What happens if no one has any money to give me, and the work I can find doesn’t pay me enough to buy a cup of rice to feed my six children?

While the experts debate the economic realities of hyperinflation, I wonder if a metaphysical approach would be more or less helpful. The value of money is officially tied to something so that we can negotiate price and value. The United States has tied its own currency to gold, silver, and . . . whatever it’s tied to these days. But the only thing that money is actually linked to is the effort it takes to create the value behind it, right? For instance:

  • How many steaks can I get if I butcher that cow?
  • How many trips to Albany will that full tank of gas get me?
  • If you knit me a sweater, is that as valuable to me as a hot meal?

The people of Zimbabwe still exist, they still farm, they still have strong bodies and sharp minds with which to create goods and services of lasting value. Their currency is worthless, but they are not. I can only draw two conclusions from this:

  1. Money has failed to serve a useful purpose and is now no more useful than the proverbial ice cubes for Eskimos.
  2. The continuing existence of money in Zimbabwe is distracting from the fundamental truth that all value assigned by humans is based on human desire and need.

If I start seeing numbers printed on my money that I don’t have names for, I’m signing up for a time bank. After all, I was taught not to invest in anything I don’t understand, and in Zimbabwe at least, I don’t even understand money. To put it in Pagan terms, money there has left the realm of Earth to exist entirely as Air – a real imbalance.

Pagan Godparent Research

I’ve been thinking a fair amount about how godparenting does – and does not – work in the Pagan community. I’ve got more than a few ideas, but I decided that before I put them all together that I would like to find out about the experiences of other Pagans as well. To that end, I have a questionnaire!

You may respond in a comment or, if you prefer your answers not to be so public, comment with a means to contact you. If I would like to use direct quotes in any articles I write I will ask in advance.

If you answer “no” to the first two questions, there’s probably no real need to continue, but thanks anyway!

1 – do you follow a Pagan, Neopagan, or other earth-centered faith?
If yes, feel free to include your specific path:

2 – are you a godparent?
If you think you are but you just don’t call it that, what do you call
the relationship?

3 – how many godchildren do you have?

4 – any of your godchildren belong to a non-Pagan faith?
If yes, did the parents know about the faith difference before you
agreed to the relationship?

5 – How frequently are you in contact with your godchild? Daily,
weekly, monthly, less frequently?
Is the contact one-way (like sending cards or gifts) or two-way (like
email exchanges or spending time together)?

6 – what sorts of activities do you do together, if any?

7 – what percentage of contact with your godchild is focused on
religious instruction, conversation, or activities?

8 – is the religious aspect of your relationship highly important,
somewhat important, or not at all important to you? to your godchild?