wayfaring finance: economics on the ship of fools

It is said that there is a distinction between addiction and dependency, meaning that dependency may be a component of addiction, but is not in an of itself addiction. On the ground, in terms of social policy and in establishing the markers of ordinal ranking that seem imperative in a consumerist society; it would appear that the poor, the underclasses, are “addicted” to whatever crap they consume while the rest of society is merely dependent on whatever junk they take. Its a matter of semantics, but one with important consequences. It seems there always has to be a need for scapegoats and laying blame. The narcotics dealer, from his dominant position can accuse the addict of immoral behavior. Our current malaise is debt; and with it the spiritual complicity and ongoing narrative between debtors and lenders. But, who should carry most of the burden and responsibility for debt? A lender or a debtor? Or an adebtor?

---As we proceed it will become clear that the Master, Bosch, has not occupied himself with the ordinary outward concept of Christ's parable, but has pursued an inner spiritual meaning. Bosch sees the "son of man" in humanity as such, wandering lost about the dark earth, cut off from any connection with the spiritual world, and longing to find it again. As Bosch did not paint abstractions, he shows a person, or rather the portrait of an individual soul on the threshold of death, swaying between Good and Evil. --- Read More:http://www.american-buddha.com/cult.hieronymusbosch.1.htm

Mark Blyth:Germany painted the crisis as a struggle between the parsimonious North and the profligate South while the British cheered from the sidelines and the French organized the press conferences for the Germans.

The Anglo-German answer to this misdiagnosed crisis, now universally applied, was austerity: voluntary internal deflation in the profligate periphery to reduce wages and prices to levels commensurate with their external financial position. In other words, the Germans thought it was a good idea to run the functional equivalent of a gold standard in a democracy despite their own supposedly deep historical memory of what happened the last time we tried this.Read More:http://triplecrisis.com/how-to-turn-a-continent-into-a-subprime-cdo/a

---One may ask why Bosch paints such an ambivalent representation in The Prodigal Son when the picture of the fool in The Ship of Fools is so clearly and obviously delineated.... correct details of the traditional fool's garb. At the top of the staff, there is usually a bead, but sometimes it is the buttocks that are uppermost. The picture of The Ship of Fools (the society of man) presents a situation in which the human will is too weak to prove a directive force, the group has lost control. The ship sails they know not where, while all aboard gossip, eat and drink. Their actions are reflex responses to instinctual needs and immediate stimuli. High up in the tree can be seen the cause of this disastrous situation, Satan (Ahriman) himself. He has made himself at home there, and is gleefully surveying the impending chaos. The cleverest of the bunch, the Fool, who has quick wits and can respond to situations, is doused with wine. He ignores the cherries, the fruit of real thinking, and, like the rest, has a good time. They think they are fulfilling big tasks.--- Read More:http://www.american-buddha.com/cult.hieronymusbosch.1.htm

…In explaining this to their voters states such as the UK insisted that the problem was runaway spending under the last government, so spending had to be cut now or else the UK would become Greece. Other states, notably Germany, insisted that ‘more rules’ and greater discipline for those impecunious budget-falsifying Southerners, would fix the problem….

---Blyth:The unavoidable result across the European continent was a massive increase in government debt. While painting this as a story of fiscal irresponsibility has some plausibility in the Greek case, it simply isn’t true for anyone else. The Irish and the Spanish, I and S in the eponymous ‘PIGS’ were, for example, considered ‘best in neoliberal class’ in terms of debts and deficits until the crisis hit. Public debt is a consequence of the financial crisis, not its cause. Image:http://survivalus.blogspot.com/2010/12/life-in-hell-german-weimar.html

…Unfortunately, neither of these ‘fixes’ will work since these ‘objects of blame’ are not to blame for the crisis. Banks used to bail sovereigns, now sovereigns bail banks and citizens get to pay for it, through bailouts, lost output, higher unemployment, slashed services, tighter credit, and the costs of reinsurance to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, until it does. The problem began with the banks and continues to lie with the banks and blaming the state for a banking problem will not fix a banking problem. But what it has done, in a quite unexpected way, is to turn all of Europe into a continent-wide Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO).Read More:http://triplecrisis.com/how-to-turn-a-continent-into-a-subprime-cdo/

Blyth:What will cause the CDO to implode? Exactly the austerity policies Germany demands of everyone else, which as we now see, has slowed growth in Germany’s main markets and Germany itself, to a standstill. Such sustained slow or negative growth will make bondholders still more nervous. And yet the German response will be the same – more austerity – more rules – more councils of the same people who have kicked the can down the road for a year and a half, and more declarations of ‘unshakable commitments’ to the Euro that no one believes anymore. Europe has reached a point where its collective bank exposures are bigger than its collective bailout capacity. Like the CDO of legend, the income streams are running dry and correlation is rising to one. You can blame the state all you like, but its banking crisis at its core. The cover that the banks got from their bait and switch on the public is a one-time deal, and it is about to be rudely exposed. Read More:http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1879735,00.html

“debt as a human construct … that peculiar nexus where money, narrative or story, and religious belief intersect, often with explosive force.” ( Margaret Atwood, Payback )…As Atwood drolly notes, “The best nineteenth-century revenge is not seeing your enemy’s red blood all over the floor but seeing the red ink all over his balance sheet.”) As for that philandering Madame Bovary, Atwood writes, “Emma isn’t really punished for sex but for shopaholicism. Had she but learned double-entry bookkeeping and drawn up a budget, she could easily have gone on with her hobby of adultery forever — or at least until she got saggy — though she’d have done it in a more frugal manner.” ( Salon )

---Which humans would

ood like to feed to the earth? My guess is those tweedy, pencil-necked economists who tell us that "borrowing is actually laudable because it turns the wheels of 'the system,' and that spending lots of consumer money keeps some large, abstract, blimpish thing called 'the economy' afloat."--- Read More:http://www.salon.com/books/review/2008/10/28/payback image:http://itthing.com/the-capuchin-crypt-human-bones-as-far-as-the-eye-can-see

So, seen  at a basic level, a debt has little to do with money, money is simply an objectified response to the intangible. Many things can be owed, both quantifiable or not. So, debts are constantly incurred and relinquished. It seems every human relationship deals with an imaginary balance sheet that goes beyond any notarized arrangement if such exists. There is always a  burden of obligation and reward.They cannot exist independently. So, debt is inextricable from the exchange process in the business of life. As Atwood points out, there is an uneasy intersection here between the trinity of law, religion and a sense of morality, with god, bankers and government negotiating over non-negotiable golden calves. Maybe it comes down to the question of , “if money is the root of all evil, what is the root of evil?” Maybe its problematic that god in the Judeo-Christian sense is seen as a benign banker who jokingly sees us monetize the incalculable: life. The devil, or another Faustian figure, seduces us with material benefits, but perhaps this “contract” is just a sophisticated fairy tale, and the line between fair and foul is a bit more ambiguous than we feel comfortable with sice what we think of a moral and righteous may be little more than enlightened egotism….

….but here is a thought that draws an important distinction. to be compassionate towards the other because ultimately we are all one, it is a form of enlightened egotism. true altruism, of the ashlag kind, or the levinas and buber kinds, are based not on identity, but on the confirmation of otherness. in essence, spiritual altruism is defined by recognizing the other and saying thou. saying thou to one self is only part of enlightenment….. ( Martin Buber Dialogical Ecology )


So is there a way out of this mess? Yes, but only if there is recognition that high levels of public borrowing are symptomatic of a deeper problem of private-sector debt addiction. The real way to sustainable prosperity is through genuine improvements in productivity and real wage growth not asset-price bubbles.

In the short term macroeconomic policy should be designed to get the economy moving, with a bias towards policies that boost employment and the productive capacity of the economy.

Running alongside that, there needs to be a long-term and credible plan for deficit reduction that sticks. Financial markets will take some convincing of this because there is a tendency for policymakers to behave like alcoholics who pledge to give up the booze but who fall off the wagon within a couple of days.Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jul/31/us-economy-debt-addiction

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