Thursday, August 14, 2008

Still no time for a lot of writing today...

...the HOA meeting last night did NOT go well and I have a pile of things to sort through and letters to write and get delivered or mailed out on some of these issues before the Board elections next Wednesday. Sigh. I'm glad I'm not on the Board - nor would I want to be. I'm seriously thinking we should look at trying to move away from this Development. They have messed up things so badly - even Realtors are now warning people away from here. And it's not like they're well-intentioned and just goofed up. There is some genuine stupdity sitting up there - inevitably coupled with a control freak personality. Right now I'm a bit angry, and I really need to work on that. I hate it when people make me feel insecure or in danger, and with the economy the way it is, having idiots in control of my property's future and value is in that zone.

But anyway, didn't I just say I wasn't going to write a lot? You knew better. I can hardly write anything short of an epistle!

What I wanted to bring to your attention is the continuation of John Michael Greer's posts on the Household Economy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Idols of the Marketplace

...The twilight of the household economy, the theme of last week’s post, is a good example. A number of my readers responded to the post with emails describing couples they knew who maintained two salaries, even though the costs incurred by doing so – professional childcare, commuting, office clothing, and more – far exceeded the income of the less lucrative of the two jobs. This is quite common nowadays, because the cultural narratives surrounding employment make it impossible for most American families to notice that their economic status might be improved noticeably by giving up one salary in exchange for full-time involvement by one family member in the household economy...

I know plenty of people in the exact same boat, and there doesn't seem to be any way to get through to them.

...the myth of the market starts from the belief that all human economic activity naturally involves free exchanges of value in a free market, mediated by an accepted measure of value – that is, by money. The myth goes on to claim that any economic activity outside the world of market exchanges either doesn’t count, doesn’t contribute to prosperity, or is a bad thing that can only be redeemed by bringing it within the sacred precincts of the market. Finally, the myth insists, anything that restricts or regulates the choices made by participants in market exchanges is a bad thing, guaranteed to hinder prosperity, because the market itself – guided by Adam Smith’s famous “invisible hand” – inevitably maximizes the benefits received by all its participants, so long as it’s given the freedom to do so...

I'd call this the "myth that the robber barons give a rats rear end about your true best interests."

...Now it so happens that some cultural narratives are myths in both senses of the word: they are crucial elements of a society’s view of the world, and they also make statements about the world that can be shown to be untrue. The myth of the market falls into this interesting category. Just now, in America and some other industrial nations, it plays a central role in defining how people think about the economic dimension of their lives. At the same time, some of its core assumptions, and many of the statements about the world that derive from it, are hard to support on any basis but blind faith...

Blind greed, rather.

During the Depression years, politicians imposed an alphabet soup of regulations on the American economy, and those remained in place until the early 1980s, when most of them were removed. If the myth of the market is to be believed, the American economy should have been more prosperous before the mid-1930s and after the mid-1980s than in the intervening period.

The problem, of course, is that this isn’t what happened. Until the 1930s, the American economy was racked at regular intervals by a disastrous cycle of booms and busts that drastically limited American prosperity and made severe economic depressions a frequent experience. As the New Deal took hold, the economic cycle damped down to livable levels, and the United States entered the longest period of general prosperity in its history. That prosperity waned in the 1970s as US oil production peaked and began to decline, but the deregulation of the 1980s did not bring it back. For most Americans, per capita income in constant dollars has declined since the early 1970s, and many other measures of effective wealth have slumped accordingly; the rate of infant mortality in America today, for example, is roughly on a par with that of Indonesia. What has returned, and in spades, is the old cycle of boom and bust.


Lott is, of course, still suffering from the delusion that America has the best health care in the world, but that's another post for another day. The point here is that prior to the 30s, the market was unregulated and the fiat money bankers made a mess out of things on a regular basis. Now that de-regulation of the banks and investment houses was reinstated in the 80s under Reagan, the mess is back again. What a surprise - not!

...Just as it’s clearly not true that the unregulated market automatically brings prosperity – the invisible hand, it turns out, is quite capable of giving us the finger – the issues raised in the last two posts suggest that it’s also not true that all economic activity ought to be subject to the market’s vagaries. Economies outside the market system could play a large role in helping to balance out the market’s wobbles. The household economy is one potential balancing force; another could come from local economies driven by the very different forces of reciprocity and custom, in which surplus products are exchanged as gifts between neighboring families. Other economies beyond the market also deserve exploration...

If you don't make yourself dependent upon commercialism, you stand a much better chance of having a stable economic situation.

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