Worzels World - Growing the Beast
Whatever is this strange often-talked-about animal called the economy? There is a global economy and national economies. I am told there are such things as regional, household and personal economies too. I think there must be one around here too. Something has been eating all my money. I suspect it is a hungry economy. Although I have looked for it everywhere, it's like a feral cat – you know it's around but can’t quite manage to pin it down. You may never see it but only come across little clumps of feathers and the bird life dwindles.
As we approach an election we will be hearing a great deal about economies great and small. I never studied economics at school. I somehow thought myself above it all. At age 11 I had begun delivering papers and milk and worked at many other jobs throughout my school years. Even children could find sufficient employment in those days. I generally had enough cash to replace worn out bicycle parts and buy an occasional burger and chips. In short, I was rich. I figured a kid with money in his pocket didn't need to study economics. With these qualifications in mind I offer the following to those who have studied neither feral cats nor economics.
The economy is an avaricious dragon, somehow unwittingly adopted as common pet by the world. Self-interest and pursuit of profit is fodder for this insatiable beast. A healthy economy cannot merely be sustained. No, its nature is such that if it is to be kept from turning on his keepers and biting it must be constantly fed and continue to grow. I wonder how big it will get before it crushes us all ?
Like a pagan religious cult, the worship and homage we pay the economy requires the offering of many sacrifices, human and otherwise. Politicians will justify practically anything if it can be purported to be ‘good for the economy’. The witchdoctor acolytes who study its habits and moods are called economists. These shamans argue about much but agree that the Good Samaritan was a poor economist. Whilst his actions may have been laudable in an abstruse way, following his example will not improve the economy.
The ‘greed is good’ creed of the 1980’s was introduced into popular culture specifically to discourage any such rash acts of charity, all in the name of growing the economy – and grow it has. It has gobbled up a useful public service and left but the bare bones of bureaucratic inefficiency. It has consumed a largely middle class egalitarian society and left only haves and have-nots. A rapacious dinosaur, destruction follows every sweep of its mighty tail. In its wake lie dung heaps of child poverty in the world’s most fertile country, homelessness, pollution, social disorder, despair. An ‘economy’ which once served people, now enslaves them. Government once accountable to the people, now hold people accountable to itself.
Although wealth never made anyone happy, misery is certainly easier to bear if you have the price of dinner and a beer. Yet I have seen places that do not have an economy. They simply cannot afford one. In North Africa’s Sahara desert the most precious commodity is water. Gold, Gemstones, and US dollars still have some value there but they cannot save your life. In small villages and oasis towns the difference between life and death for the weak, the very old, and sometimes, the very young, is whether it rains once, twice, three times or not at all that year. In the good years there is fat on the goats and the tomatoes are plump and juicy. In the bad years there is privation and want. A small village of around a hundred people that I visited has sustained life for a millennium. It has grown little but has survived without an economy. However dinner there was spartan and without beer.
Can we afford to keep such a pet as the economy? Does it, like other dangerous animals, need a sturdy cage? Or like the feral cat, should we locate this destructive and merciless animal –tame no longer, if ever it was – and kill it?
Clearly out of control we have grown it long enough and if we wish to restore what has been lost it must be slaughtered, carefully butchered and shared out fairly. Its remains may provide
some sustenance for a needy world. Soup bones would be plentiful. No more would this malevolent beast despoil the earth, its mindless avaricious plundering can cease and there will be birdsong once again. n email@example.com
Although wealth never made anyone happy, misery is certainly easier to bear if you have the price of dinner and a beer.