It is possible that the film of the lives of highly stratified societies is really a blooper reel.
One fundamental prop of humour is repetition. Repetition by an individual illustrates his character and once his character becomes established, it is not even necessary to deliver the well-worn punch line to elicit laughs but merely to present the character straight up.
What a Banker...
Hence, we give you the banker. Not normally associated with slapstick comedy, but surely based on past performances and current posturing, they make one of history’s timeless comedic characters.
Financial collapses are so common in human history that the definitive book on monetary history is entitled with biting irony “This time is different … 800 years of financial folly” by Reinhart and Rogoff.
Every time a financial figure stands up to emphatically state that this time, (trust me!) they have the situation under control and imply the previous administrators were just not that sophisticated, we can possibly suppress a gnaffaw down to a giggle. Just barely.
Of course, they rarely name the previous administrators because very often it was themselves or, at the very least, the guys who hired them and showed them the ropes.
But implying their new system is more sophisticated and stable and that it can’t fail because “This time is different ..”.
"This Time is Different"
Much like Bart Simpson’s “I didn’t do it.” , the fast food ad “Where’s the beef?”, and signature lines like “I don’t get no respect”, “This time is different ..” is verbal stock and trade to financial and monetary administrators. It is used almost as much as “Change” is by politicians running for election.
The record of bankers is almost unmatched in terms of predictable, relentless failure. But this is brushed aside by those controlling the printing presses. What can’t be explained is best left ignored.
In fact, this time is no different than any other financial crisis. The only thing that changes is the wording of the new policy. The now discredited “wealth effect” has been replaced by Ben Bernanke with the term “asset enhancement” which means exactly the same housing inflation induced spending binge as before.
Cash Cows and Power Bases
Bankers are not uniquely funny. Much the same levity can be drawn from other leading administrators down through history. Unfortunately, agriculture, forestry, wild game populations and societies in general do not collapse as frequently as financial systems even though the patterns might be identical.
Working the soil to exhaustion, exploiting more marginal lands, cutting down the forests, fishing out the seas and essentially consuming your seedstock are well worn policies common to the administrator class in countless societies.
Feeding the expectation of growth, which just happens to be their cash cow and power base in the short term, has proved more critical to maintaining the priests, court advisors, aristocracy, capitalists, commissars and administrators in their positions of privilege than the future welfare of those the populations they were responsible for leading. Over exploitation is to the upper strata of a society what debt is to bankers. Good for them and bad for the nation.
Bankers, it seems, have never had a monopoly on comedy. They just happen to have had more practice at it.
Humour and Myths
- Launch the world's excess population into space to colonize other planets.
With a population growing at a rate of 80 million per year, this would mean 5500 space shuttle launches per day assuming 40 people per shuttle and no equipment or supplies. The estimated cost of putting 3 people on Mars is $100 billion but once you get there the land is cheap.
- Canada should take in all of the worlds' excess population.
Canada's population would quadruple in one year. We would become a net food importer within four weeks of the start of the influx and we would never recover environmentally. With our soil and climate, the resources needed to support a large population make the Sahara a far better bet.
- Canada needs more people to help develop the country's vast natural resources.
None of our resources, from forest to agricultural land is being used below its sustainable limits. The Atlantic fishery has actually crashed. What specific resources do we need help developing and why couldn't unemployed fishermen, miners and loggers do it?
- A warming climate will allow us to produce more food.
Climate change will bring both warming and drying to the world's major bread baskets. Small areas may benefit but overall there will be an increasing tendency towards more severe weather and more frequent droughts.
- Canada has lots of space to accommodate more people.
Space does not equal resources as the residents of Arctic regions, deserts and rain forests will tell you. Canada has no resources that are currently being under used, except its human resources. Let’s focus on building people not paving farmland.
- Technological advances will save us. (just in time)
Technology, whether in the form of fusion in a bathtub or wheat that will grow on permafrost, is a stop-gap until we develop the technology of sustainability, i.e., how to change our lifestyles to live in balance with the environment.
- We can replace natural systems with human made ones to increase output. Example: Canada's current food output can be produced in greenhouses occupying only 1% of the land we currently use for agriculture.
Canada's has 45 million hectares of class 1,2 and 3 agricultural land. 1% of this is .45 million hectares or about 43 billion square feet. At a construction cost of $50/sq. ft. that equals an investment of $2.1 trillion for the structures alone. The energy required to run the heat and water for the green-houses would be 5 trillion kilowatt hours which would equal the output of 160 Darlington nuclear reactors. At a cost of $12 billion each, this would bring the total bill to $4 trillion. And, do you really expect this to work.
- Human populations have always grown.
Although population growth graphs typically show smooth upward trends of human numbers, in fact, there have been large declines in population throughout history. Plagues, wars and starvation (very often caused by resource exhaustion) have caused steep declines in population in all regions of the world on a disturbingly regular basis. Human populations don’t grow continuously; they grow and then they collapse. Check the population cycles graphs in the Population History section.
- The New World (the Americas) was largely empty when Europeans arrived in the late 1400’s.
There were between 50 and 90 million people living in the Americas when Columbus first stepped on to the beach of a Caribbean island. One century later, the native population had been reduced by close to 95%. Genocide and disease decimated the indigenous peoples during the 16th century. When major European settlement took place in the 17th century, they encountered mostly scattered villages of natives with greatly diminished numbers and military strength.
Mantras which have proven to be so totally wrong:
- “The wealth effect” – like a zombie, it has arisen from the dead and being used by Ben Bernanke in a new form - “asset enhancement”. Otherwise known as housing inflation upon which higher debt can be leveraged.
- ‘trickle down” – let the rich print money for themselves and perhaps they’ll spend it on something that allows a few pennies to fall into the hands of the middle class.
- “middle class” – what most of us used to be, but now a shrinking club with most members joining the working poor rabble and a few stepping up to the country club.
- “a high tide lifts all boats” – only yachts are lifted by the growth-forever policies.
- “grow your way out of debt” – a larger version of the structure that is going broke will only go broke bigger. Ponzi boilerplate.
- “print your way out of debt” – is what “grow your way out of debt” really means. Neither of them have ever worked. If the structure generates debt, making it larger won’t make less debt, particularly in a world of declining resources.
Once you realize the above are promotional slogans rather than philisophical mantras or viable operational strategies, things become a little more clear.