THE HORRIBLE COSTS OF A FAKE WORD

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The world has literally ‘lost it’ over the horrible word capitalism.

This may seem like an overstatement, but it can be justified easily. All it needs is some clear thinking based on a few words which — unlike capitalism — are rooted in reality.

First of all, any ‘-ism’ cannot be trusted blindly because — over time — it becomes a hindrance to individual growth. Anyone promoting or even naively adopting an ‘-ism’ is likely living or hiding ‘in a box’, which state blocks his or her individual progress.

Simple question: In a society where the basic vocabulary stunts individual progress, can we EVER expect overall well-being? Can one get nectar out of bird feathers? …


Consider the hypothetical case of an economy with annual GDP of 5 trillion US dollars, the broad economic dynamics of which are the subject matter of this exploration.

The hypothetical country whose economy we analyze here is named AB, because its internal economy is composed of two distinct components A and B. The total population of AB is 100 million, but only about 2% of it belongs to B; the rest of it belongs to A. For the ease of dealing with round numbers, we shall say that A and B have populations of 100 million and 2 million respectively.

To a large extent, A and B are geographically separated within AB, but the separation is not total. Intermingling does occur. Main roads and highways, for example, carry cars belonging to members of both A and B. Commercial airlines also carry members of both A and B, whereas private and chartered airplanes carry mostly the members of B. …


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Dear NATO Member,

Much is achieved in “civilized life” by deceiving others in a calculated manner. When “others” are simple-minded people, this strategy works very well. Indeed, this is a time-tested strategy of gaining “competitive edge” in the stress-filled and never-ending chase for “the good life”.

In fact this tactic forms the very basis of “civilized life”. In a society, if everybody said what they meant, and meant what they said, the society would have to be dubbed “primitive”, would it not?

But the tactic has its limits. History has a habit of not being deceived for long by “the civilized”. That should not surprise us, because one would not expect the laws of karma to be swayed by the words of mere mortals — no matter how “civilized” they may imagine themselves to be. Therefore, time after time, history drifts into territories not charted by the most loquacious wordsmiths of “the civilized” — which territories, for that very reason, are also rather inconvenient to “the civilized”. …


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What exactly does “the resistance” resist? What should “the resistance” resist?

Clearly, the target of any resistance has to be some form of unethical behavior. Only that can justify — and indeed call for! — resistance. So what is the underlying ethic?

The following is an attempt to uncover a possible answer.

***

Imagine a transaction between a farmer and a trader of farm produce.

The farmer’s time and energy are fully committed to getting a decent harvest in the face of fickle weather and uncertain market prices, while also looking ahead to the next season. …


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What am I doing … ?

It comes as a slight surprise when we first learn that the word ‘technology’ has its root in the Greek word tekhne, which meant ‘art’; after all, today we understand art as being quite distinct from technology. The older Greek word harks back to the era when technology, in Greece and elsewhere, was much simpler; we may assume that practitioners of tekhne in Greece were viewed much as we view ‘artisans’ today.

It is no surprise, however, to learn that the word ‘engineering’ is rooted in the word ‘engine’; presumably, in the early days of engineering, ‘engines’ of one kind or another dominated the scene. But, to dig deeper, we enquire about the origin of the word ‘engine’. It turns out that ‘engine’ is indirectly rooted in the Latin word for ‘intellect’ or ‘inventiveness’. …


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In an earlier essay, Homo Implacatus, we explored certain unavoidable consequences of the fact that our beloved habitat Earth has now entered the Anthropocene era.

Although “wise guys” do not normally read such essays, it is possible to imagine a wise guy asking: “So what, eh? What does all that mumbo-jumbo mean in practical terms, eh?”

[Have you noticed that “wise guys” are always talking about “practical terms” — being totally blind to anything other than “which side of the bread is buttered”?]

Fortunately, however, we do have an answer for all such “wise guys”.

Even in the most difficult and the most trying situations, the only rational option is to remain mindful and keep bravely to the right path. Faith and patience are crucial; or, as some would put it, “God brought you to it, and God will take you through it.” …


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IS THIS WHAT IT IS?

A Martian on reconnaissance mission to earth may well include the following in the report to HQ:

Conflicts rage amongst human beings almost all over Planet Earth. At any given time, many of these conflicts simmer just under the surface, while others flare out in the open. The root cause of conflicts is always land or other resources — such as oil, natural gas, human labour, water, minerals and so on.

Rarely do humans admit that a conflict is about land, oil, or whatever. Instead, they go to great lengths to disguise the real causes of conflicts using fantastic cover stories. …


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Economists define ‘the wealth of a society’ as its total stock of useful assets — homes, cars, buildings, roads, factories, cattle, money, gold … et cetera. Let us call this definition D1.

A definition serves merely as a starting point for a logical exploration of related ideas. However — and necessarily — the direction which the exploration takes depends on the definition. In any discussion of ideas, a conscious effort is needed to understand how it is influenced by the definitions of its basic terms.

Furthermore, by questioning the basic definitions underlying a discussion — and trying out alternative definitions — one is able to explore a broader range of ideas, to think ‘out of the box’. …


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Ever wonder why the world is stuck so scarily up on a humongous and toxic mountain of debt?

Global public and private debt has now reached levels which have even the top-bankers worried. Of course, as we have shown clearly here, these bankers are concerned only about their own wealth, not about ‘the average folk’ in any society.

However, for their own safety and well-being, today ‘the average folk’ need to wise up about how the deadly game of debt is played out in societies, or across societies, often even leading to conflict and war. In peacetime, ‘the average folk’ face financial strain. And if war does break out, it is they who will risk injury or death in the cause of ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ or something — not the bankers.

Sadly, most experts in finance and economics have built lucrative careers by confounding matters. They cannot be expected to answer this question in a clear and honest manner.

Therefore we provide here a simple and basic explanation, which any clear-minded and right-thinking ‘amateur’ can understand at once, without too much difficulty.

Basic economic theory: A loan is a financing mechanism which can contribute to an individual’s or a company’s economic well-being.

How? By putting the borrowed amount to work in the real economy, the individual or company earns more than the interest payable on loan, and thereby repays the loan and comes out ahead.

Suppose a loan of 100,000 dollars attracts total annual repayment of 12,000 dollars, and the additional capital employed in business generates additional gross profit of 25,000 dollars. Then the business is ahead by 13,000 dollars per year, thanks to the additional finance available.

In fact, for honest businesses and individuals, debt financing makes sense only if this condition is satisfied. If an unwise decision is made, the financial vultures are quick to swoop down.

But, sadly, it gets much, much worse. In the hands of dishonest people — financial vultures — debt becomes a legalized instrument to serve multiple toxic ends, as we show below.

Toxic uses of debt:

1. Politicians borrow freely from future generations — that is, they incur huge amounts of public debt — to win their dirty games of politics today. As confirmed recently by DT, they are quite aware of the fact that they will not be around when the reckoning comes. Central banks play along.

2. Creditors exploit needy borrowers with higher interest burdens and foreclosures. Up to a point, higher risk of default may justify higher interest rate. However, usury and pre-calculated foreclosures amount to cruelly exploitative business practices. In effect, the client becomes the victim. If they do not receive good education, student borrowers also fall into this category of victims.

3. Corporate bosses utilize debt to doctor their balance sheets, puff up the share price, and thereby boost the value of their stock options and bonuses. Real investment in the business suffers.

4. Speculators utilize debt to multiply the size of their gambles on the market, through over-leveraging. Since these operations have grown to a humongous scale, markets no longer indicate the fair economic value of assets; financial asset bubbles are the inevitable result.

5. Predatory corporate raiders take over healthy companies with borrowed money, grab quick private profits right and left, and then declare bankruptcy. The real economy takes a big hit.

Of course we do not claim that the above list is complete, but the picture is quite clear. Indiscriminate and dishonest use of debt proves harmful to the real economy of honest, hard-working people.

While the scams listed above are quite egregious, the most egregious of the debt-based financial scams is surely the following:

6. The global uber-wealthy squirm out of their tax obligations to any society on the planet, but opt instead to become the buyers of government or private debt.

Or, in simple words:

The global uber-wealthy do not wish to contribute as fellow-citizens to the well-being of any part of the planet. From their ‘safe heaven’ perches, these people would rather place bets on bits and pieces of the planet. Bets can be placed ‘long’ or ‘short’, and very high leverage is available to such speculators, who are really ‘debt vultures’; thus their power over societies is hugely multiplied.

However, through the power of propaganda, these speculators are projected as saviours of the society in which they speculate. Hefty commissions are passed around, and only the few at the centre of the scam know the long-term implications of the transactions.

These speculators calculate that ordinary tax-payers can always be politically arm-twisted either to pay up their debts — or to sell their public assets at a discount. Local politicians are bribed and used as ‘agents’ to cheat and arm-twist their own societies. Incredibly, ‘people’s representatives’ end up working as debt collectors squeezing the very people they represent!

Under steadily heavier burdens of debt, communities are pulled into deep, long-term economic hardship. In effect, through cunning financial transactions, whole societies are bankrupted. To rub salt into their injuries, they are then accused of corruption, inefficiency or lack of ‘progress’.

***
So, finally, what is the answer?

Why is the world stuck so scarily up on a humongous debt mountain?

What can we conclude from the examples of toxic business practices listed above?

These practices reveal the limitless greed and rapacity of the uber-wealthy, and in their total lack of concern for other human beings.

Phrases such as ‘democracy’, ‘free market’ and ‘capitalism’ are mere fig-leaves for those sucking up the world’s wealth like there was no tomorrow, like human life had nothing else to offer. This is the life’s only goal of the ‘financial vultures’, who share nothing of the lives ‘the average folk’. Indeed they fear and despise ‘the average folk’.

There are about two hundred countries in the world. Any country rich in natural resources and/or a low-cost workforce is a potential target for financial takeover, exploitation and eventual bankruptcy. The country’s long-term sustenance and welfare is not part of the business strategy.

After sucking one country dry, ‘international finance’ moves on to another country — another ‘golden goose’ — with the same heartless playbook. Rinse and repeat. Everywhere they go, they proclaim that they bring ‘progress’, ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ to the people.

***

However, underneath this global play of debt and ‘neoliberal economics’, an almost incredible amount of ‘paper-wealth’ — quite possibly running into many tens of trillions of dollars — is desperately seeking worthwhile real assets as a kind of ‘post-facto’ collateral.

In the absence of collateral of real economic value, the play of anchorless financial assets piles up the global debt mountain bigger and bigger.

It appears that a game of global ‘hot potato’ is being played out. Every player’s goal is that when — inevitably and inexorably — the financial bubble punctures, ‘The hot potato should be on any other sucker’s books, but not on mine!’

Therefore, underneath all the heartless and super-clever bravado, which is a weird form of machismo, there is also fear and desperation — the fear that, when the tide runs out, one will be exposed naked.

In analyzing the role of the uber-wealthy — or even in the unlikely event of having to deal with one of them — it is important to keep the psychological factors clearly in mind.

Balance sheets and books of account usually hide more than they honestly inform. …


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The Chairman of a large global bank recently gave a TV interview about the state of the world economy [1]. Not surprisingly, the Chairman gave what was intended to be a sound and learned justification for a world order characterized by barrier-less trade.

However, the justification came out as being utterly sophomoric in its quality. That is to say, it was not too different from how a privileged undergraduate might argue in a college debate. Only the mannerisms were different — the uncle spoke, not the nephew or the niece.

During the interview, the Chairman championed the cause of ‘openness’ as applied to trade. …

About

Naresh Jotwani

Trying to figure it out … down to the very basics!

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