Friday, October 24, 2008

Alpaca lunch - you bringa Marx


Best in show - equal first amongst equals


Money makes me nervous
. When the current financial crisis hit, Anatole Kaletsky observed in The Times,

The wonder of financial crises is how events can move straight from impossible to inevitable without ever passing through improbable.

This is the sort of thing that keeps sleep at bay. We all knew it could happen but no one had the bollocks to risk manage it. Anyone in a position to do so was making too much money from it. The world is now waking up to what many of us have known for a long, long time – that rich people aren’t necessarily smart people, in fact they’re much more likely to be fatally stupid. This is why their stranglehold on the commodities that keep us alive has been so terrifying. Anyone who’s ever closely watched the film Wall Street will know that the much quoted Gordon Gecko grab that morphed its way into the paradigm that devoured common sense is actually,

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

Let’s consider that qualifier – for a lack of a better word. Is it possible that if Gordon Gecko had been a more articulate man, we might have been spared two decades of the culturecide that is rampant capitalism? What if the better word he lacked was, for example aspiration or passion? What if building a better world involves a more substantial act than buying more white goods? I’m a big fan of the Australian economist Clive Hamilton and his rage against affluenza. He’s been banging on for ever about the untenability of economic growth being the benchmark of a healthy society. Clearly citizens of the world, no matter how patriotic, can’t keep increasing their rate of personal consumption. At some point they will run out of money or storage space or trouser sizes or all three.

Here’s how smart all these financial gurus who’ve been taking home the equivalent of Cuba’s GDP in annual bonuses are. Most of them have no idea of the ingredients that constitute the ‘financial products’ they’ve been so zealously flogging. The only quality these ‘products’ possessed was their desirability. And people say women who love diamonds are vacuous. How gorgeous would you look with a string of junk bonds draped around your neck? So now it’s all gone the way of the pear, it’s slowly dawning on all those smugly superannuated early retirees that their pension funds have gone on sabbatical in a south sea bubble leaving them waving helplessly from sinking sand. Does the idea of a universal National Insurance system funded by full-term, full-time workers, employers and profits from tangible assets like efficient public transport and sustainable utility services appeal to anyone?

And what about those Ma and Pa Kettle mortgages threatening global financial viability? The lenders knew that the people who took out those insane loans wouldn’t be able to meet the payments, so they sold the debt on. Greed is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason. It absolves itself of the responsibility to do what is right, in the sense that it fails to accept that one person’s gain, if it results in a loss for other individuals or organisations, will likely have negative social consequences that will be compounded by its serial replication. So greed was a cataclysmic disaster in the end because, like Anatole says, when the debt suddenly stopped moving around, it had to crash and burn somewhere. The money everyone thought they had, wasn’t ever really there. The low-wage slaves who bought six-bedroomed houses did so on the premise that their houses would gain in value, i.e. move from one arbitrary fantasy figure to a higher arbitrary fantasy figure, remaining one vital step ahead of foreclosure. And, as Clive says, at some point, a critical mass was inevitably reached.

Oprah Winfrey. I’ve said it before, I don’t give this dangereuse nearly enough attention. Presented with the challenge of solving world poverty, what does Oprah do? Why dang it, she gets on to all her friends who make shit and asks them to double their shit quota and then she hauls Bono out of whatever twilight home for the perpetually addled he normally inhabits and drags him around the glittering emporia of Chicago, gleefully buying ten of every custom i-thing and t-thing that retail hell can conjure. Buy even more shit to help the poor – it could only have come from Oprah. I'll bet the starving Sudanese are using the last of their strength to compose thank you songs and dances even as I write. Of course she seems ridiculous and laughable but, like all the other idiots with wallets the size of Winnepeg she’s treated like some grand duchess of wisdom. If she’s got that much money, she must be smart, right? Besides, she’s swallowed a library of self-improvement books over the years so she must know something. Maybe things will change now. If admiration for this kind of profligacy not to mention indecent disrespect for the palpable suffering for which it is partly responsible in the first place turns to disdain, then the turmoil will have been worth every phantom cent.

At the risk of colonising the moral high ground, House of Pants is a cash economy. It’s surprising how much respectably acquired income you can sock away if you’re not paying interest to lots of people who persuaded you to have something you didn’t want and don’t need now rather than when you’ve saved up enough money and have had the time to think it through thoroughly. Apart from the ill-conceived purchase of a hypoallergenic owly-cat some years ago – a mistake I won’t be making again in a hurry. (Barney – I won’t tell you again, step away from the combine harvester. That marijuana crop belongs to Stinky Pete and he will not be happy if he comes back from his Hell’s Angels road trip to find you’ve snaffled up his future-proofing scheme). Where was I? Mistakes. Yep, Barney was my rock bottom in that department. Apart from that moment of madness, I pretty much stick to the principle of simple taste equals minimal waste. I do think Stinky Pete’s on to something though. Drugs are a good investment in the future. We’re all going to need plenty of them in the months to come, if only to endure the chorus of groans from peers who thought they were so much cleverer than us 'investing' their inflated salaries in hedge funds and putting off seeing the world until they could afford to go first class. As the grey nomad army puts up in trailer parks across the western world and besieges local supermarkets for shelf-stacking jobs, I hope to be firmly ensconced in the unmortgaged new Seat of Pants nostalgically pasting my coach tickets into scrapbooks.

It was JP Getty who said, ‘the meek shall inherit the earth but not its mineral rights.’ Well watch those mining shares plummet and see who’s going to be smiling in the new reality. At this juncture, it seems absurd to be trying to tie in the picture above taken at the recent Birregurra Festival by a glasserless Ms O'Dyne but it calls to mind a television show I once saw advancing the theory that the most successful economies were built on the backs of beasts of burden, a concept illustrated with the scene of conquistadors ravaging the South American continent while a herd of startled alpacas looked on in consternation. I’m with the alpaca – don’t be coming near me with no saddle, pal. I started out by saying money makes me nervous. It’s probably truer to say incomplete transactions and the involvement of other people in them make me nervous. My crypticism is due to an inexplicable dependency on superstition. I cannot reveal all at the moment but it is a bit of a saga … Barney, do not even think about walking under that ladder…


38 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

Great pic and post, Pants, is that your sack-o-cash around your neck? Smart liquidy move there.
I was so tired from telling clients to get out of the stock market and now and fast but most of them ignored me. Sadly for them.
It was a total pyramid of illusion.
The death throes are not pretty.
I'm looking forward to Pantum Domicilum Resurrectum.
XO
WWW

That's So Pants said...

Hi WWW

Counting the days! I think I've done OK but then I don't want for much - now that's what I call smart. I don't waste any time worrying about what I don't have, unless of course it's my mental health.

xxx

Pants

Brian Hughes said...

Haven't got any money. Never have had any money. Never will have any money. Am I happy? No...but that's because I'm a cynical old sod. It's got nowt to do with me being poor, the one current advantage of which is that I couldn't give a stuff about the world economic crisis.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Brian

I hear you. I suppose I'm more actively engaged because of my circumstances. I think it's a good thing and I was even relatively pragmatic about all the involuntary dicking about that came my way as a result.

xxx

Pants

Ann O'Dyne said...

I still haven't found my glasses but I just do CNTL+ and the type enlarges and that's the reason I prefer life via monitor screen.

I now see that the Birre Firetruck was on hand to douse any funny business in case that cloven-hooved alpaca was a satyr in silky fluffy disguise.

Karl's funnier brother Groucho was quoted today in The Australian saying "I made a killing on Wall St - I shot my broker"
It is recorded that Groucho really did lose a squillion in the crash of 1929 - oh sorry
the correction of 29.
I'm a communist.

kris said...

Ms Pants

It looks very sunny there!

That's So Pants said...

Hi Ms O'Dyne

I don't mind telling you I found that alpaca extremely attractive. The long eyelashes get me every time.

Hi Kris

An apparition - you should see it today. I was NEVER this cold in London.

xxx

Pants

Laurie said...

Superb, Ms Pants! Wasn't it good ol' Uncle Karl (in Capital Vol III, if memory serves) who said "With the development of interest-bearing capital and the credit system, all capital seems to be duplicated, and at some points triplicated, by the various ways in which the same capital, or even the same claim, appears in various hands in different guises."

Uncle Karl could have been channeling Gordon Gecko on that one!

That's So Pants said...

Hi Laurie

Arise the new wisdom. All hail the geezer in the shabby suit.

xxx

Pants

Andrew said...

How many houses of cards will we see in a lifetime? I have seen two, that is enough. This would appear to be the worst. How many times do people need reminding, ethical practice and private business are not connected. Companies are there to make money, and they must be controlled by rules and regulations.

Apart from my partner's superannuation balance, I wonder if I would ever know about this world upset, if not for the media.

Nicely put too Pants.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Andrew

What floors me as that so many of us feel this way and have had our quality of life seriously undermined by this hideous age. Why has it taken so long for the folk who 'lead' us to realise it's a bad, bad thing?

xxx

Pants

phil said...

"...realise it's a bad bad thing?"

They ain't realised nothing, my dear pants. You just watch it build up again, once we regain our confidence.

Oh, and the word verification was "chilin." That's very cool. As in either all god's chilin, or I be just chilin.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Phil

I DO hope you're wrong but I suspect you are right about the ambition of the people who still believe in the wonderfulness of market forces. I think we have to take an active role in changing that mindset.

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

What? An alpaca? Are you sure?
I thought it was 'Miss Birregurra' 2008.

R.H. said...

I'm taking you to Werribee Plaza: Donut King. They're one dollar each. You can have seven.

R.H. said...

Don't bring the horse.

That's So Pants said...

Hi RH

In the words of Duke Ellington,

'Donuting 'til you hear from me.'

xxx

Pants

BlissHill said...

Well written Pants. You do make my head hurt sometimes. So much thinking to do.

I will say we are quietly snickering here at our 'wealthier' friends who looked down on us when we didn't buy shares, but paid off our mortgage instead.

Now, we're laughin'.......

I am pleased to have met the 'Owly Cat' I knew he would look like that.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Blissie

It was the smugness that got to me too. I don't mind people having money - in fact there are few things I care less about. It's the compulsion to compete over absolutely everything that I can't stomach. When your old hippy friends proudly declare they bought a brand new Volvo and without a single trace of irony, you know the boundries of common decency have been irrevocably breached.

Barney says hi and he's sure you mean that as a compliment.

xxx

Pants

Brian Hughes said...

Annie says I have to wish you Happy Birthday. She didn't mention how old you were, so I'm estimating about 82 candles.

Andrew said...

I should wish Bill Gates happy birthday today, but he has caused me much anxiety over the last decade. It is better that I wish Pants happy birthday since her words have only given me pleasure.

R.H. said...

Happy birthday (thirty-nine again?).

I hear you'll be living near my sister. She owns five new houses in that town, all furnished from the local tip. She herself lives in a tin shed.
It's upbringing you know, she was adopted by wealthy graziers, boarded out at Firbank private school. You can't expect sunniness after that.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Brian

82 sounds about right.

Hi Andrew

Awww - thanks.

Hi RH

I'm looking forward to meeting your sister. Can you ask her to look out for a squatter's chair for me please - old habits and all that.

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

She's got a cane commode I know of. A collector's item she says. And it's a bit ratty too. But I'm certain she'd let you have it for no more than twice what it's worth.

Lunar Brogue said...

Great work Pants. Thanks. I'm a fan of Clive Hamilton too, though his latest treatise on secular ethics has got me slightly baffled.

... so much to say ...

The alleged High Priest of Free Market Capitalism, Alan Greenspan, set a jaguar among the hawks recently when he admitted that the Federal Reserve under his chairmanship ought to have kept a closer regulatory eye on securitised mortgage products etc. etc.

... "regulatory" ...

So the economic orthodoxy that has operated throughout most of the West for the past 20 or 30 years, the one that vests near messianic faith in the illusory idea of an unfettered market, is now up for a performance review? (I doubt any of the affluent morons who have profited from this exploitative and immoral ideology* will be helping to "fix the fundamentals" anytime soon ... critical self-reflection in light of overwhelming evidence of intellectual or philosophical failure not being one of their strong suits.)

And Oprah! Where do I begin? Apart from representing everything that is cheap and facile about American pop culture, her devotion to the maxim Believe It, Achieve It is also insipid. It implicitly condemns those who have grown up in disadvantaged or deprived circumstances, for example. People who, despite all their attempts at Believing It have never been able to rise above their fractured personal foundations to Achieve It. This cult of self-empowerment that Oprah so evangelically represents is, in my view, ugly and dangerous ...

(Whew!)

... so much more to add ...

E.g. Trashy white goods come from the ground; Rich types superannuated to their eyeballs screaming for investment fund protection get my goat; People have forgotten how to live modestly - the idea now seems quaint, even a little derisory.

* I believe this is the right characterisation, as opposed to a doctrine based on reasonable, falsifiable, evidence-based principles and paradigms**.

** Oh god, I just used "that" word!

That's So Pants said...

Hi RH

Super.

Hi Luny

Yep, yep, yep and yep. Although, I DO actually have to buy a fridge. The last time I did that - MANY years ago, I took my favourite fridge magnet along to John Lewis - the employee-owned British department store and asked an impeccably attired John Inman type, 'do you have a fridge that would go nicely with this?' He didn't flinch and I came out with the smallest fridge in the shop. It made wonderful icecubes and chilled the gin and Sav B perfectly. I sold it to a friend's daughter who was setting up her first home. What more does one need?

xxx

Pants

JahTeh said...

"What more does one need?"
A birthday that goes backwards.
I heartily endorse the backward birthday as I appear to be growing ever more juvenile instead of ageing.

Happy Birthday to Pants.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Jahteh

Thanks for the birthday wishes. I'm down the the juvenile behaviour thing but I'm hungry for candles.

xxx

Pants

Francis Xavier Holden said...

Birrie is so different now to when I grew up around there that I have to constantly recalibrate.

In my day it was a decaying town with a pub best known for fights and a population best known for drinking and breeding at about 16.

People at the best places now boast of spending a weekend at a B&B there and the great food.

That's So Pants said...

Hello FXJ and welcome

I believe I know the person responsible for that transformation. What do you reckon, focaccias at dawn? I've heard the milk bar does a mean pizza and will be trying that on this, my last night in the west.

xxx

Pants

R.H. said...

Petrol is 99 cents a litre tomorrow at the BP service station, Melbourne Road Newport. So hey, why not stop off, then drop in here for tea and an arrowroot biscuit.
Okay? Please say yes because I've cleaned the place up, washed the dishes and got all the dog hair off the couch.

My dear Lady Panz
When I see you again
I might try romanz
Although it's a strain.

ha ha ha! How's that. Golly, who said there ain't fire in the ol' boy yet! ha ha. You betcha! Wooh!

ROBBBBERT!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Conditions apply)

R.H. said...

Hello darlings. Well due to my identity as r.h. being recently stolen I have decided to end my career as a blog reply person.

This is my final comment here.

Any further comment, statement, or whatever on the internet using my initials 'r.h.' and claiming to be me in that or any other way is fraudulent.
To check authenticity refer to my website, which is intact (showing full profile particulars) and which so far has not been tampered with. It will be up for a while longer.

Thanks.

It's been interesting

Ms Baroque said...

RH, what are you talking about??? I come here to catch up on your latest japes.

Ms P, my fingers are crossed for you in best superstitious fashion. (Maybe if you got Barney to do that too it would keep him out of mischief for a while...)

As it happens, I have to send off today the letter telling the people what bank account to pay my redundancy money into and eek! At least it wasn't in Iceland.

But I thought Australia was still comparatively together?

bruce said...

Here here! But, don't worry, perhaps the hopes of Baby Huey back in the day are about to be realised in the coming hours - http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=qrwal73e4fQ - this optimist certainly hopes so...

But if not, as I said to Fran the other day, it's a good time to own little and owe little

Ms Melancholy said...

It gets more Pythonesque by the day. Apparently half of the UK's County Councils are now owned by Iceland, and Kerry Katona is to be made Home Secretary.

We are declaring our valley a People's Republic and will be bartering only from now on.

Lovely to catch up with you,

Ms M x

That's So Pants said...

Hi RH

And people wonder why I drink.

Hi Ms B

Always lovely to hear from you. Ask for your redundancy payment in gold bars is my advice to you. You can always have it turned into jewellery if money ends up being worth nothing.

Hi Bruce

The world of Pants spins counter-clockwise. I am the opposite of the normal house buyer. I set out to buy a modest house and ended up with a spectacular one, and money left over - go figure.

Hi Ms M

Ha! A more interesting world indeed. I might come back and work for one of those councils. It would be worth it for away days in Reykjavik.

xxx

Pants

Ann O'Dyne said...

I followed a comment home from No Sanity Clause and got this guy:
"Friday, October 24, 2008
The Iguana's Economics Primer

I've recently come across a blog by a writer who we'll call Ms Pants. As an Australian, of course, she has a naturally superior intellect, carved from the cruelty and dust of our harsh summers, and honed on the strop of a Menzian, Dickensian body politic (whose corpse you can still find floating off Portsea Beach). In her latest piece, which you can find here, she quite readily and appositely puts a six-inch nail through the forehead of Wall St. (And if you enjoy my writing, dear regular readers, check out Ms Pants - man, can she find her way around a typewriter!)

That's So Pants said...

Oh! thanks Ms O'Dyne and, by extension, his lordship.

xxx

Pants