Archive for October 18, 2008

Non compos mentis: The case against Mr. Market

October 18, 2008 1 comment

Pictured above is a graph showing periods of recession in the United States since the end of World War II.

Generally speaking, the periods of economic downturn have been greeted with much anguish and gnashing of teeth, as massive dislocations of economic activity subject millions of working families to the most dangerous of modern circumstances: being cut off from employment.

The danger of unemployment is a constant haunting fear among us, because, of course, without wages, all the things which can be purchased by our private collection of dead presidents are thereby removed from our reach as well – little things, like food, clothing, shelter, warmth, and Iphones.

For this very reason, when Mr. Market suddenly develops a nasty little rage and declares: “I am not going to play this game anymore for a while,” we react with the profoundest of dismay, imagining the imminent loss of home and hearth, and our inevitable association with the ranks of ne’er-do-wells who often approach us with filthy rags and offer to clean the windshields of our twin his-and-her Hummers in return for some small handout.

There have been ten such incidents of recession since World War II, and, it is likely we are in the middle of number 11 – a recession, on average, every 6 years for the past sixty.

Mr. Market, having previously experienced the euphoric highs of manic economic outbursts suddenly seems to tire of his burst of creativity and industriousness, and completely goes off his medications much to the dread of folks like us who work for a living.

Lord Keynes, the noted doctor of economically bipolar societies, gave the world a way to ease these bouts of what the ill-famed McCain economic adviser, Dr. Phil Gramm, called “mental recessions,” by prescribing a high dose of economic manipulation including a massive infusion of cash into the pockets of whoever was standing close to a Washington politician at the time, or in the vicinity of a ballot box, along with easy credit terms to make it possible for the rest of us to revive our flagging consumer confidence by charging homes, autos, appliances, furniture and Iphones to our global credit card.

Each time Mr. Market appeared to be falling into his SEXENNIAL funk, Washington provided two of Lord Keynes little green pills, and – voila! – Mr. Market would be off and running again.

Of course, during this entire time Mr. Market has been screaming at Washington, denying he was ever actually bipolar. His diagnosis was, he protested, a monumental instance of economic malpractice, a misdiagnosis akin to declaring, as was done at the time, that homosexuality was a psychiatric disorder brought on by overbearing mothers and the absence of strong (read: abusive, controlling, or otherwise, domineering) fathers.

He was, he protested, only responding to changes in the behavior of his members – it turned out, Mr. Market, in his delusion of grandeur, claimed to not be a man at all, but the collective actions of billion of individuals who entered into economic relationships to provide for all the needs of society.

He was, it was revealed, hearing voices, seeing apparitions of several billion people, who, he asserted, were causing all the mischief attributed to him.

We caught up with Mr. Market, who is now in convalescence in Washington, under the care of Doctors Hank Paulson, GS, and Ben Bernanke, EDU, to inquire at his health. You may want to remove the children from this blog, as the interview did not go well.

“In good times…”

Mr. Market spoke irritably,

“…you vastly increase your productive capacity; generating hundreds of millions of products of every description in less time than you did before until your stores and warehouses virtually overflow with anything and everything you might need to satisfy your every whim.”

He waved one arm in the general direction of the window, pointing with some disgust on his face, at the entire world of wealth just outside the Emergent Care Facility in the Treasury department.

“In such times, I, being merely responsible for allocating only those products that are scarce, reveal I have no power to allocate those things which are in such abundance. When this happens, you claim I am somehow delusional, sick, mad, or otherwise in a condition you call, recession.

Mr Market, rose from his seat abruptly, and moved toward us menacingly. Were we of lesser courage, we might have scurried into a corner to hide behind the neatly stacked, newly minted, pictures of long deceased men of history, which were being force fed to the disordered old gentleman almost hourly.

“In point of fact, it is you who are delusional; you, who declare I am the cause of things over which I have no control; you, who toss yourselves onto the streets, unemployed, throw all you have and hold dear into the direst of circumstances, and destroy all that provides you the means to life as if it were a toxic substance from which you must withdraw on pain of poverty.”

Spittle slapped us in the face, his great gray beard was speckled with loose change from earlier feedings. As the oldest known living man-made organism on Earth, Mr. Market – once an imposing figure – has been reduced to a frail, spindly character, with a pronounced awkward, distressed bent, and visibly receding features.

Presidential candidate John McCain has stated only a short time ago the fundamentals of Mr. Market were strong. But, to our eyes, it was clear he is dying and has been dying for some time. Things are spinning out of his control; his ancient arthritic hands, which, invisible, once moved spices from the Orient to the city-states of Italy, and exchanged Boston rum for African slaves, were seized with such contorted deformities as to barely hold his hospital gown in place.

“If George Bush hates black people, and is to be much in disregard on this account, what am I to think of you, who so hates yourself, the very things you have created with your own hands, and the abundant product of your own labor, that you would destroy it so that you might again be happily in poverty.”

We sat back in our seats, fearful of angering him further. He leaned into us – his breath smelling of centuries of pillaged villages, slave markets, battlefields corpses. His eyes, absent any luster, swam with images of girl children sold for food, flaming Indian brides, and, the occasional kidney given in exchange for a bottle of cheap wine.

“My God! What fools you are! All you have to do when the economy goes into a recession is reduce the work week. A recession is just my way of telling you your work week is too long. How stupid do you have to be not to see this?”

We made to interrupt, he dismissed us with  spittled rejection:

“For sixty years you have closed factories, plowed food under the earth, let homes stand unoccupied, and thrown millions among you into homeless shelters and food pantries just to preserve a regime scarcity. And for what? So you can once again enter a condition which is intolerable to you: subservience and groveling before people who use the word “impact” as a verb? And, yet, it is I who suffers some mental disorder?”

Bearing to hear no more of the insane muttering of this broken hero of history, we pressed the panic button given to us by the hospital staff. In rushed several orderlies – well dressed eager young men in thousand dollar suits, and fresh haircuts, carrying coin buckets which they emptied forcefully onto the madman until his fevered ravings were drowned beneath the ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching of faux gold.

As we exited, we heard him feebly call out one final threat:

“You won’t get away with this for much longer. Some day, the stimulus won’t work anymore, you’ll have to figure out what to do with your spare time…”

He declared with a mad cackle, as the young men in $500 shoes, struggled to force another thick suppository of hundred dollar bills into his wrinkled anus,

“…All of you will actually have to get a real life!”

His words haunted us as we left the room. Somehow, the muttering of this deranged mind almost made sense to us – uninitiated as we are to the arcane science of economic disturbances.

As is typical of our reaction to emotionally disturbed members of society, Washington took this outburst for a further confirmation of the diagnosed disorder, and upped Mr. Market’s meds, by seizing the banks and forcing more stimulus into his languid corpus via direct injection.

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