Wednesday, May 12, 2010

PIIGS: The Beginning of the End for the World Economic System?

When the normal guys start talking crazy, that's when I get REALLY nervous. There's always nay-sayers and contrarians and fringe personalities making money off of common fear, but as more mainstream commentators comment on possible DOOM, I am chilled:

What Brian Williams is mentioning is something called PIIGS in Europe. It stands for "Portugal Ireland Italy Greece Spain." More recently it may be indicated as PIIGGS, with the extra G for Great Britain. ... The term has been around for a while, but what it now infers is any European country with high government debt levels and an unsustainable economic reality. GREECE is the current big struggle, and is completely collapsing economically, and thus socially and fundamentally.

I am no expert, but I do my best to piece things together from various sources. I confess that I am a libertarian politically, which means, in one sense, that I do not believe government should be involved in the realm of business and economics, basically, but should be a small entity just as it was originally conceived in the U.S., with little interest in how we conduct our individual lives as long as we are just to each other. The government should have a capable military, an adequate court system, but generally these people who join the government of the U.S.A. should leave us all the hell alone.

Of course, today, the governments of the U.S. and virtually everywhere have become giant enterprises, more or less, and have taken over the role of the mafia and similar organized crime associations of the various cultures worldwide, banning such organizations while simultaneously collecting payment from individuals and threatening us all with violence, naming imprisonment. I find it remarkable that we've allowed ourselves to be so ridiculously dupped. Then again, I suppose it is all about the psychological force known as "the father." Each of us will always be the children of our parents, and we all, secretly, wish to be protected and cared-for by this "father entity." Food, shelter, love... So we vote HIM into power in the form of more government oversight and help, more entitlement, more and more and more... and finally we quietly cross a point of no return and get to a point at which the father can no longer realistically provide for us. The whole world is reaching this place. Greece is our future, it is being said.

Europe and the International Monetary Fund are now moving into action. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS (750 billion euros) are being spent to save Greece and stabilize the markets. Now, one of the amazing things about this is that Greece is a nation of only 11 million people, which is smaller than New York City or Los Angeles. Heck, my original hometown of Dallas/Fort Worth is over half that size. So what's the big deal about Greece?

Well, again, I lack technical knowledge here, but the idea is that ALL IS INTERCONNECTED in this world, economically. The construction of this worldwide, interconnected economic reality occurred throughout the 20th century. Let me explain. We had World War I, WWII, and we had all the horrors we could imagine became reality. The popular notion, then, was to connect all nations politically and especially economically, so that if one nation attacked another, it would AUTOMATICALLY "lose," because it was harming its own economy as it sought destruction of the other nation. It's like the Cold War. Mutually-guaranteed destruction: if the US attacked the USSR with nuclear weapons, the USSR would retaliate with nuclear weapons, and both nations would be destroyed.

In the end, this has basically WORKED. No world wars, just occasional incidents in small countries, in a sense, despite the very real loss of life in places like Vietnam. These days, the US cannot attack China, because we would destroy our economy, and vice-versa, and on and on.

But there is ONE FATAL FLAW, as I understand it, and which many are beginning to speak of. If one part of this daisy chain goes over the cliff economically, it starts pulling the other links of the chain over with it, or at least starts a gravitational force upon the rest of the long chain. Slowly, as this force is unrelenting, other chain links are pulled toward the precipice. And as these nations, one by one, fall over the cliff, they pull the rest of us over as well.

The EU and the IMF and the USA are attempting to save Greece, but there are "conditions" which Greece must meet. Greece must reduce the size of its government and associated payrolls and pensions, and must begin privatizing some of its health care system. Greece has for too long taken money out of the private sector and put it into government. The obvious observation by an American is, "Hey, aren't we going in the same direction?!" Yes we are. As we bail-out Greece and demand that it reduce its public sector, we are simultaneously increasing the size of our public sector and are removing more of the health care system from private hands. We are making ourselves into one of the PIIGGS.

But how long do we have before the images of rioting on TV are images of US cities? I do not know. Some say it could begin any ol' time now, but others say it'll be a couple of years, or any point in between, while others say that we are a special situation which is somewhat immune to such things.

I don't know. I am neither a sage nor a fortune-teller. But it looks very, very bad. The stimulus money is apparently going to be running-out soon. Many states have sustained their public institutions this past year only because of that stimulus entitlement. Without it, an array of public jobs and works will be unfunded further, likely leading to mass lay-offs around the country in the next year or so, or so I understand. And that public state consideration is only one small part of the disaster we face. The private foreclosure mess isn't any better, and at any time may move wholeheartedly into commercial real estate. The local malls will begin closing, and then supermarkets. And while some stores will certainly survive and even prosper perhaps, the growing closings of the local malls and whatnot will likely have profound psychological effects en masse upon the population.

ODD TIMING. For myself, I have fully accepted the life of the starving artist, and of living with little. I have realized that, in order to concentrate on serious art, I must abandon all the money-making infatuation I have, in a sense. I mean, in order to have a nice apartment and a nice car and a nice TV and a nice computer and ALL THAT (which IS all very nice, don't get me wrong) I MUST WORK MANY, MANY HOURS in whatever job I can get, whether it be as a waiter or a truck driver or a cook or a Disney caricature artist. Most people say, "Oh, that was so perfect, working at Disney, drawing cartoons all day... and you're able to pursue your favorite art when you get home." Wrong! When I would get home, I'd be exhausted, and go straight to the TV and the computer, and eat a meal, have a beer, whatever, RELAX. I did this for YEARS, and I see other artists doing the same thing. ... So what's the solution? For me, it's radical: quit everything, drop-out of everything, and just make serious art. I'm little above a homeless person, living on my little sailboat, wondering if I'll have money next week for food, but, at the same time, all I do for money is serious painting. I'm even giving-up pastel portraits. From now on, basically, I'll simply be exploring oil painting and the old masters. I'll sell my works wherever I can, to whomever I can, for whatever I can get. And that's enough to survive. For me, if there's any possible path to great art, this is it. Maybe others can overcome the allure of modern convenience, but I cannot. I must leave it all behind. ... Which brings me to this ODD TIMING. Just as I am learning to live with little, the whole world may soon be joining me. Odd, I think, in my odd mind.

So, as I learn to fish, and to live simply, and to create art, I tell everyone to not freak-out, to calm down, and don't worry yourself to death. Don't jump off any skyscrapers. ...We have our friends, we have family. In the long run, the encroaching global crisis, if fully realized, may serve to improve us and save us. We, as citizens of nations and of the planet, are learning lessons the hard way.

I just noticed this video by fellow Texas and Libertarian Ron Paul... Helps explain things a bit more:

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