Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Imaginary money

The imaginary wealth that puffed up our investments and inflated our national salary has blown like a mist back to Cloud Cuckoo Land. Apparently, a country really can't go on forever manufacturing nothing but weapons, funding shopping sprees with IOUs and expecting the government to wipe every child's nose. In the long run, you run out of Kleenex.
As Rudyard Kipling, who was right about nearly everything, once wrote:

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy, And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

"Work" in Kipling's sense entailed producing things, and "thrift," as that good Victorian would have used it, meant refraining from purchasing stuff until one had accumulated the money. Conservatives used to understand such things, just as liberals once treasured liberty. As we watch the transition of power from the Pyramid Schemers to the Diversity Police, we might stop to wonder at what point we lost our collective minds. Offhand, I'd say it was around the time a music critic described Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees as a genius.

A long time ago, my mum, who could never have been described as a "conservative" by anyone, told me that there was one priority with money that had to come above all else: Secure your home. Keep a roof over your head, even if it means you have to do without food. After you have done that, everything else in life can be taken care of one way or another.

She also told me that people who "go shopping" with credit cards are idiots. You get a credit card, if you have to, as a back-up for emergencies. She was of the school that said if you can't afford something with the money that's in the bank now, you should just learn to want something else. Or...and here's a wacky idea... save up for it.

It's poor people wisdom. Too bad everybody in the world thinks he's not a poor person. Call me old fashioned, but I think that when everyone thinks it's normal for ten year-olds to have mobile phones and designer shoes, cloud-cuckoo land has come to roost.

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