#64. Beware low-flying reindeer

 

WHY WE SHOULD GET OUT FROM UNDER

Just in case you’re not aware of it, there is a wonderful song in which American humourist Tom Lehrer regrets that traditional carols fail to focus on the real spirit of Christmas – which is, of course, the commercial.

The song with which he tries to put this right is called A Christmas Carol (and not, as you might suppose for the festive season, The Masochism Tango). The song includes the lyrics “Hark the Herald Tribune sings/Advertising wondrous things” and “Angels we have heard on high/Tell us to go out and buy”.

The emphasis on the commercial is, beyond a doubt, even more acute today than it was when A Christmas Carol first appeared on record back in 1959. Whether America and Britain do or do not remain “Christian countries” – opinions differ – it would be futile to deny that the modern Christmas is a festival dominated vastly more by spending, partying and boozing than by the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Partying and boozing are individual choices, but excessive spending is something that we are conned into doing.

In other countries, the emphasis on the spiritual continues to be separated from the commercial, as in Spain, where Christmas itself remains religious – presents are not exchanged until the Night of the Kings on January 5th, by which time Britain and America are well into the spending fest of the so-called “January” sales, which nowadays actually begin before December 25th.

I’m not going to go into an extended moan here about the transformation of a Christian into a commercial festival. Religious views are (or should be) a private matter, so I will only remark that, when a retired judge undertook an evidential analysis of common themes in the great religions, he found far more commonality than might generally be supposed.

Most of the world religions take a dim view of “usury”, which means “lending for profit” – this was once outlawed in most Christian societies, and remains prohibited by Islam. An important point to note about Christianity is that Jesus did not say that “money is the root of all evil”. He said, rather, that “the love of money is the root of all evil”. It is an important distinction.

Rather, my reason for raising the commercialisation of Christmas is founded in two economic observations.

The first is that, whatever is claimed to the contrary, the world economy is flat on its back. The collapse in the prices of oil and other commodities tells us that demand has cratered, which is hardly surprising in a global economy whose only locomotive of growth – China – has come off the rails. Collapsing commodity prices, like widespread fears of deflation, are irrefutable indicators of a slump.

The second observation is that, where “growth” is being reported at all, it is nothing more than the spending of borrowed money. Growth projections in, for example, Britain and America, are predicated on continued expansions in debt at rates that exceed incremental increases in economic activity. If further evidence is required, we need look no further than China, where nominal “growth” of $5 trillion was recorded in a seven-year period in which debt increased by $21 trillion. You don’t need me to do that sum for you.

Spending large amounts of borrowed money can be described in many ways – “idiocy” comes to mind – but cannot realistically be called “growth” within any sane definition of that term. When one looks at trends in global debt – which, ex-interbank, grew by even more during 2007-14 ($49 trillion) than it did during 2000-07 ($38 trillion) – one surely has to conclude that there may be wisdom in the Christian and Islamic prohibitions on usury.

Despite the perils of escalating indebtedness, some governments seem determined to encourage the practice of delivering “growth” on the basis of borrowing. In Britain, for example, official growth projections from the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) are founded on household debt growing a lot more rapidly than GDP. Analysis of OBR data has shown that, having retrenched in response to the banking crisis, households’ spending will have exceeded their income by £40bn in 2015, a debt-funded excess that will reach almost £50bn by 2020, and total £220bn over five years.

Any country which promotes “growth” on the basis of ever-expanding debt is following the philosophy neither of Adam Smith nor of John Maynard Keynes, but of Charles Ponzi.

Obviously, no-one but a fool or a marketing executive would claim that happiness is a direct function of how much one spends. To assert that buying the latest gadget can deliver more happiness than, say, health or relationships, would be disingenuous in the extreme even in normal times. It surely becomes preposterous in a world in which “real” (as opposed to “borrowed”) growth is conspicuous by its absence. By definition, we cannot all get richer – but we can certainly become indebted, worried and stressed by trying.

No reader needs me to tell them that real value lies not in purchased gadgets but in immaterial wealth. But what I would urge people to do in the year ahead is to begin the fight-back.

Be aware that those who push consumption are pursuing their own objectives, not ours.
When urged to buy something by advertisers or celebrities, ignore the claims and focus instead on the motives.

Don’t be pushed around. Make your own decisions.

Politely, and by voting with your feet, tell the advertisers, the celebrities and the corporates where they can stick their doctrine of happiness-through-consumption.

Like Tom Lehrer, I’ve never been happy at the idea of standing directly underneath a flying reindeer.

This year, we all need to “get out from under”.

28 thoughts on “#64. Beware low-flying reindeer

  1. Hi Tim, actually Jesus was likely born in the Summer/Autumn if you analyse your bible tracts. The Christians hijacked the Pagan celebrations of Saturnalia (the coming of the light or the day after the winter solstice if you like) which included gift giving (wax dolls usually) and partying and the celebration of Bacchus (God of wine) which began between December 17 – 25 resulting in much drunkenness, fighting and lewd behaviour and went on for 1 – 2 weeks.

    In their hijacking of the celebrations to, ostensibly, celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christians hoped to gain a foothold amongst the Pagans who were quite happy with their existing Gods and didn’t feel a need to to worship one God to the exclusion of all others thank you very much.

    Given that the idea of gift giving at this time pre -existed christianity and was embedded in Pagan rites established in ancient Rome and Greece , it’s not so much “has commercialism hijacked Christmas from the Christian religion?” as “Paganism has nicked the celebration of saturnalia, masquerading as “Christmas” these days back off Christianity via commercialism” – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

    I have to take issue with your statement of cratering oil demand. It’s increasing! Simply not at the exponential rates predicted a few years ago when all analysts subscribed to the “Commodities supercycle” theory which to me was clearly always another building bubble.

    Unfortunately, given that the oil companies swallowed the analysts fantasies about ever increasing demand at an ever increasing rate they spent ooodles of money on R & D and exploration to bring new fields on stream where, given the fantasy that oil prices would be immensely higher in the future they received something of a shock when they arrived in the future and oil demand, whilst increasing each year had not increased by the vast amount expected. This left the oil companies with massive capital costs to recover from a lower price, being driven ever lower by purposeful over production by the Saudi’s in an effort to put the US frackers out of business and regain market share.

    Faced with such circumstances, oil producers have no option but to pump more oil to try to recover some of the massive capital investment undertaken in the last 10 years and keep some semblance of cash flow even though they know it will drive prices even lower.

    Completely agree with your excessive debt based growth argument but I have a twist to add:

    I don’t know if you subscribe to the “Creative Destruction” argument of Schumpeter but if you do, then it may be argued that all this debt creation will result in Creative destruction.

    Consider, when a private company goes into liquidation it’s debts are written off and there’s a reset as other competitors move in and take over the market share.

    The same view may be taken of the excess debt being created. Indeed, there was a creative destruction in 2008/2009 when the Governments decided to assimilate the debts of the bust banks and then started the QE printing press rolling to boost the financial markets (if not the real economy) but they also drove the cost of borrowing down through this action resulting in more debt creation as we see today.

    This will, imo, undoubtedly lead to another failure that the tax payer cannot assimilate next time but the Governments still have their friend QE (it’s effectiveness, of which I have serious doubts about) and they can start playing with negative rates. This constitutes the foundations of the next creative phase immediately following the next destructive crash, not only this but there may be other dastardly ideas they come up with to get themselves (and us) out of the next financial destruction episode and so you have creative destruction of debt which continues in a cycle and has done so on a smaller scale with companies for at least a couple hundred years. They may even have a BIG RESET where all debts are written off and every one is left with next to nothing but everyone continues working and earning and buying their goods/services etc whilst the savers will save and the financial institutions will return to their fractional reserve antics after a couple of years and the show starts over again.

    This is not an argument for financial recklessness. I am not a materialistic person but I do appreciate it’s benefits – central heating, electric light etc and I only replace things when they are worn out always ensuring I obtain the latest model incorporating the latest technology (unless I believe the latest technology is in fact a retrograde step – which does happen!!) but keep an open mind on new products, adopting them when I see they will improve my life (I carry a mobile – not a smartphone, as I’m a keen cyclist and want to be able to contact someone if I have a crash in the middle of nowhere).. This is simply an attempt at explaining the possible sub-concious mindset of global Governments and Institutions.

    One other thing, don’t worry, you won’t find me in any sales queues , but if I happened to need something now then I would definitely be in that sales queue.

    A final thought and series of questions, if every one else were like me wouldn’t consumption be much lower? In that event wouldn’t there be less incentive for R & D? If that was the case would we have achieved the technological advances we have achieved which make our lives more comfortable?

    • You are joining a rising chorus of persons recommending a Debt Jubilee.
      This has been suggested by David Graeber in his book;”Debt – The First 5000 Years”. Since today’s debts are all founded with fiat money, from “thin air”there is in reality no good reason, apart from bank preferences,
      to have to use real resources to repay the principal as well as the interest.
      Deleting all the “free” principal would not trash banks. They would lose earnings, but not their capital base.
      This is important because if we end up with massive job losses – and we will – the government will need banks to pay welfare and benefits to them.
      There won’t be nearly enough cash to go round, but plenty of thin air based cheques to send out.
      It will be a stop gap measure as decline will not stop until everything is exhausted
      John Doyle

    • I wouldn’t necessarily go quite that far, because what worries me about a debt jubilee is “moral hazard”. If the debts of some are written off, others, who have been more prudent, are entitled to be angry. Plus, if we write off debt, what happens to savings? And what is stop the reckless, having been bailed out this time, going on a borrowing binge again?

      But I’m 100% with you on the broader issue that it is pointless to keep deluding ourselves that all of the world’s debt can be repaid, when we all know that it can’t.

      What we need, I think, is a strategy for writing off debt that (a) protects savings, (b) is not pain-free for the reckless, and (c) does not incentivise a new cycle of recklessness.

      I would consider coming at this through “notional value”. Let me take the UK property market just as an example. The inflated prices of individual properties can be realised. But the aggregate value of the UK housing stock – number of houses x average price – is purely notional value. It could never be realised, because the only people to whom the entire housing stock could be sold are the people who already own it.

      Here, then, is £x trillion of “value” which does not really exist. Against it is tied a smaller (but still huge) stock of debt. In theory, one could write down debt by offsetting against it the write-down of notional capital “value” which does not really exist in realisable form anyway.

      Second, capital markets. These have been inflated massively by ultra-cheap money. If bond markets were driven down a long way, a lot of debt might be eliminated, the debt jubilee on the one side being matched by the destruction of “value” which is, again, incapable of realisation in the aggregate.

      Just some thoughts to ponder…….

    • Hi ejhr,
      I am not recommending a debt jubilee but putting it forward as an activity TPTB may consider as one of their more “dastardly ideas” I mentioned. In fact, I’m in broad agreement with Tim’s response to your post.

    • Thanks, and a lot to respond to here!

      First off, you are quite right about the hijacking of the winter festivities. I hope you don’t think I’m against the bacchanalian stuff – I do go out of my way not to criticise the partying and boozing! – and there’s nothing I dislike more than sanctimonious Puritanism. As a libertarian, I’m more than happy with all of that, including gift-giving.

      It’s the commercial pressure that I try to warn against here. When I look at traffic congestion and the mind-numbing masochism of the seasonal shopping season, I’m reminded less of partying pagans than of lemmings

      My terminology over demand was somewhat lax – I should, of course, have said “demand growth expectations” were cratering. What I’m getting at, of course, is that an economy characterised by feeble/weakening commodity demand growth, plus deflationary fears, and kept afloat by cheap money, is not a growing one. Oil, of course, is cyclical – if capex falls to very low levels, then a future price spike becomes likely.

      Very fair point about creative destruction – indeed in response to the banking crisis it could be argued that more firms (and banks) should have been allowed to fail, and there are certainly legions of “zombie companies” out there, businesses still kept afloat by having interest added to capital by banks anxious to avoid crystalising losses.

      My point here, I think, is that the financial system is being manipulated to create a semblance of normality in the real economy. My model suggests that about 1/3rd of global debt needs to be written off.

      I;m not anti-materialism – demand is, after all, vital! – but it does seem to me that we have a problem in two areas. The first is the well-funded propaganda campaign that seeks to link happiness to consumption. I think this is at its nastiest when it is aimed at children.

      The second is consumption far in excess of incomes. There is an important role for debt – in building a business or buying a house – but debt taken on for consumption in excess of income has never ended happily.

      If everyone lived within their incomes, consumption, and hence the economy, might be smaller – but I’m not sure that’s worse than an economy inflated now by borrowing to the point where a subsequent collapse, with all its attendant miseries, must follow.

      I think my “take away” point from all this is – enjoy yourself, and avoid the puritans, but don’t spend just because self-interested propagandists pressure you to do so. Decide for yourself – and I’ll drink to that!

    • H Tim,
      Thanks for the response, I’ve been chilling away from the computer the last few days and this is just a quick drop in before I re-commence chilling until the New Year.

      Now I see where you’re coming from and agree.

      One thing though, I think it’s morally “right” for people, companies and Governments to live within their incomes with the exception of borrowing to start/improve a business, purchase a house or fund counter cyclical expenditure in a downturn, provided the loans are repaid in all 3 cases.

      However, I believe the fact remains that without all the excess borrowing, not only would economies be smaller, we would not have achieved the technological advances we have.

      I would find the lack of technology in terms of electric light (comfort), central heating (comfort), computers and the internet (information sharing and speed of accomplishing things), mobiles (communication when in remote areas) and cars (comfort and speed of accomplishing things) unacceptable and some of the things and maybe all of those I mentioned would not be available to us without excess borrowing/consumption. Perhaps excess consumption/borrowing is a necessary evil to some of us?

  2. Hi Tim

    Thanks for a very thoughtful post.

    You advocate a somewhat “active” approach to react against rampant consumerism but do we need an active approach at all because I can’t see this carrying on ad infinitum anyway?

    As you say we are in a Ponzi scheme and these tend to run their course and then collapse.

    I’ve actually come to the conclusion that TPTB know full well that there’s no way out of the current situation and that it’s better to let the thing collapse and then people will be much more amenable to whatever sacrifices can be foisted on them (negative IRS; banning cash; further bank bailouts; bail ins; emergency wealth taxes etc). Think appeasement in the late 1930s where no one wanted war and were not in favour of rearmament but when we actually declared war were fully amenable to huge sacrifice. Before the situation had crystallized they would have been angry at any sacrifice; once it had crystallized they accepted things.

    It is of course madness but, then again, so is the situation we have at the present and it may be politically easier which, to me, is the ultimate arbiter.

    • Thanks Bob

      You raise a number of interesting issues. Where economies are run on the basis of delivering $1/£1 etc of “growth” for $2+/£2+ etc of new debt, these are Ponzi economies, so will indeed crash in due course anyway. I’m sure you’re right.

      But this begs two questions – can individuals shield themselves by opting out from commercial pressures?; and can society as a whole shun these pressures? I would like to think that some can opt out, even if the collective lemming-like behaviour is something that is likely to run its course.

      Your view of TPTB is cynical (no problem with that), and Britain in particular sometimes looks like a fire-sale of assets. But are you crediting TPTB with too much vision and acumen? Do you really think they are planning that far ahead?

      Some of the measures you mention (such as banning cash) have frightening implications, and seem worryingly plausiable. Countries which control their own currencies never go bankrupt in that currency, but always destroy the value of that currency through money-creation. The scary thing is that the latter seems a global trend, i.e. undermining the value of money seems to be happening as a response to unmanageable debt.

    • Hi Tim

      Thanks for the reply.

      I don’t think TPTB can plan that far ahead; it’s just that they realize that we’re in a box and any”active” (or sensible) solution is very unpalatable.

      Let’s face it we didn’t get into this parlous state overnight; I suppose the ultimate genus is Nixon’s leaving the dollar gold standard in 1971 but we’ve had serious money printing under Greenspan ( and by extension the BOE) for at least twenty years; the last eight has really just upped the pace.

      Also Bernanke gave an interesting answer to a question in an interview some years ago. He was asked why he said that the economy was great in 2007 when it clearly wasn’t and he replied that he was “speaking as a member of the administration”; that is he was doing what administrations do: they lie.

      Also you can see why TPTB want inflation: it’s the stealth default of choice and it panders to the “money illusion” way of looking at things.

  3. Hi Bob

    Nixon’s “slamming of the gold window” certainly has a lot to do with it, and for me suggests that governments may need some kind of anchor to restrain their wilder actions.

    I would, though, also suggest the following. First, the big upturn in debt didn’t start till circa 1983-85, despite the temptations and pressures of the ’70s crises.

    Second, the countries most addicted to “borrowing to spend” are America and Britain. These are the adherents of “the Anglo-American economic model”, which may not be a coincidence. This model is characterised by deregulation (especially of credit), and the close affinity between political power and corporate influence. Also, admittedly a subjective view, Britain and the US seem to be more addicted to consumerism/materiaslism/greed/lack of commercial scruple than other countries.

    In the Eurozone, there are very big problems, but these are caused by the idiotic single currency, and there is much less addiction to deregulation, and less of a materialist ethic, it seems to me.

    No doubt TPTB see inflation as a – or the? – solution, but that’s difficult in a climate of depressed demand and deflationary pressures. It is interesting that the fastest “growth” is happening in the Anglo-American ponzi economies, and one must wonder what happens globally when the ponzis hit the buffers…..

    • Hi Tim

      Tanks for that.

      Reverting back to your original post I guess where I’m coming from is questioning whether one can change the sort of fundamental behavior (rampant consumerism) without having some sort of crisis.

      I realize that we are not talking about war but really any sort of fundamental change in society and whether this is possible without a crisis and the realization by all that things have to change. I confess that I am sceptical that it can be achieved by conscious decision rather than be forced by a crisis and I think a crisis is where we are headed.

    • Three thoughts. First, consumerism (really a manifestation of materialism) is deeply ingrained in the US and the UK – how far that reflects commercial pressure is hard to tell, and of limited relevance as the pressure is unlikely to ease any time soon. So we are probably stuck with it until the ponzi economy reaches the point of no continuation.

      Second, I’m not sure if the UK (in particular) could now switch from an overwhelmingly borrowed-consumption economy to better balance, with more production and investment. Oddly, if this were to happen, at might be at the instigation of foreign owners, such as Jaguar Land Rover, who are more keen on producing in Britain than are the British themselves.

      Third, successive governments deserve a lot of the blame – they have made borrowing easier, investment more difficult and saving less attractive. This might be the fault of the voters, of the lack of quality choices, or of a deeply faulty political system.

      At the moment, the supposedly “highest-growth” countries are the ponzi economies – no surprise there – but I do wonder if this might change.

  4. Hi Tim

    In some way you’ve answered your own question: the Ponzi economies are indeed the ones which are “growing” the fastest but a Ponzi scheme by definition is self limiting; it has to collapse at some point.

    Although Ponzi is I think the correct term for the current situation when it is applied to an economy rather than a small group of people it takes much longer to work out as the number of actors is that much larger but that does not negate the principle. Unfortunately it also calls to mind the “boiling frog” scenario where things happen so slowly that people don’t realize that there is a problem until it’s too late to sort it out by any reasonably acceptable action.

    • Spot on – we do not know when the ponzi economies will crash, but we do know that they will.

      Which raises another issue. We know that basing an economy on borrowing doesn’t work. If we didn’t already know it, 2008 taught us that the deregulated, anything-goes Anglo American economic model is faulty.

      So why do we continue with it – idiocy, or no realistic alternative?

      It reminds me of a man running from a tiger. Someone says to him: “don’t you know that you cannot out-run a tiger?”

      To which the answer is: “have you got a better idea?”

  5. ‘Money is just a claim on energy’ – so you said in a previous article, Tim. And I cannot agree more. Debt is a claim of future energy. But this energy has to be very, very cheap and available in large quantities in order to repay the debt.

    • Indeed so. Without going into this in detail, “money is a claim on energy – and debt, as a claim on future money, is a claim on future energy”.

      My forward projections, based on energy, suggest that about 1/3rd of existing debt cannot be repaid – and this, of course, is before considering the debt that we keep on adding.

      Some would say that energy is “cheap” today. My view is that energy today is “priced below trend” – a rather different way of looking at it.

    • I take it that you also distinguish between net energy and gross energy: If it only costs one barrel of oil to get 100 barrels out of the ground the net energy is 99. If, however, it costs 72 barrels of oil to get 100 barrels to the surface the net energy is only 28 barrels of oil. With the net energy of all fossils falling I can only see a shrinking world economy in future. There will be upwards pressure on oil prices, but if prices get to high it has a devastating effect on the global economy which again will spiral the energy prices down. In fact there is no price interval where both consumers (oil importers) and producers (oil exporters) can benefit.

    • Niels

      In summary, I use the following:

      EROEI (energy return on energy invested). If 31 units are extracted or otherwise accessed, and 1 unit is consumed in the access process, the EROEI is 30:1

      ECOE (energy cost of energy). In the above example, an EROEI of 30:1 is an ECOE of 1/31

      All of this is outlined in my book. Plus, elsewhere on this site is a downloadable “Brief Guide” to Surplus Energy Economics. Is can be downloaded from post #14, January 2014

  6. The other bear in the room is how the national income is distributed.

    The share going to wages has fallen, and is increasingly unevenly distributed.

    The figure I have seen suggests that if we had the same income distribution as Germany then the average household (or was it wage earner) would be about £3000pa better off. Which may well have a significant effect on borrowing levels.

    To say nothing of course of housing costs……………………

    • Indeed so, though it depends on which country or countries you are looking at.

      Globally, QE (and the whole upwards manipulation of capital markets) has widened wealth inequalities – and the artificial increase in capital values has coincided with downward pressure on incomes, not just wages but returns on savings (including pensions) as well.

      But there seems little appetite for addressing this. Since QE (that is, government policy) has boosted capital values, I think there is a case for higher taxes on capital gains, unless and until capital markets are restored to normality by more “normal” (higher) interest rates. In Britain, there is also a case for reversing Brown’s devastating raid on private pension schemes – higher taxes on capital gains could be used to pay for this.

      Meanwhile, in many countries, higher property prices have benefited older people at the expense of the young, and there is a strong case for rebalancing this too.

      But I see little or no political willingness to address any of these issues.

    • Hi Tim

      The last sentence says it all. We’re so far into this that it would require some quite radical policies to try to head off collapse, policies such as those you mention but which are, as you say, politically out of the question.

      It’s a somewhat depressing thought that the mechanism that we have for resolving these issues in our “democracy” is in fact quite impotent in the face of the challenges. What is even more depressing is that, even if we had a crisis which presented us with the opportunity to make a better start, there is no guarantee that special pleading would be set on one side and we would in fact simply end up incubating the conditions for the next (third) crisis; a re-run of the “papering over the cracks scenario”.

      There are major secular trends such as globalization; demographics and AI/robotization whic we need to get a grip on quite apart from the growing dysfunctionalities of the parasitic financial system. You would think that politics could mobilize around these challenges but it would appear not; most politicians are trapped by the next headline and the need to avoid offence to vested interests.

    • Hi Bob

      I think I’d go slightly further, saying that there is neither a will to address these issues nor, in the UK anyway, a mechanism for doing so.

      Dmitry Orlov has referred to the British system as “government by hypocrisy”. Be that as it may, the First Past The Post system reinforces incumbents. Thus, in 2010 it gave UKIP just one seat for 12% of the poll, but the Conservatives an overall majority with 37%. In Scotland, the SNP’s 49% vote translated into 56 of the 59 seats.

      The real problem, though, is that whoever gets this majority gets a 5-year elected dictatorship. Legislature and executive are not separate, and the upper House has limited powers and limited legitimacy (unelected), whilst its members are chosen by the government. Successive governments have neutered local government. The ability of the press to restrain government has been undermined. This is a system for which “democracy” is no more than a courtesy title.

      This system has now been captured by two elites – the corporatist elite and what I call the “puritan ideological fanatic” elite. Both pursue their own agendas, and which party is in power makes little real difference.

      This is hazardous, it seems to me, because it denies a channel for the expression of popular discontent. At the moment, the degree of popular discontent is debateable – but, if one postulates a slump as an economy based on borrowing hits the buffers, this could change pretty quickly.

      Ultimately, popular power cannot be resisted indefinitely. There are two possible ways of managing popular discontent – reform (and accommodate), or resist. I very much prefer the first, which is why I am so keen on reform happening before the elite are forced into it.

  7. The term EROI is frequently misused by green economists – very often they exclude wages from the equation. In that way they can give windmills a positive energy balance of up to 70. But taken the massive use of subventions into consideration windmills have a negative energy balance. But maybe this is not the topic here. I quite agree with your definition! What I would like to underline is that the world economy will never be able to cope with higher energy prices.

  8. Hi Tim

    I am waiting for your next article – probably as interesting as your other articles.

    I have read somewhere that energy prices make out 7% of the total global economy. Assuming that money is just a proxy for energy – that will logically mean that the world ‘thrieves’ on an energy balance of around 14 (100/7)????

    (In this equation manually work (for instance weeding) does not count – therefore the real overall global energy balance could be lower, maybe between 10 and 12. But on the other hand those people doing the weeding are paid and with their wages they trigger an energy consumption somewhere in the energy system).
    Or is it just wrong thinking from my side?

    • Thanks. Your calculation is correct (though the human labour component is tiny).

      My next article may be on Ponzi economics, which works like this:

      1. “No real growth? Borrow”

      2. “Can’t pay the interest on these huge debts? Cut policy interest rates to zero.”

      3. “Still can’t pay the interest? Create money and inflate bond markets to slash market yields”

      All Ponzi schemes end the same way, of course.

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