Jun 22, 2012

Blame it on the Economy/Economists

For a while now things have been hard. Nationally and globally speaking. The word "crisis" is part of our daily vocabulary, even if not part of the active one (the one we speak and write), but it's there in the passive one (the one we listen and read). All sorts of big words and big decisions are being made, and we may not get them all, we might not understand all of these, or what they mean in our daily life, how would they affect us, but this uncertainty, this crippling fear starts to creep on us.

If we live in Latin America, Asia or Oceania, things such as the European crisis might seem far, far away from us and unpertaining, yet still our newspapers are full with these news and our politicians talk about "measures" to counter the effects this crisis on us. Then there are things that we do experience on our own. We experience uneployment, the months and months that go by without we or someone we know being able to get a new job. This is also felt hard on those who do have a job and see their conditions get worse, their paychecks reduced or upheld, their workloads increased, them being exposed to more harrassment or abuse while their labor rights take a dive. Phrases like "if you won't do it there's 20 other who would do double for half of what we're paying you", get more and more frequent, as well as the "tests to make sure you are indeed the best person for this position".

We feel it too when the payments for our loans start skyrocketing, and there were we used to pay $1000 for the mortgage, we now pay $2000 or up to $4000 per month over a period of one to four months.

In the middle of this crisis we see banks being bailed out, and that money going to pay the exhorbitant wages and bonuses and "achiement pluses" of CEOs and executives who live in luxury flats, and change their luxury cars every year, and avoid the traffic by using a helicopter. The banks get a breathe, a break, but they keep their foot on the customer, burying them under unpayable payments and stealing away their money with all sorts of commissions and fees applies to their saved up money.

Suddenly it does seem - for those who hear the word "crisis" often accompanied by the words "economy" and/or "economists" - that this economy thing is the root of evil, and these economist people are the devil themselves, greedy and heartless, who look only to squeeze people out of their money. I recently even read a book in which Jesus said that he disliked economics very much. Well, it's time to start cleaning up the bullshit, so people know from where blows the wind.

Economy is something inherent to people. You don't need money, or societies, people around you or anything in the world, to have economy around you, and within you. Economy is about decisions regarding what you have, what you need and what you'll do to satisfy your needs. If you are alone in a deserted island, you are in economy too. There's economy in motion when you decide where will you put your tent -  close to water and fruits, for instance, and as you get hungry and have no idea how long will you be there, there's economy in your decisions about how much will you eat, how much and what will you store, and when shall you go explore the rest of the island for more food, or things to dress yourself or build a shack.

There's economy in daily life decisions too. There's economy when you decide with which of your classmates will you group up for a project. Depending on your personality, on your needs, you decide whether you prefer people who work well and won't leech on you, or rather pick people based on how much would you like to be friends with, or people who's other friends and parents could help you build a valuable network. There's economy when you decide what kind of dress you want to buy or sew to yourself, and there's economy when you decide at any given moment of your day whether you rather study now, go out to see a movie, walk in the park, read a book or bake a cake.

Economics could be understood as the science that studies this and that prepares people to make the best decisions in different situations - or at least know how many ways there are to look at the same situation, which solutions can be offered and what are the consequences of these decisions. Economists are the people who learn this science. Then, unlike a lot of people would think, often the economists aren't the ones making the decisions but suggesting them. Even when they make decisions - at Government level, Regulation level or FED level - what does the smack among people is the reaction of other players of the economy to them.

 In this sense economy, economics and economists are much like health, medicine and doctors. It would be stupid to blame sicknesses on doctors - even though many people does - or satanize medicine as the root of all illnesses in the world. If you don't like health problems you wouldn't say that that's the fault of health, that medicine is Satan and all physicians its servants, right? If you eliminate medicine and doctors, there still will be health and there still will be illnesses, only this way there would be no way to know what's wrong, nor people to fix the problem. Same with economy, except that in the case of economy, there are much more cases where the "patient" self-medicates, takes the medicide in a way different than prescribed, or someone makes sure that all the medicine go to someone else.

Given the sensible nature of economics, and how abusing of economy can tip the balance in favor of some and in detriment of others, some people with connections, make sure that any proposal that doesn't suit their personal gain, doesn't pass. Is it then economy or economics or economists to blame? Is it rather the corrupt system to blame?

Falling into the blaming without knowing is the typical trap set to keep attention away from the real problem, specially because it might be that we are the very root of evil. You may wonder, "me, out here in Honolulu, responsible of the Greek crisis? Gara be shitting me!" (to my knowledge, nobody from Honolulu reads me, so I guess I'm safe!). In a very, very long chain of events, yes, it could even be so. Let's just retrace our steps. Things as the way in which we consume, the products we purposefully or unawarely support, our apathy towards politics, social issues (within our community, as a lot of people is prone to contribute with charitable causes to feed children in Africa, save babies in South America, but can't give a fuck for the neighbour in need, or the starving children in the next village), and the whining about corruption, but not doing a thing about it actively.

Take a check of your steps. You may find things that could be changed, maybe as simple as buying less staples to reduce your waste, or checking the products you buy to support national production, or the production of a particular country in need, if that's your desire (in some countries, such as Costa Rica, often many national products are in the hands of the same family, and it is known that much of the product goes to make them wealthier, money which they then spend in politics and in getting more power, instead of giving back to the nation. You may choose then not to buy products from the companies linked to them - national production that supports an oligopoly - but to support maybe the production of a company from another country, which you know works with a producers' cooperative that supports environmentally friendly production). Then, there are other decisions that are worthy of being checked, like how you react to corruption, to crime, to injustice, to poverty, to social gaps, to economical gaps... and what can you do to make things better. For instance, don't condone corruption, but denounce it every time you find it. Even if you feel it doesn't solve the case, denounce it. Don't defeat yourself before hand by thinking that "it's not going to change" or "the whole system is into this", or "they all over each other's backs", do not condone it, make it loud and clear that you do not accept it, and do not resource to it. Or just because the taxpayer money is used to support a few people instead of the whole nation, it's not excuse for your to avoid paying it. Don't be part of the problem.

If you find that your decisions are all ok, then continue doing so. Don't think that you are too small. Remember that to become President, even powerful people need your vote, so your actions do count and they make the world the way it is. Don't take it as the blame being now placed on you, but as what it is: the responsability is yours, so the power to change things is also in your hands.

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