ON the second day of Holy Week, just after the triumph of Palm Sunday, we all watched in horror as Notre Dame de Paris burned. The loss has turned out to be almost entirely repairable, but the gut feeling of it will remain. What a terrible loss.
Yet through it, we find our selves facing the greatest and most beatifying aspect of Christianity – sacrifice. Through sacrifice we rise again, the world rises again, and is renewed by the eternal spirit. As surely as Christianity has defined nearly everything we might all “Western Civilization” today, it is worth reflecting on as the week draws to a close.
Economics is all about money, right? It’s all about theories on how to distribute it, use it, make it, or protect it, yes? This is a common perception, and the focus on money dominates the area of political and personal understanding of all things related to important concepts like markets and wealth.
Yet there is substantial evidence that this is simply inadequate at best, wrong at worst. The purpose of money, according to a rigid definition, is to be a medium of exchange and a store of value. But there is quite a lot of evidence that as a store of value, a representation of accumulated wealth, it often fails horribly.
Money only works in a dynamic sense. There are several ways to read that statement, and they are all valid points.
One of the virtues in People’s Economics, which is still evolving, is “equity.” This is a complicated word that has taken on several meanings, but the most important ones are a sense of fairness and a kind of “ownership” stake.
Talking about this as “social equity,” or a belief that all social and political systems need to be fair and that everyone needs to feel they have a stake in greater social success, is not very controversial. There is some politics which revolves around pure individualism and denies or diminishes any need for social equity, for sure. But this is not what the US or any democratic republic was really founded on. It is a denial of an integrated and cooperative world, and I am simply going to reject it out of hand.
But what does any of this mean in practical terms? A bit of an experiment is starting to take hold that may answer this question.
I often say that having a bad day is a choice. Well, today we’re having rain/sleet/show/dust/thunder and I feel like having a bad day. So please enjoy this piece from 11 years ago, which I was first pondering the nature of “work.”
A century ago, work was hard and physical. People mostly worked in either factories or fields and produced something tangible at the end of the day or season. Work was all about manipulating the real world and making things.
It’s been twelve years. On a miserable April night in 2007, Barataria began.
Like everything, it had a humble beginning. And a rather humble middle. I’m not sure how it will end, but it remains primarily whatever I am thinking about at the moment, the place where I unload my brain to get on with things that actually pay me a living.
Somewhere along the way, it started to feel like I had something. Since you’re reading this far, I hope that means that you agree. So please allow me a somewhat drifting and personal reflection on this anniversary.
Since the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, CFO and daughter of the head of Hauwei, the company has been in the news lately. Popular media has placed this story at the center of deteriorating relations between the US and China on both sides of the Pacific. In the US, the implications of Hauwei acting as, essentially, an agent of the Communist Party of China have pepperd the stories. In China, it’s all been another front on the trade war and effort to keep China itself down, yet again.
Which side is right?
Without a lot of context, it’s impossible to tell just what is going on. Huawei is indeed a fast rising company, and its connections to the government have definitely played a role in that. They’ve also played the free market game like any fast rising company by working incredibly long hours, poaching top talent (and their information), skirting around inconvenient laws, and slapping things together with blazing speed.
But, in the end, it’s not entirely Hauwei which is the issue after all.
The world is divided into two types of people: those who believe, and those who don’t. Or those who accept, and those who don’t. You’re on one side or the other. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, there’s one side with their perspective and then there is that other side. Everything which happens is seen through this lens and stands as proof of the belief.
Except, of course, reality doesn’t work that way.
Most people don’t actually fall into one group or the other, but retain a healthy dose of skepticism on any given topic. You may have a point, but you may not. While any set of true believers is likely to be vocal, given the ability to self-publish text or video or even, God help us all, snarky little memes. So what’s a person to do who doesn’t buy into this nonsense – whatever this nonsense might be?
It’s a technique I call “filing away.”