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Punk Economics

Dave Barry was a kid when the Soviet craft sputnik was launched, sending out a “bleep” through low orbit all around the world.  His teacher intoned to the math class that, “From now on, you kids are going to have to learn a lot more about math and science.”  Barry added, “As if it was all our fault.”

People around the world are going to have to learn a lot more about economics and banking.  This time, however, it really is our own fault.  If we’re going to get some control over our lives in something like a democracy we better get moving.  Movements like “Occupy Everything!” are a start, but there has to be a lot more attention and education.  Fortunately, we have people like David McWilliams and his “Punk Economics” to help – teaching what’s going on with more than a little fun.

McWilliams is an Irish economist, writer, and snappy wise guy who makes a great guest on a teevee gab show.  He started his video series “Punk Economics” to fire up opposition to what he thinks is a very wrong-headed move by the European Union to contain the debt crisis.  If you have 20 minutes to watch some great viddy, here is Part 1, followed closely by Part 2.  There will likely be more.

“Punk Economics” is “based on the central idea that what is important is not complicated and what is complicated is never important.”  That’s pushing it, but there is no doubt that economics and central banking can be made to be far more complicated and technical than it needs to be when big institutions are trying to get away with something.

In this case, the European Union is becoming a “bankocracy” where a model based on something like a Dickensian debtor’s prison is being used to punish, not help, the nations that went on a borrowing spree over the last 10 years.  The problem is all about socialized risk – for banks.  The European Central Bank did, in fact, finally print a trillion Euros as we all knew they would – but sent it out to help the banks strangle the “bad” nations of the Eurozone.  McWilliams himself sees no problem with an end to the Euro if those are the terms of union.

McWilliams’ style is as light and fun as you would expect for an Irishman, but more importantly it has to be this way.  What’s going on in Europe is something that many people know in their guts is just wrong – but they don’t know exactly why.  Punk Economics bubbles that feeling up into the brain, hopefully fueling the feet and arms into action along the way.

Why is it “Punk Economics”?  It’s a folk movement, with attitude.  It’s about people getting a handle on the union that promised all kinds of brotherhood and prosperity across the continent.  It’s the next stage of a revolution – one started by well meaning liberals (in the classic sense of the word) who pretty much pitched and folded when times got bad.  It’s pretty much how reform movements always wind up when they get too far ahead of the people and bogged down in bureaucracy and detail.

This isn’t the only attempt at explaining this stuff with good humor, of course.  Here in the USofA we have the “Daily Show” and many small efforts like Barataria.  The difference is that those of us reporting on the constant ebb and flow of nooze don’t have a single message put together in one package.  I would like blatantly steal, er, be inspired by this presentation to start something like this if you all are ready for me to jump into video.  Someone has to take a look at the big picture.

“What is important is not complicated and what is complicated is never important.”  We’re all going to have to learn a lot more about how to run banks and economies in the next few years.  Anyone who wants to throw you out of a conversation can drown you in a zillion details.  What matters is when everyone knows there is a real threat to everything we believe in circling the globe. Once it was the “bleep” of a Soviet spacecraft, today it’s the web of debt working tighter around our necks.

We’ll get through this – with a little more smarts.  But we have to get up to speed on what counts fast.  Thanks, McWilliams!

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16 thoughts on “Punk Economics

  1. Yes, do video! Do anything to get the message out! This needs to reach way more people and what you show here is awesome. We need a version of it for the US. I’ll bet you can do it better than anyone.
    Thanks for a great recommendation, punk economics is definitely the way to go.

    • Thanks. I am looking into it. People need to get up to speed fast if we’re going to do something that benefits the whole democracy as we grope our way out of the hole.

  2. Cute stuff and I am sure he is right. If the Euro means that everyone is going to get stuck with everyone else’s debt then by all means get rid of it. That only makes sense. Of course we are doing that here too so we have our own problems. Like the way he talked up how the US works even though I did not totally get it.

    • The comment on the US was based on our having a complete union, not just a currency union. We share a lot more, so a deep recession in one part of the nation is spread out among the rest of it. It’s a European perspective on the situation that really does not apply to what we have to do here and now, but it’s worth noting.
      Socialized risk is a serious problem. It only makes sense if we become a truly socialist nation, with the reward spread out as much as the risk. There are ways of making sure the reward is spread out but still remaining a free market economy, but overall I think not socializing the risk is a far better bet. But yes, we all share benefits from a healthy banking system and so there is something to go around no matter what. It has to be on terms that make sense, however, and that’s what McWilliams is trying to get across.

  3. I don’t really get all the euro stuff but this is interesting, a similar thing about america would be better. no one even tries to explain this stuff most of the time. the 1% want us to remain ignorant and the msm does their bidding.

  4. It’s not that the Mainstream Media is all that complicit, it’s that they don’t understand it themselves. That, and they think it’s always boring and no one cares. We’re starting to see a lot more of this, but it’s tentative at best. There is demand for this kind of teaching / explaining, however, and it’s growing every day, IMHO.

  5. The world is ready for this. Never though I would live to see the day but I think people are tired of the BS and want truth.

  6. Well, you inspired me to book you for an OCCUPY RADIO show this coming Sunday to educate us on such issues as economics and banking! I do think some of this mess was already downhill before I became an adult, but yes, it IS our collective fault. In part for being financially illiterate (though sometimes it’s just a matter of POVERTY…no money to BUDGET WITH) and in part for being asleep at the switch for too long.

    If you can somehow break it all down to make sense to someone like ME (I am terrible at math, not good with economics, etc.), that would be fantastic!

  7. P.S.
    RE-OCCUPY (at least in Minneapolis) is starting APRIL 7th. You should do some teach-ins THERE ON SITE! I realize it’s not going to generate $, but it would be awesome IF you showed up to do something like that. Heck, if there’s enough ADVANCE notice, perhaps I could help arrange for it to be Livestreamed.

    • I think I’m up for that. A sit-down seminar would be fun – not just me, but a lot of people talking about how we got where we are today. It’s not that complicated (and what’s complicated is not important, eh?)

  8. Pingback: Leaving Goldman | Barataria – The work of Erik Hare

  9. Okay, I’ll jump on the “Do It” bandwagon, with one little caveat design your video to be understood by dummies like me. 😛

  10. Pingback: New Season, New Reasons | Barataria – The work of Erik Hare

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