Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Kicking the Can: A Modern Fable

I was inspired after reading a letter to the editor at The daily reckoning

Once upon a time, a group of bankers dropped a magic debt-can on the road. The can was full of nasty debt and it was very ugly. A group of the town’s leaders decided they didn’t like the can, so they gave it a little squirt of stimulus money and
kicked it down the road towards the hill on the outskirts of town. It rolled up
the slight incline and came to rest then rolled slowly back towards the town.

The leaders discovered that they couldn’t kick the can over the hill – it just kept rolling slowly back down the hill towards the town. And this magic can didn't just roll along the road like an ordinary can – the stimulus money vanished in a puff of
smoke and appeared in the banker’s pockets and then the debt in the can got

The can quickly grew into an ugly debt-filled barrel as heavy as concrete and so big that it couldn't be kicked down the road anymore.

The leaders asked the bankers what to do, and the bankers explained that the can was now dangerously toxic. It had to be kept out of the town. They explained that it had
to be launched with a special kind of explosive called Economic Bailout. This
explosive was made of magical future-money which the leaders took from their
people before the people had even made the money.

Each time th can was launched it got bigger, and each time it got bigger the leaders had to take more money from the people’s future to launch it away from the town.

After each explosion the people were left a little poorer, but the bankers got a little richer.

Strangely, as the people got poorer, the hill in front of the can seemed to get steeper, making the job even harder.At first one stick of economic-bailout dynamite was enough to blow the barrel-sized debt a huge distance and all the leaders and bankers congratulated themselves on a job well done.But gradually the magic barrel grew larger and the cement inside transmuted into toxic lead.It required much more financial dynamite to move it.

Soon the Economic Bailout Explosive wasn’t enough, the leaders needed to use Quantitative Easing Explosive. This was a magical explosive, which made people’s money decrease in value without even touching it.As the cylinder's flight arc grew shorter, the self-congratulations grew more strained.

Eventually tons of Quantitative Easing TNT barely made it roll a few meters up
the incline before stopping and rolling back again.The drum got so big that it finally turned into a storage-tank of toxic debt that glowed like radio-active fuel-rods. It crept ominously downwards towards the town at the bottom of the hill.

The leaders conferred with the most expert bankers and came up with a solution: Nuclear financial explosives would be used to create a massive European Bailout Fund
Rocket, propelling the toxic debt-filled tank right to the top of the hill.They reasoned that if the huge tank was propelled to the top of the hill, it would roll down the other side, magically turning the toxic waste into gold for everyone!
All would be well!

The appointed date came and every country had contributed to the Bailout Fund. The explosive yield and trajectory had been precisely calculated by people with PhDs in
Economics - so their qualifications to avoid magical thinking and perform
rigorous mathematical calculations (based on the inviolate and well understood
rules governing the behavior of money and markets) were impeccable.

Crowds gathered at the base of the hill, waiting to sprint over the hill and collect their gold.

All of the people’s remaining future money had gone into the bailout rocket. They had no money, no future and no food, so they were really quite eager to see the gold.

The leaders in their bunker gave the order. Fire!

The huge cylinder lifted off! Higher and higher it went trailing flames as the bailout money was consumed by the ravening afterburners! The leaders cheered from their bunkers. The bankers cheered as they stood on their magically-increasing piles
of cash! The people looked upwards nervously as the huge tank of toxic waste was
lofted overhead, propelled by a steady stream of money. The bailout money finally came to an end. The afterburners flared out but the tank continued to fly towards the peak ahead.

The magical toxic storage tank flew onwards, seemingly invincible..... and then it stopped suddenly at the crest of the hill as if it had run into a magical wall of
mathematical impossibility. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, it started to roll... backwards! With gathering speed the colossal tank came thundering back down the hill.

The shocked crowds tried to escape but there were too many people for all to get out of the way.

Finally the rolling, roaring tank slammed into the town. Exploding, it flew apart spewing its toxic contents far and wide.

The survivors looked in dismay at the remains of their town. In the center of town
they saw a distress flag being hoisted above a bunker. The leaders were
trapped in their bunker, surrounded by the toxic waste and unwilling to wade
through it to escape.

So the survivors turned away from the ruins, ate the bankers and walked off to found a new town, based on sound economic practices....

Well, I did say it was a fable. We all know that the real ending would involve the bankers using the toxic-smeared leaders to shepherd the toxic-averse survivors into
docile herds, so that they could fleece and then eat them.