Capitalism is now unequivocally accepted as the leading system for satisfying the desires of the individual—and it seems odd that the arrival of this new world order has engendered so little fuss. Although it resulted from a quiet evolution as opposed to a noisy revolution, the commitment appears strong and worth at least a modicum of recognition. Competing for the hearts and minds of humanity were communism, socialism, and monarchism, and they still exist but have been downgraded to preliminary steps on the path to the true provider, capitalism. The battle against the westernization of world goals, at times brutal, may be over (won by those who create and dispense material wealth), but what isn’t clear is the extent of downside involved in hoisting an unconstrained marketplace onto the world stage.
In this, the “quantum” era, how the global economy reacts is comparable to random bursts of light particles (or is it waves?) as it now moves with such incredible complexity that we fail to understand even its parameters. How do you anticipate something that has infinitely changing conditions, constantly reacting to the hopes and fears of seven billion distinct individuals—all of whom are searching to find their unique and unassailable ground in its swirling vortex of activity? As separate individuals do we choose to follow serendipity into the churning complexity, leap to an emerging niche, build on an inherent advantage, or courageously conceive and promote our own uniquely inviting scheme? The details matter little. What is relevant is that developing individual goals to their respective ends holds the focus of every ambitious mind, and fires off more neurons into the universe than anything else in our lives—maybe all else combined. Everyone must participate in the world marketplace, from the most high to the most low, but no one is capable of fully understanding it.
The marketplace has become a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces are constantly changing shape, yet, if an individual does achieve even a momentary understanding of the quantum economy, and acts to gain from it (and is successful) they are forced to display a transparent model open to the watchful eyes of players—no hiding great success. And as the imitators ride their coattails, literally at the speed of light in todays tech savvy market, other players are moving at the same speed to halt this transfer of wealth. As a result, the economy begins reacting and morphing into something beyond their original insight.
To comprehensively understand, define, or explain the market, or any part thereof, is to hasten its evolution to the next level; to create the next mutation in the economic body and test for its longevity. The world economy is no more predictable than a pumped-up meth addict racing down Main Street in a stolen car. Indeed, the more people are convinced of its direction, the less chance it would arrive in place as those who blithely accept its course fall prey to those who anticipate and divert. Economic certainty is, and has always been, an oxymoron, a situation ripe for exploitation and abuse—and in the quantum economy the impact grows exponentially.
Unfortunately, a large and powerful group of economic dinosaurs exist who neither attempt to conform to the machinations of the world marketplace, nor seek methods to work within its constantly moving boundaries. They are called governments. They doggedly persist in making long-term economic projections in their perceived role as stability providers and, by doing so, bet our resources on policies dependent upon meeting their preset targets—and, of course, once invested they lose the flexibility and the impetus to react to events occurring “outside their box”. This may have been adequate for most of the 20th century—when national power structures reached their zenith—but it’s proving disastrous in the 21st century. Individual governments simply refuse to accept the change, ignoring how powerless they are to control their economic agenda and they subsequently exacerbate their folly by attempting to intervene in global processes for purely national reasons.
Climate change, a toxic environment, pandemics, and now this constant government rush to save the “national” economy; it’s a toss-up as to which places our future in greater jeopardy. A government’s ability to throw a huge portion of our resources at a problem seems only matched by their inability to correctly predict the outcome of their actions. Why can’t they admit they don’t know the answer to a problem that no one knows the answer to?
Economic policies have become as massive as they are myopic: reduce borrowing costs, borrow more money, spend more money and, finally, just print more money to further lubricate the great engines of growth. These are less a policy than a recurring panic attack. Politicians have fallen under the spell of “economic” democracy where every one votes every day, with dollars. Governments tap into the best and brightest monetary minds to wrestle our economic demons into submission—protecting “we the people” from the pain of “no-growth”. Unfortunately, their “expertise” has left us balancing on the brink of financial collapse as we have, simultaneously, had to provide massive credit infusions to greedy, sociopathic, financial institutions and pay trillions of dollars of taxpayers money to keep poorly managed companies in operation—all in the name of protecting a free market. They decry the amount of personal debt while exhorting us to spend more because it stimulates growth. They put in place tax policies that entice companies to invest in increased productivity, yet facilitate their attempts to recruit cheap labour as a means of reducing costs—with little thought to the reality that no one can afford to buy their products in a minimum wage world. Spending on health care and the “have-nots” gets cut to reduce deficits while taxing the “haves” must be postponed to encourage investment. And all of this is put in place as they attempt to hide their own waste and corruption while imposing severe penalties on those they believe are not being honest with them.
Government has become a mix of “reality television” and disaster gamesmanship, where hopelessly overwhelmed politicians live day-to-day while making decisions that impact decades, perhaps centuries. Their economic policies reflect a patchwork of contradictions resulting from years spent serving erstwhile political needs and momentary expediencies. Political economics is plainly and simply about buying support, whether from power players or voters, while any attempt to introduce rationality and principle is the kiss of death for an individual political career. Rational thought is unpalatable and socialist. It is about the greater good for the greater number—over the long haul—and candidates have learned that you succeed by offering voters more of what they want—here and now—instead of educating them about the realities of existing in a world-wide economy.
Politicians have become just another consumer product demanding, “Buy me! I’m the answer to your dreams,” and in our search for the best “deal” we have lost the concepts of courage and insight among our elected representatives. If once upon a time government was considered the repository of wise and gifted thinkers, no longer do many such individuals consider lowering themselves to the present superficiality. In consequence, the dominant political philosophy has become, “Trade long term pain for short term gain,” and after a few generations we’re running out of short-term gains and dealing with a warehouse full of long-term pains. Does every democracy in the world have to learn the hard way by following a Greece or Portugal (or, for that matter, Detroit) into bankruptcy as politicians sacrifice our future in an effort to gain their re-election?
A president of the United States succumbs to lobbyists pushing regulatory reduction in the financial industry and a generation later the entire world endures a painful recession as millions of worthless sub-prime mortgages destroy confidence in the global marketplace. And the political answer is massive payouts to support the offending industry—complete with freedom from penalties for the wealthy individuals who initiated the crisis. Thereafter, each government, in an effort to avoid bankruptcy, is forced to lob more Hail Mary policies into a hedged, leveraged, derivatived, futured, contrarian, global marketplace, and pray they find their mark.
We are still learning that economics in the 21st century is not simply the aggregation of every exchange of goods and services on this planet. It manifests the hopes and dreams, whims and fancies, of each and every one of us through instant worldwide dissemination of constantly updated information. The risks are high. Thanks to our government’s need to keep interest rates low (facilitating their own massive debt servicing) both individuals and institutions now have to take aggressive measures to finance their future. Everyone in the world is looking for a “deal” and ready to pounce if one becomes evident—or abandon one if it goes sour. We have all become active players, by necessity, and the volatility this adds to an instantaneous and multi-leveraged global marketplace is beyond comprehension.
If global stability is the goal, then only global regulation is the answer, and that is a long way beyond the horizon because predictability reduces the chance for individuals to make the big score. In a world where every government walks a tightrope over solvency, and operates outside the bounds of economic understanding—all for the purpose of buying votes during elections—the presence of instability, and the anxiety it induces, will continue to be a constant in our lives. The combination of ego politics and the quantum economy will never allow a secure and peaceful future.