Money and economic growth have become the exclusive focus of media and policy attention, but it may be time to undertake an all encompassing reality check and seek for more appropriate values in a complex world - values rooted in reality. This short essay explores some of the potential root questions.
For physical scientists like me it has always been self evident, that a system based upon the concept of perpetual exponential growth is a bizarre idea – more so when this system is situated within limited boundaries. The Economy we have seen over the last two or three decades is such a system.
Real wealth can only be rooted in the real world, and therefore money has no value, if there are no real products, values and services to back it. What we have seen over the years is the globalization of a system that sees money as an end in itself – in fact the production of money has become one of the main endeavors of our time, money and its derivatives having become the main trading goods on the world's markets. The people who act as movers and shifters on these markets literally live in a parallel world, far removed from the worlds of trees and bees and the millions of children on this round rock in space who die from starvation or polluted water, or who accidentally fall prey to modern word creations like „collateral damage" or „turkey shooting". Somewhere. In distant strange countries. In remote mountain areas.
Occasionally the banksters, the investment managers, the traders and brokers even are referred to as „Masters of the Universe", which is rue, only that their universe is a wholly virtual one, for the work they do is mainly superfluous, and the real the universe would stand unharmed and entirely unimpressed if suddenly their entire breed would disappear from one moment to the other. Only he who is aware of his own utter insignificance may be called wise.
The system we have created is one where food and shelter are on one side of an equation, where money is on the other. Unfortunately the convulsions of the thing called „The Market" that we see these days are orders of magnitudes higher than all the food and shelter needed. According to Senator Bernie Sanders (D), it would cost only about 8 Billion US$ tp provide primary healthy care to all US citizens – something that is taken for granted in all Western European country – in fact in all countries boasting a standard of living even remotely similar to that of the US. But supporting and rescuing virtual entities in this twisted world has become more important than the livelihood of humans, and wreckless speculators are rewarded while decently managed banks and investment houses ultimately are punished. Oh yes – there are ideologies and explanations behind that. Trickel down is such an explanation. Somehow everyone is to benefit from this system that can best be described as a mathematical representation of greed en gros. Somehow. How we never hear. Perpetual growth, exponential rise of nothingness, interest upon interest, fire that feeds fire – the tales of Midas and Erysichthon went unheard over the millenia. The sorcerers apprentices seem cursed to curse themselves over and again.
It is simply amazing that the majority of people and peoples in all periods of history could be so successfully kept from seeing the most obvious facts in front of their eyes. The principal mechanism behind this phenomenon is the strong urge to believe – a phenomenon christianed "Vital Lies" by Daniel P. Goleman. It is easier to believe than to be critical and skeptical and ultimately be skeptical about yourself. Believe that all is good, that all is fine, that on is part of a big plan, of Gods own people, that all that happens is good and right and righteous. The truth is: it is not. The truth is hat we have created a society where the sensitive and clever people are powerless while providing ideal provisions for the rise of psychopaths and networking money dynasties. Opinion is bought. Not by purchasing it directly, but by applying elaborate means of mental manipulation – decades of brainwashing hundreds of millions of people into accepting their fate and submitting their freedom for the better of a perceived bigger goal, which, strangely, itself is called freedom. Yet there is no real freedom in the Western world, least in the United States. Everything depends on money as well as the time and ability to dissiminate the flood of information washing over us from a myriad of sources. Ultimately there is no freedom without money, and those who possess near endless supplies of it in turn are slaves of the dynamics of their own wealth. They do not possess the money, but rather, as if it were a demon, are possessed by it.
The brainwashing goes so far that the majority of people these days actually seem to believe that all those hundreds of billions – or even trillions – of Dollars missing in the financial markets somehow, magically, have indeed disappeared. Were „destroyed" as sometimes I hear it said in the media. And the people, the normal person who hardly has enough to pay for the bread and butter of his children, is to bail out the self proclaimed rulers of the world. We hear arguments that do at first sight sound reasonable and true enough. When the banks are bankrupt, so we are told, the companies will not be able to get the credits they need for daily operation, and that will result in corporate failures, loss of jobs and economic decline.
Well – here is the news: the money was not destroyed at all! It is still there. The ailing credits that went into the housing market financed – houses, for example. Millions of craftsmen made a living and consumed and many of those most likely were able to buy houses themselves. And the collapsed market of obscure financial derivatives is at the same time mirrored by a market of rather successful speculators. That is the nature of an out of control „free" market: One can only win when another looses. Another truth is: the money has not been destroyed. It only changed hands. And those hands will also be willing to pass it out to those who are prepared to pay the proper price for the credits. Nothing is lost, as painful as that may seem to those who were shaken awake from their ludicrous dreams of infinite wealth and power, having to realize, that they merely were Masters of their own delusions.
At the same time, while the United Nations successfully raised 16 billion Dollars in funds to fight global poverty and do something against the fact that almost a billion people on Earth suffer from starvation, the US Government proposes a 700 billion bailout plan for the fallen ruthless speculators and hazardeurs. Shouldn't we sit down, quietly, for a moment and think? It is the advice Winnie Pooh gives to four year olds. Think! Think! What does it all mean? What the hell is going on? It always struck me as most peculiar that someone can at the same time be „pro life" and „pro gun" and „pro war". Pro life. How many unborn children did Mr. Bush kill in their mothers' wombs by ordering the war against Iraq? An ugly thought and yet reality, like so many ugly things going on. Think! Think! And how the heck can one proclaim oneself a follower of Jesus Christ and yet live a life in the name of Greed and material possessions? It just doesn't make sense... Just like the idea that infinite growth is a real possibility – let alone a necessity. But you cannot convince true believers with mere facts.
USA capitalists are the world's most aggressive proponent of free market and globalization as long as they are on the winning side, but the rhetoric changes, when they are not (and it is questionable who „they" actually are, because a vast proportion of the US population lives in near absolute poverty). Despite its own wishful thinking to the opposite, America does not appear as a shining beacon for the world, but instead it is exposed to be a highly untrustworthy partner that changes the rules of the game according to its own momentary interests – or rather the interests of its ruling elite. There even are open musings in influential circles about friends becoming enemies as soon as it comes to conflicting interests – such as natural resources. America, it seems, is not a leading example that should be followed, and perhaps it never was. Instead it is a bullying narcistic member of the family of nations and only interested in itself. In other words: The United States behave like a spoiled teenager – a spoiled teenager with enough power and weaponry to destroy the entire planet. If this country would be a person, I would recommend behavioral therapy – and dammit America – I love you, you are my second home, but if you aspire to remain the rightful leader of the world, go and get an education and realize that the captain of a team also is part of the team (and knowing the names of the other team members also would be a good idea).
Stefan Thiesen is a Germany, UK and USA educated earth and space scientist and science writer. He is an expert in marine science, climatology and planetary sciences, author of several popular science books in German and English as well as a novel and numerous short pieces. During the last years his professional work focused on solar energy and solar energy based water desalination and treatment solutions with projects in Europe, Africa and Asia. One of his Water Projects was a finalist in the World Bank Development Marketplace Competition of 2006. Since summer 2006 Stefan works for the development dept. of a leading European solar energy company.
Other fields of interest include marine protected areas and traditional land and ocean management. He was invited speaker on international conferences, including EU and NATO advanced research workshops. Stefan lives on an ancient farm in Westfalia/Germany together with his wife Yvette, three daughters Sophie Maris (meaning "Wisdom of the Sea"), Liv Moana (meaning "Sea Life") and Stella Marina (Meaning Star of the Sea) as well as their dog Amie.