Considering economic models using goats gave me a much better understanding of Enron venture capitalism:
You have two goats. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four goats back, with a tax exemption for five goats. The milk rights of the six goats are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven goats back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight goats, with an option on one more. You sell one goat to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine goats. No balance sheet is provided with the release. The public then buys your bull.
With the startling and generous gift of the contents of our Treasury to an unapologetic and unaccountable financial sector on October 1, 2008, I tried to use goats once more to get a little clarity and perspective on what had just happened.
First of all, here's what made all this such a surprise. For years, when we've wanted to fund Head Start, children's healthcare, higher education, job training programs, or infrastructure maintenance, we've heard endless arguments in Congress concerning the scarcity of funds to pay for these things. We don't even have money for disaster relief, one of the basic services for which taxpayers in any country expect a return on their investment in their government.
So here we thought we hardly had any goats left, let alone enough for everyone to have milk and cheese and cabrito, and we were all going to have to learn to live much more austerely. Then we discovered that we did, have goats, but only very briefly.
We have, or had, as it turns out, 700 billion goats that we did not know about. We never would have known of the existence of this veritable windfall of goats except that the financial sector in this country wanted them. They demanded them, in fact, claiming a complex and dire emergency in which a cataclysmic economic meltdown would occur if we did not turn them over, immediately and without question.
I guess my first question was, "We have 700 BILLION frigging goats?"
Well, not for long. Here's what I understood about these greatly coveted goats of mysterious provenance. If we did not turn them over to the Secretary of the Treasury, who would then distribute them as he saw fit, enabling those with large flocks of dead goats to give us those goats for our live goats, we would never see our live goats again. Not that we'd ever laid eyes on them to start with.
All of this, of course, is enough to challenge anyone's concept of object permanence.
We have now turned over our goats that we did not know we'd had to companies that say they might rent them back to us sometime in the future, if we have ironclad credit ratings proving we are hard-working and accountable, and responsible with the goats we do have.