Experts and laymen alike have looked upon the pyramids of ancient Egypt and wondered at their size and precision, impressed with the engineering involved. However I don’t think the miracle lies so much in the laying of blocks one upon another, as much as it is in the organisation of manpower and resources required. The pharaohs were able to channel huge amounts of intellect, equipment, labour, and rations – into piling up a giant heap of rocks. The size of those piles still impresses us today, so we are not talking small beer …so to speak. The crux of all this though, is that all the resources that went into building the pyramids had to have been a surplus over and above what it took to just keep their society running.
Today, we have far more people, far more food, far more technology, knowledge and power. So theoretically as societies we should have far more surplus available for national projects, and in fact we do. Twice in the last hundred years we have had world wide wars. Apparently there was so many spare resources lying around there didn’t seem to be any particular reason not to just burn them off in an orgy of destruction. It was the equivalent of burning money because you can. Except it wasn’t just money, it was fuel, buildings, ships, planes, munitions, food and lives. It would seem there was too much of all of them, so it was necessary to eliminate the surplus. It could be argued that there were other and better things that could have been done with that surplus, but apparently not, or they wouldn’t have gone and done it all again a second time, only bigger and better.
The proof of just how productive modern societies are and how huge the surpluses they can make is the examples of Germany and Japan (should we call them Deutschland and Nihon?). Both of these countries were bombed back into the stone-age, and yet miracle of miracles, within 30-40 years they have returned as world leaders of economic power. Hmmm…! That’s half of a human lifetime, from destitution and rubble to power and prosperity. Apparently if you put your mind to it and have a clear plan, you can move mountains, or build one and call it a pyramid. So how come we don’t seem to be able to come up with a plan and the resources to make the health system, education, or ACC run properly? How come the pension system is crumbling and unsustainable? What is the actual problem here, is it the resources available, or is it the organisation and planning?
Well, it is the organisation and planning of course. There is no question about that. The only question is: organisation of what, planning of what? And here’s my answer, it is about the organisation of our whole society and the planning of our whole financial system. Communism had a bit of a grievance with all that too, and had a bit of a go at reorganising it all in order to create the ideal workers paradise. Lets just say that it wasn’t a conspicuous success. Apart from the fact that surpluses, such as they were, got diverted off into competing in an arms race with the capitalist societies, communism never really got the hang of encouraging people to strive and endeavour to achieve and succeed. Capitalism works far better in that regard. When Japan and Germany were struggling to rebuild, there were incentives and rewards for individually and collectively contributing to the cause. During that whole reconstruction phase, capitalism worked really well. It doesn’t seem to work so well when it’s a mature system though, somehow the rot seems to set in and the focus and utility gets lost.
Actually, that’s probably not too hard to explain. Rebuilding your society from scratch means that there is pretty much a lack of everything. Anything you build is going to be needed, and all the industry sectors, big and little, will have a crying need for capital investment. Investment, labour and planning all flow into recreating the essential infrastructure and services that a modern, technical society needs. There is no particular intellect required to see what needs to be done and no particularly sophisticated financial planning needed to balance and sustain a complex and mature system. But once you have rebuilt all the basics and a lot of the luxuries, what is left to do and where do you go next?
That actually requires some very serious thought and planning. Otherwise the money-go-round will start to get distorted and corrupted. Money chases after spurious projects and schemes in order to maintain the desired return, and inevitably it morphs into a bubble economy. Too much money chasing not enough to do and consequently serially inflating the prices of one asset class after another. The economy falls into a boom bust cycle and everyone’s lives gets whipsawed backwards and forwards by the tidal waves of too much surplus resources surging around looking for a home. Those surpluses need to be managed intelligently, channelled productively, utilised efficiently and distributed equitably. In other words, exactly what is not happening currently. The control of society’s surpluses is incrementally being restricted to fewer and fewer people and institutions, that have no interest or idea what they are doing, beyond increasing and maintaining their wealth and position.
Ponzi schemes, outrageous wealth for a privileged few, and waste, have become the motif of our age, and no-one seems to have a plan or conception of what to do about it. Our very wealth has created the problems we now face. Ironically we are going to starve in the midst of plenty because our systems and organisation are so right royally screwed up. At this point I don’t think there is any option other than revolution, because the “powers that be” are simply not going to give up their control or amend their habits when that has been so immensely profitable to them. The system works – for them – for the rest of us it is an oppression and a torment, a leach and a trap. The tragedy of it is that it doesn’t need to be at all. All our wealth and power as societies could be put to so much better effect. And in the macro sense, it isn’t a difficult fix at all. There would have to be a reorganisation of power for it to work, but the thing that would make our societies work properly again is straightforward enough.
Investment needs to flow into productive and useful enterprises.
Real estate speculation, condominium developments, casino’s, Banks, financial schemes and hedge- funds are NOT productive and useful enterprises. They are just very profitable ones when they are operating within a corrupted and misguided economic system.
To that list you can add, entertainment networks, professional sports teams, luxury hotels and resorts, tourism, haut couture, jewellery, fashion handbags and shoes, supercars and superyatchs, private jets… These are all things you have and do when you have too much time and money on your hands and not enough real work to do.
So, what are productive enterprises, what should we be constraining capital flows towards and into? Well, I can think of a few things, and education would be fairly high on that list, but I don’t need to lay out a prescription here for you. Use your own imagination and common sense. What would YOU invest money, our surplus resources, into in order to create something better for the future. ~ and don’t say a pyramid, LOL 😉
For in the end, the decision and the future IS going to be in your hands, so it behoves you to think about what you want to make of it. The resources are there, we just need to apply them intelligently and wisely to useful endeavours.