Out of this World

Negative interest rates are our future. First in Germany and now in Japan the folks who brought us galaxy-sized money printing have taken the next step. This is their logic: If we force you (you and me) to pay for us to keep your money, you will look elsewhere so as to avoid the cost of holding cash. Stocks, property and corporate bonds…with perhaps a side-dish of new business startups are where they want us to look. Ooookay.

The distance between eggheads who concoct these alleged solutions to low economic growth and those of us back here on earth is measurable in light years. Blindness to the way non-egghead people behave is the only explanation for this craziness – that, and the arrogance afforded those who face neither voter nor auditor.

Critical here is the psychology of people. If the aim is increased economic growth, the folks must be encouraged to assume risk and start businesses. And save. And invest. Or all three.

But with low interest rates, we’re doing that, they’ll say. Ah, yes, but human nature is more subtle than that. We’re not as dumb as institutions would have us believe. Taxes are high, and going higher (esp: Japan). American governmental and media institutions do not champion the aspiring millionaire; Bezos and Buffett are their models. When we sniff the air, we smell the stench of vested interests looking after themselves. Crony capitalists (not really capitalists at all) and the inevitability of BIG solutions crowd out the small guy and girl.

Yes, the logic of low rates for borrowed money might seem right, but why would anyone borrow money when the returns are so low and whatever is left is taxed? Margins for start-ups and small businesses are tiny; we need the right kind of atmosphere to breathe if we’re gonna take the risk. BIG solutions add inert nitrogen to the air, not oxygen.

It will take someone to give us permission to take our futures back into our own hands. For now, the government-privileged class holds all the cards, and their tell is right there, smirked all over their face. We know the game is currently rigged in their favour, so why take them on?

The only permission I see is that to sit and stare back, just like a Vegas poker pro. Nope. I ain’t playin’.

Low Fat

I remember the 1970s for margarine. Of all things, right? My food recollection starts at margarine because I could never figure out why it was considered better than butter. It looked more or less the same, did the same job (on sandwiches, at least) and frankly didn’t taste as good.

So why did we use this stuff anyway? And what was it made from?

Understanding butter is easy. Take some milk and churn until something recognizable appears. Then use it in cooking or on bread. “Marj”, as it was known had an altogether different lineage. Some said it was petroleum based, but I doubted that even as a child. Maybe it is, I don’t know.

The fad at the time was for anything low in fat. Precisely as now, diets and new ways of eating consumed people to varying degrees, with the usual over-reactive results. My mother made skim milk from powder rather than use real milk. It tasted, by the way, atrocious. There was no cheese, no olive oil and nothing that tasted of anything much in the house. Fat is, after all, where flavour lives.

Which is no way to bring up a child. Food was seen as a mildly decadent thing, which naturally leads to off-centre attitudes. Finding out how to eat and cook and consume food well isn’t as simple as you’d think. The damage caused by dopey fads remembered from formative years can take a long time to overcome.

Eating, as much as anything else, requires the deliberate choice of quality. And any time is a good time to start. Sorry mum.

Pop-Gun

After nearly a decade of using their balance sheet (read: quick-ee cash printers) to prop up banks and other miscreants, the Fed finds itself in the awkward position of having forgotten to order bullets.

Oh well. They’re likely just waiting for the background check.

Permission Granted

Roger Bannister about to cross the tape at the end of his record breaking mile run at Iffley Road, Oxford. He was the first person to run the mile in under four minutes, with a time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. (Photo by Norman Potter/Central Press/Getty Images)

The story of Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile record is terrific. In 1954, this was a seemingly impossible barrier, but not to Roger.

Not to Roger, and not to the cascade of runners who followed him. Once he crashed through the wall, others quickly snuck through, eventually rendering the previously insurmountable limit a mere speed-bump.

I didn’t think of this; I believe it was the late Wayne Dyer. He said that Bannister’s athletic achievement was wonderful, but that the feat’s real value was that it gave others the permission to run that fast.

He gave others permission.

Makes me ponder just what permissions I am waiting for.