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’.

Blind Spot

We humans are remarkable for our ability to avoid. I avoid the stuff that bores me, or has no implicit reward, or is unappealing for any number of – possibly lame – reasons.

Acknowledging this shortcoming is why we have To-Do lists, routines and…oh yeah, self control and self-discipline. Understanding that not doing stuff now will create less palatable consequences down the line is the other factor that keeps us vaguely in the groove.

In an hour or so I’ll leave for work. I don’t want to go. My employers are dicks and the job holds no interest, but I’ll go anyway. I enjoy eating, you see, and like the way money gives me a survival horizon. The risk of not going to work ie: hunger and bankruptcy, are relatively easily overcome by just going to work.

Implied by my act of doing paid labor is that I want to reduce risk. Of hunger and cold at a minimum. If our behavior is mostly related to changing the world around us in order to put the odds in our favor, how does that alter the things we do, and when we do them?

If we look at life through a lens of greater or lesser risk to survival (at one end of the spectrum) and thriving (at the other end) would that change us a little or a lot? Or even reveal a new way to live?