October 10, 2008
Relocalize The Economy!
Last week, I emailed local elected officials suggesting that they should meet ASAP with local banks, credit unions, and chambers of commerce to figure out ways to assemble enough local capital to provide commercial paper credit to local businesses. I'm not sure they were paying attention.
This week, I emailed my representatives in the state legislature with the same suggestion. I'm not sure they are paying attention either, although I did read in the paper Bee this morning that the Governator is asking us to buy state bonds to finance some of the projects that voters already approved in previous elections.
Fortunately, California is the biggest state economy in the U.S., so I am sure there are plenty of people who could spare an extra $20 or $100 for 30 years or so (well maybe just a few years, actually, if the economy goes back up) to help build the capital infrastructure investments we will need to maintain our addictions to driving and prisons.
If you noticed that the scheme I just described, of us lending to ourselves, is just more of the same house of cards that has been falling down on Wall Street, a virtual 9/11, you may be wondering if this makes economic sense.
If you feel confused about how ordinary shoppers like us can save the credit markets and the economy, perhaps the story of Sven and Ole, two ordinary brothers and innkeepers, will help put things in perspective.
One day, Sven realized that they had run out of beer for their guests. So they counted out the pence needed, hitched up the wagon, and were off. Returning with the keg full of beer, they had been gone for some time, and Sven was feeling thirsty. So after some thought, he said to Ole, "Ole, I'm very thirsty, and I would like a glass of beer. And I have a halfpenny in my pocket. I would like to buy just one glass of beer."
After a moment of thought, Ole agreed, and the exchange was made. As they rode along, Sven quietly washing away his thirst, Ole began to realize that he, too, was thirsty, and would feel equally restored by a small cup. And he had in his pocket the halfpenny Sven had paid him for the glass of beer. So of course Ole proposed to Sven an equal transaction, just the reverse of the previous one. And of course Ole found his cup of beer very refreshing and sustaining.
But you know, it had really been a long day. And both brothers were really very thirsty, much more than a cup or two. And the more beer they had, the more refreshing each glass became. So, unhappily, when they finally returned to their inn, they had an empty keg and just a halfpenny.
So what is the moral of this story? Well, one moral is that beer is proof that God loves us. But the deeper meaning is that the economy really isn't about money, it's about real needs, such as clean air and water, healthy food, and shelter from unfriendly weather. These things may also be proof that Mother Earth loves us. After all, she's God's Mother too.