Sunday, November 6, 2011

Greece: Let's Give It One More Troy

A few years ago, my brother-in-law gave me a book entitled When China Rules The World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the West by Martin Jacques. This was meant to cheer me in an hour of need, the specific need being paid full time employment during a period of financial "unrest," not to mention the fact that I had just turned sixty, which in our culture is tantamount to lying with the daffodils. The idea was: if the Chinese are coming for it all anyway, why worry? Or, at least I'd be prepared to work for them, when they arrived.

And cheer me it did, although not in the way that its author, a British journalist, had intended. Mr Jacques, in his haste to rid the world of anything remotely American, had made two critical mistakes right up front. First, he had no sense of humor whatsoever, and therefore could not envision that a regime or people without a sense of humor (the Chinese) would ultimately fail. Second, and most importantly, the data on which his claim that China would catch us by 2020 or so and completely dominate us by 2050 or so came almost entirely from one source...Goldman Sachs.

Any person who would stake his name or fortune, I thought,  on data publicly supplied by GS was obviously a fool, who should have asked to see the data on which GS had made its own long and short investments. So I put the book down, marked at page thirty-two and placed it in a stack between Simple French Food by Richard Olney (recommended) and Ogilvy On Advertising (highly recommended).

...And proceeded on my sometimes merry way to invent a life.

But, why do I bring this up?

Pensionagoras's Tomb
I have just been reading the paper, which now tells me that, in fact, the demise of the West may indeed be nigh, and golly, think of the irony, it all depends on Greece itself,  the cradle of the Western civilization, not China.

Greece, through the BC/AD millennia, laid all the groundwork for citizens' rights to avoid paying taxes, elude sustained hard labor, create a 56-week year so that there would be four extra weeks of vacation, and, most amazingly of all, invent a kind of mathematics that truly changed everything, at least for a while.

I refer, of course, to The Pension-agorrean Theory, to which American cities, towns, and villages, from Utica and Ithaca in the north to Athens (GA) in the South still subscribe:
a$ + b$(x) = ab$ (100x). 

Now it turns out that we cannot pay out that ab$(100x) after all, since it depends on annualized gains of 15-20%, and not the more realistic average of 5-6%, if that. Not to mention that it also depends on the accumulated value of productive work, which is how we create wealth with which to pay things. This is not exactly the same as just showing up at work four out of five days. We cannot pay out in Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain (PIIGS) or in America.


Re-enter China...

...Emissaries from France and Germany have arrived in Beijing, on behalf of Greece and other European scofflaws to make the case to the world's most ruthless capitalist-totalitarian regime that it has a golden opportunity to wrest the mantle of world financial/economic supremacy from America much earlier than previously supposed.

The words etched over that mantle in ancient Greek, underneath the image of a horse, accurately rendered in Mandarin, mean: SUCKER.

...a little trick that the Greeks learned long ago at Troy (Asia Minor, not NY).

Saddle up, Comrades, and enjoy that ride.

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