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On the Economy

written by Ryan November 19, 2008

I imagine most people are a little bored about news and opinions surrounding the worlds whacked out economic situation, but as the official minister of Bustin finance, it has been on my mind and the subject of my studies lately. And damnit’, I want to talk about it on the blog. In my mind the whole situation revolves around a simple force known as fear and a few principles of social psychology. It is easy to blame Wall Street, Detroit, the media and even ourselves for what has transpired over the last 20 years bringing us to this critical point. And we all know that it is also our tendency as a society to spend a bunch of time doing this blame game and spinning our wheels. Its normal, our first reaction is always to find a scapegoat, we do that when we get burned, its human. I also understand that these are big decisions for the government and the key players in our economy and I don’t dismiss the importance of the massive dialogue taking place. I do however, think that more people should be thinking about and trying to understand the subtle effects of fear, doubt and hope during these critical periods and the way they can alter the outcome of the times.

Our fear is that we are going to run out of money and thus, believe we should stop buying things that we don’t need and ride it out. This is a real fear and an understandable one. The interesting part is that, from a wider perspective, this attitude is precisely what will drive us closer to our very fears.

Again, this behavior seems to be very much human nature and the analogies are numerous. Take a frat house full of guys who all split an electric bill for the entire house (I wasn’t in a frat so this is purely hypothetical. If I had more time I’d add to the story some crazy frat party scene, but I’ll try to stay focused). Winter hits and the old furnace in the 100 year old frat house is getting weak. Everyone in the house knows that running excess space heaters in their rooms is going to sky rocket the electric bill, but they also want their rooms to be toasty for when Sally sorority comes over. Most importantly, and this is key, they feel that it is logical to presume every other member of the house is committing the same crime of selfishness and “I’ll be damned if I’m paying a huge bill because everyone else is running two heaters, I’m staying warm too”. The result is that everyone tries to get their own fair share of the pie because they all accept that their screwed either way. Not surprisingly the bill is larger than should be reasonable and, ironically, everyone still blames it on everyone else.

The point is that we always look out for ourselves and our immediate family. There is a disconnect between ourselves and the collective social network, despite the fact of our dependence on that social network (aka the economy). Whats most interesting is that I think most of us see it happening, yet are unable to connect our understanding with our actions. We are unable to bypass our fear because we assume that everyone else will also refuse to bypass their own. I suppose this is the nature of our individualistic society and could be just another result of multiple decades of greedy mentalities gone wild. Perhaps the greed being blamed in the Wall Street mess has actually trickled down through the stock market, into the media bowl, out of our flat screen tvs and into our own perspectives. We know what needs to happen but for some reason we act like Donald Trump on a stupid reality show, obnoxiously and ignorantly interested in no ones survival but our own.

In my mind the conclusion points in two directions. Either we are totally screwed because the force of fear is so innate, or we’re totally fine because the force of hope is so innate. If nothing else, I think we’ll see what the American spirit is really made of in all of this and I, for one, believe its probably hope. Even if the last 20 years poisoned us with greedy mentalities from excess prosperity, it occurs to me that our country is more than 200 years old and that most of those years have been hopeful ones. I don’t think we’re doomed and I don’t think we’re selfish and I hope I’m not the only one with this perspective.

All that said, to realize success in this critical time we have collectively decide to resist the fear, atleast a little. I don’t think everyone going on a shopping spree is the solution, but I do think that we need to relax and try to live (and spend dolla dollas) in a relatively normal fashion. I probably should stop going to my favorite local diner for lunch in order to save money, but I decide to go anyway because I know Joe the owner and his family. They are my friends, but thats not exactly why I do still go. I understand that Joe’s survival is my survival in the end and they make dank soups for these freezing winter days.

In the end, and fittingly, I guess the best analogy is getting speed wobble on your board. When you start to lose control your only chance for recovery is to carve is out and RELAX.

Disclaimer: If you’ve read this far, you must have found it somewhat interesting (or maybe not, its oka). I just wanted to mention that I really didn’t write this article in order to convince people to buy a board from us. I just wanted to encourage people to take a breath and try to keep living their usual lives, knowing that simply by doing this collectively, we will survive the cold winter. Go eat some soup.

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5 comments

M. Dallas November 19, 2008 at 11:52 pm

word.

Jackie November 20, 2008 at 12:37 pm

“It was on this day [actually yesterday, Nov.19] in 1863 that Abraham Lincoln got up in front of about 15,000 people and delivered the Gettysburg Address, which begins, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
It was a foggy, cold morning on this day in 1863. Lincoln arrived at the new national cemetery in Gettysburg at about 10 a.m. Around noon, the sun broke out as the crowds gathered on a hill overlooking the battlefield. A military band played, a local preacher offered a long prayer, and the headlining orator, Edward Everett, spoke for more than two hours. When Everett was finished, Lincoln got up and pulled his speech from his coat pocket. It consisted of 10 sentences, a total of 272 words. The audience was distracted by a photographer setting up his camera, and by the time Lincoln had finished his speech and sat down the audience didn’t even realize he had spoken.”

We humans, not just Americans, are certainly easily distractable, yet I too believe that we end up fishing out what’s important in the end. It may take us a while to get break through that thick ice and pull up the catch, but as this election has shown, fear does not always get the best of us. I think we can pat ourselves on the back for that. And yet sometimes it does. I believe the passing of Prop 8 has as much to do with fear mongering as anything else — people spreading untruths in order to spread fear and here, it worked. Still I have hope that this civil rights issue will continue to be fought and minds will open.

I’m sorry, I know you’re talking about the economy and here I am bringing up Lincoln, Obama, and gay rights. But like you said, it’s all related to fear, doubt, and hope–just as we’re all related as Americans and more importantly, as fellow human beings. I agree that hope’s the heavier guy on the see-saw these days.

I just bought a new dress for absolutely no reason other than that it’s pretty…and a pizza stone so I can learn to make awesome pizza crusts at home — superficial? Or maybe I’m contributing to my local businesses and the economy as a whole…I don’t know.

I also saw an e-card the other day that said, “Congratulations on not making enough money to be considered for layoffs.” (And I was like, hey that’s me!) Funny and not so funny on multiple levels.

This is the longest comment in the history of blog posts, my apologies. I just love when you put your thoughts out here for us. You be wicked thoughtful.

Nick November 20, 2008 at 3:38 pm

America’s second president, John Adams, once said, “fear is the foundation of most governments.” I guess not much has changed in 200 years? (I actually remembered that from 8th grade US history class).

Well put, Ryan. In all seriousness, I agree that we cannot let fear of spending control our lives. Like most things in life there will always be a delicate balance between the two extremes. If there’s no fear of spending, how many people will continue to force themselves into ruining credit card debts? Likewise, if we are so scared of spending on a single luxury item, what will happen to our economy?

Save smart and spend smart – that’s my motto! Recession? What recession?

Ryan November 20, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Wow. Thanks ya’ll for the thoughtful comments. Jackie – brilliant. I’ll try to get the dialogue going more often on random issues. And I feel you on the civil rights discussion and the excitement around the election. In spite of (or maybe because of) this economic crisis, we are living in an amazing time and those of us who like studying this stuff couldn’t have a more interesting case to live through.

Nick – I think your comment was key and balance is everything. I just blew way too much money on my upcoming snowboard season, meaning my balance is coming in the form of a boring two weeks ahead.

Busy day today, I’m getting up out da shop finally… cheerio’ mates

Eric November 21, 2008 at 4:42 pm

Deflation is looming. The theory is that people will hold off on purchases since products are becoming cheaper and cheaper. Or is it products will become cheaper and cheaper because people are holding off purchases.

As far as civil rights, I feel we gained one on the presidency but lost one on Prop 8 (California voters voted to change the Calif Const to say that marraige is only between man and women.) Don’t mean to bring religion into it, but the Calif Const is beginning to look more like the language interpreted from the bible. Now only if the economy mirrored the bible, would be little to no greed.

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