Ignorant, incompetent and indolent.

It has been posited that the esoteric (my term) economy has been hijacked by terrorists. I think that’s probably a stretch. What we have in the U.S. is a coterie of petty potentates aiming to hold on to what little power they have by inflicting damage as they run. Terrorists aim to get power; our petty potentates are barely holding on.
That’s the conclusion of what follows.

I think what characterizes the behavior of the terrorists is indirection or, of you will, the ulterior motive. What it boils down to is that the terrorist attacks and kills inoffensive persons for the purpose of influencing the behavior or some other, typically more powerful, group. The object is to gain power or influence by indirect action and avoid the risk of a conflict. Sometimes, the terrorist employs surrogates to carry out the attacks and insure that no injury comes to the self. Terrorism is cowardly.

Given that definition, it is perhaps difficult to designate our ruling elites and their financial minions as terrorists. They may well be contesting with the populace for power. They may well be trying to employ the system of trade and exchange to keep the people from governing and render them subordinate, but I don’t think it’s working. Eventually, the effort to subordinate spawns resistance and a shift to alternatives. We see evidence of that in Greece, where the underground economy has long been estimated at 30% of GDP (and that doesn’t include sharing and barter without the use of currency) and Italy and Spain, where the underground economy is estimated to be 25%. We can even see evidence in the U.S. where the estimate of the shadow economy has doubled from 9% in about 2000 to 18% more recently. If the formal economy fails them, people do something else. Look at the fact that the use of untraceable cash and bitcoins has substantially increased and California is trying to rein in yard sales as regular enterprise because they constitute a market that is untaxed–a free market not monopolized by the commercial class.

Think about the tool with which trade and exchange are sought to be controlled — money. The Treasury issues it and, as long as there are trees and electrons out of which to make it, the supply of money is almost infinite. So, why institute taxes at the federal level? Why bring the money back instead of just making more? Because, like the level of mercury in a thermometer, the measurement is no good, unless it is read. Moreover, like the mercury thermometer, money has to be moved (shaken up) to register. So, on a very basic level, federal tax collections serve to bring money back where it came from (re-venue) and create an opportunity to take the temperature of the economy. Which means that not taxing to take the measure of the economy is an exercise in willful ignorance. Congress doesn’t tax for the same reason it doesn’t manage our resources — indolence.

In retrospect, it seems fairly obvious that Congress cutting taxes is an exercise in cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. The popularity of Congress as registered in the polls, which, at 9%, is even impressive to someone (me) who doesn’t credit opinion polls with much significance, is telling. That the infusion of 212 freshmen into the House via the last three elections hasn’t had a significant effect in terms of making them work better is also telling. It tells us that incompetence is being augmented by indolence. Like the class cut-up, the Congress is being stupid by choice. Their promise to cut taxes is nothing but an esoteric version of “cut the mustard” or “cut the cheese.”

That’s the problem with the esoteric economy, where symbols are substituted for real things. Symbols are easy to see (even easy on the eyes) but they have no smell or feel. The esoteric economy is like the denizens of Plato’s cave, whose only sensory input is vision from eyes staring straight ahead–a position the denizens of Congress have apparently chosen to assume. And, having gone blind, they are waiting for Obama to lead them into the light. Right.

Replacing almost half of the House was obviously not enough. 2014 has to be the year of the tipping point.

P.S. The linked post is rather dense and long. I realize that, like politics, economics is an acquired taste. So, what I try to do is just offer a tid-bit or two in hopes that eventually it will become palatable.

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