I am sitting here in central Mexico, drinking Padre Kino red, which is thirty-nine cents a trainload Messican wine, and pondering life and economics. I may not be entirely coherent. Coherence is an overrated virtue. Anyway, I cannot understand people in the Unites States. Help me.
The American Dream, the American Dream, the American Dream. Politicians keep saying it. What is it, for God’s sake? Apparently it’s twenty grand on the Visa, upside down on the mortgage on a shoddily built oversize McMansion in a remote sterile suburb where you don’t know your neighbors, living paycheck to paycheck, no savings, forty-five minute commute to a job you hate in with gas prices rising. If that’s a dream, better to stay awake.
Why this? I will now enunciate Fred’s Principle which, if adopted, would bring the United States down in about a week and a half.
If you can’t pay for it, don’t buy it.
Fred’s Other Principle, which if enforced would have prevented the subprime rip: If you lend money to people who can’t pay it back, they won’t.
I don’t get it. I’m just a poor West Virginia boy with twelve toes and don’t understand higher learning. I keep hearing these people who say they are economists telling us that we need to Get Back to Economic Growth, and Increase Productivity. How does that work? I figure we need economic shrinkage, need it pretty desperately, and lots less productivity.
I mean, think about it. We already produce more funny little talking telephones, designer jeans, whaliferous (Whaletous? Whalefic? Anyway, excessively big-ass) SUVs, not to mention houses so big that you have to be sober to find your way around them and with heating bills that make the Saudis very, very happy. Then, since it would never occur to most of us to buy this stuff without being force-fed like a patè goose, we have advertising. Everywhere. Twenty minutes to the hour on the lobotomy box. Matchbo0ok covers. Pop-ups. Billboards. Buy, buy, and buy, ask what later. Americans are The People Who Buy.
Wild thought: What if advertising were outlawed? If you yourself had to decide that you wanted a New! New! Detergent with eight emulsifiers, or Introducing! The New! Smartphone with Auto-texting, send idiotic messages faster and express your personality, if any!
The economy would collapse. It depends on frantic buying. On credit.
Shrinkage. That’s the way to go. Any fool and some congressmen can see it. We already begin to have resource wars. Have you noticed that the Pentagon wants to overthrow evil tyrants and impose democracy only in places with oil or access to it? That China and India have seven times the US population, don’t forget Brazil, and if they develop to the US standard they will need at least another eight times the oil that the US uses? Heah cum de wahs, brethren.
Thing is, politicians, businessmen, and highway robbers think only of the next payoff, and that means that they want more population more to buy more ugly houses and shop at more malls until…it all collapses. So you can’t say things like:
Half the people use half the resources.
I know that the mathematics of this is abstruse, and involves difficult concepts, such as fractions. Readers under thirty might think of it this way: If you have two Quarter-Pounders with Cheese and ten brainless surfers on a beach in California, they won’t get much to eat per each. But if you have only two brainless surfers, each will get a whole Quarter-Pounder with cheese! Wow! See? Like, far out.
The world is getting woozy. I think it must have something to do with sunspots. They affect the Padre Kino.
It all boils down to boneheadness, perhaps the greatest virtue we have, in contradistinction to Porous-headedness. The porous-headed (taxonomically Porocephaloids) wait to be told what they want—“New! New! Four Spices deodorant, with alpha-leptons and six anti-oxidants”—and go buy it, because they have been told that they want it. The boneheaded think, “Screw that. Pack of rat-bag dingalings. What I want….”
So the bonehead think, “What do I really want?” Since he is a bonehead, you cannot tell him how to answer this question. Characteristic of boneheads is that they answer their own questions. This is anti-American, anti-market, and probably anti-all-manner-of-things. The bonehead is supernally uninterested.
So (assuming that he is intelligent) he thinks, “I want to live in a groovy part of a groovy city,” or maybe, “I want to live in isolation in a pine forest in remote New Mexico.” What you think of this decision doesn’t interest him. He isn’t hostile to you, or even antisocial. He just doesn’t care about New! Softer! Toilet paper from Charmin. Ooooooh!
So the bonehead thinks, “I like books, but with Kindle and Project Gutenberg and a little larceny, I can get pretty much every book ever written. I like music, but with big drives and memory sticks costing almost nothing, and quite decent speakers going for $250, and a lot of larceny, that’s easy. I’d like a woman, but there are a million superb ones out there, especially outside the US. Housing? If you have a gal you really like, you can live perfectly happily in a small trailer or a fifth wheel, wherever you like.”
Likes and possibilities differ by person, of course. The whole trick is deciding how much you need and what you—you, not Madison Avenue—need to live happily. But, for a lot of boneheads, it is friends, wife, music, peace, freedom, and that sort of thing.
I would say, learn the angles. And realize your friend. And realize that the system isn’t your friend. The only question is whether you can suck money out of the government, any government, do it. The only question is whether you can get more out of government than it can get out of you. If your wife is a cultured Mexican, she can teach Spanish by internet to gringos. If you are a lawyer and live in a cheap region, write briefs of contracts or whatever by internet. If you are bright, there are ways. Use them.
I live in Mexico, on Lake Chapala, almost an hour south of Guadalajara. The town is Ajijic, google it. I have friends who live on $1K a month. This is below optimal, but they do it with $350 for rent in a genuinely decent residential hotel, internet and pool included, and eat and read and listen well. These are people of intelligence. They are not suffering.
For this American, that’s a dream. But doable.