Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where are we going?

(Warning: I don't know where I'm going with this post; I guess it ends when it ends)

I used to read Clusterfuck Nation and Club Orlov on and off in the past, whenever somebody in one of my regular haunts made a mention of one of their more noteworthy posts. I subscribed to their RSS feeds a while back (RSS is just like Twitter, except there is no 140 character restriction, and the content is slightly more meaningful than updates about celebrities' breakfasts *snark mode off*). A regular dose of doom and gloom stuff (maybe I should include Mish Shedlock's blog here as well), while fulfilling its disaster porn role, doesn't result in any constructive or positive outcome; for someone in India, being exposed everyday to the 'things have never been better, buy your dream car, your dream house, take your dream vacation, and while you're doing all this, tweet about it to your 1579 Facebook friends in real time using your ultra slim shiny smartphone' hard sell, this seems a world away, but is it really so? What would happen to us if the eurozone crisis finally comes to a head and countries start defaulting? If the price of oil goes through the roof because the USS Enterprise is torpedoed in the Straits of Hormuz? If there is a global ban on travel because of the next outbreak of bird/swine/monkey/rhino flu that came about because some scientist in a lab somewhere was wondering 'Gee, what would happen if I take this test tube of monkey piss and slightly shake it above the head of this disgruntled pigeon who has been looking askance at me since yesterday morning?'? What if the Indian real estate bubble finally bursts? What if the Sensex tanks? What if our exports took a nosedive, taking along with them the aspirations of the newly rich middle class? What if we run out of drinking water? Electricity?

The answer to these questions is pretty simple, really: a lot of people will be screwed, some more so than others. But how many of these scenarios will actually play out within the next year or so (ignoring the bits about electricity and water; I think we're safe on both fronts for another decade)?

One can go about analyzing these issues in a rational manner and doing our research, but this is not really needed; we can figure things out if we keep in mind certain things:

1. If bad things are coming down the pike, they will invariably be dumped on the people at the bottom of the food chain, those who cannot complain too much.

2. People in positions of power and wealth will game the system and get away with it every time.

3. No one can be proven right or wrong when it comes to principles of economics and ideology. The world is too complicated, there are too many variables, you cannot do double blind experiments with control groups, etc. In practical terms, this means that no philosophy or approach can ever be definitively disproved and jettisoned; any pundit worth his salt can rationalize away the failures and non-conformances to the 'model'.

4. People keep expecting the next messiah to solve all their problems. Not going to happen.

5. The kind of hyperinflation or currency crash similar to the experiences of the Zimbabweans or the Wiemar Republic will not happen with either the dollar or the euro.

6. When people in power are in trouble, watch out for distractions, both catastrophic (Iran vs USrael) and merely irritating (retail FDI controversy, Salman Rushdie). Also be prepared for dirty tricks. These people have too much vested in the status quo to go without a fight. They're are also very smart (which is a given considering where they are and how long they have remained there). Cf. Women's reservation bill, Lokpal bill.

7. Everybody has their price.

Applying these, for want of a better term, principles, to all the questions raised above is left as an exercise for the reader.