Monday, April 12, 2010

Just numbers

Have you ever seen the movie Fight Club? If not, here's a spoiler (warning!): at the end of the movie, the hero/anti-hero blows up all the financial institutions. Without all the little digits, all the bits and bytes floating around in the cyber-air representing the vast sums of money incarcerated in digital bank accounts around the world, people return to being just people.

As an aside, being a former risk management auditor, I know that financial institutions have all those bits and bytes stored off-site as well, probably in multiple locations, probably directed off-site simultaneously with the recording of the initial event. In my experience, financial institutions usually had the most interest in protecting and recording their data correctly and securely. So, you know, the Club would have needed to track down those mega-storage units as well. Maybe an EMP would have worked for that.

Getting back to the thread. Sometimes I marvel at all of it - the fact that we are all running around pretending that we have REAL assets, when in fact they are just little numbers flying around in the air. The checking accounts that we live off of - just numbers. The savings account for the kiddo's college education - just numbers. The retirement assets you've worked to save for the last fifty years - just numbers, subject to random manipulation and mutilation and erasure. People paid millions of dollars just to pass these numbers back and forth and rearrange them to make them look better than they are.

If I think about it too much, it makes me a little giddy. Like looking out of a plane at the ground before parachuting out. I guess it's just one more symptom of our mass mania. We pretend that we can grow forever. We pretend that we know what we're doing when we stimulate the economy this way and pump it up that way. We pretend we're doing the right thing when we collectively accumulate a debt we can never, and will never, repay.

Why not pretend that we have actual things called money, which represent actual value, sitting in vaults somewhere, instead of digital numbers which represent decisions in a banker's head to loan money into existence out of nothing? As long as we all pretend, and all agree, on the existence and relative values and worth of our digits, the hallucination holds firm. But if we stop agreeing....???


Kate said...

I wholeheartedly agree. There's a reason real estate is called *real* estate. Sure, the housing boom and mortgage fiasco may have helped tank the economy. But land is real, and has real value, whatever the numbers say. And you can put other things of real value on land. Like a garden, a home, a root cellar, an orchard, livestock, food forests, bee hives, and a place for children to play.

I'm tightfisted, but I'm still spending money on fig trees and honey bees. They won't last forever, but they have a chance at reproducing themselves indefinitely. And they have real value, regardless of what the market thinks they're worth.

pgrass101 said...

Wow, this post has materialized what I have been thinking for awhile. What if we realize or are made to realize that all of our electronic money just doesn’t exist, and that our real paper money has no real value. Is it only a matter of time before we realize that our financial system is imaginary? What will happen when some event big or small makes us want things that have real value, like food, shelter and security? I would like to have a larger garden and be more self reliant for my family’s food production, because being self reliant for your food production is true security, both financial and otherwise.

Sharlene T. said...

Like Scarlett's daddy told her, "It's the land that you keep, Katie Scarlett, the land." And, of course, my favorite Andrew Jackson quote, "Never turn your country over to the bankers; they'll destroy you." Think that's possible?...hmmm...we have pretty much done that, I think. But, I have my 1.9 acres and gardens...Thanks for the posting.

Rain23 said...

That was chilling. It's so true. Most of the money isn't even in paper. If half of us went to the bank right now and asked for our paper simultaneously, even those of us without very much of it, they'd have to close.

Like the other posters said, invest in land, crops, clothes, education, family, friends, things that endure. Just in case some day the numbers do go away, ending the empires built on greed and clever deception.

I would like to live to see a different way of life than having a few who can gratify their every whim while the rest of us spend too many precious hours in soul-deadening jobs that too often don't pay enough to meet our minimum needs, but enrich the overseers.

hickchick said...

I posted 'when I retire' about the same things. We made the decision to reduce contributions to our at work retirement plans and instead save money to buy our homestead. I want something with real value. Something which won't go away when the markets head south.
We bought our 4.6 acres this spring -paid cash. Now I am saving for a nice little Norweigan Fjord mare!