Wednesday, March 13, 2019

An Infernal Economy, Canto I

After seeing the Big Bear on his Dante kick, it occurred to me that very few of the new readers of the last 10 years would be familiar with my own little foray into terza rima, which was originally published in the appendix of The Return of the Great Depression.

An Infernal Economy

Canto I

In a dark woodland I espied a bear
Vicious, hirsute, with a low, evil brow.
His stinking breath befouled the woodland air;
A roar, and animal spirits somehow
Vanished, like ghosts dissipating in mist,
Taking with them fully half from the Dow.
I knew not how I should hope to resist
This great beast, when before me then appeared
A genius, albeit one much dismissed,
For espousing truths both exact and feared
By men parsimonious in wisdom.
"No man, yet I act," said him I revered,
"To spare thee much needless pain have I come!"
Then he raised a gleaming sword of pure gold
Before which the terrible beast did succumb
And turn away. Thus inspired I made bold
To inquire of insights he might convey.
"No, I shall not teach, instead shall I scold.
Come, thou shalt witness how ends the soiree!"
We found ourselves before a wide Abyss
From which came moans and cries of great dismay,
The regrets of men who'd been so remiss
As to believe markets will always rise.
"Speak, damned broker," I said with a hiss,
To a wretched shade with dark, haunted eyes,
All naked but for his well-tattered suit.
"Every long-term chart showed we were wise."
He protested, his contrition acute.
"Dollar-cost averaging, interest compound,
We thought they invested risk free, absolute!"
My Guide laughed, it was a cold, hollow sound
Of scorn for innocence so misplaced.
"That which goes up must finally come down,
And asset inflation will be retraced.
For growth cannot last indefinitely
When debt is rising and money debased."
Behind us we left that sad misery,
Weeping and wailing under the cliff's edge,
Descending down to the second degree.
There we encountered the god of the pledge,
Visa, the Master of living and dead.
Who sneered at my Guide: "From whence didst thou dredge
This old fossil, academic unread
By my countless servants, my serfs, my slaves?
He shall not enter, but for thee, instead
I'll offer a card that actually saves
Thee five percent even as thou doth spend!"
Temptation rushed o'er me, enticing waves,
Cast by the fat goblin off'ring to lend
Me all that I wanted, and more beside!
"Stand fast, man, and do not think thou shalt bend!"
So spoke my Guardian, the consummate Guide,
Who, bare-handed, tore that false god in half!
"His day is done, comest thou alongside.
Seest the shades blown like wheat amidst chaff?"
Throughout the depths blew a most fearsome wind
Hurling poor souls around, all the riff-raff
In mighty numbers, those fools who had sinned,
Caught up in the feverish gluttony
Of consumption, and now, too late, chagrined.
They tumbled through clouds of fiat money,
Faith rendered faithless in one mad moment,
Then came a pair still in matrimony
Bound. They shrieked and fought for they did resent
The ties that held them linked close together
In bitter rage and mutual dissent.
The woman cried, clawing at her tether.
Impoverished, angry, seeking divorce,
And falling for the netherest nether
They plunged to the depths like a Russian bourse.
"New house, new clothes, new car financed with debt
They married for better, but found the worst,"
Said the Master without sounding upset.
"So now, they can't even pay for a split!"
Such countless horrors no one could forget,
Happily did I that fell mirk acquit.
But new torments I saw, new terrors. I found
Myself standing in the midst of a pit,
Where an icy rain came tumbling down
Upon the unjust, and the unjust alone,
For there the just in their absence abound.
Suffering journalists wept to atone
For lying deceits practiced on the crowd.
While above towered three heads overgrown
From one horrid shape better disavowed,
Kudlow and Cramer and Bartiromo.
Three slavering heads drooled and barked aloud:
"Buy with both hands, this is doubtless the low!"
All the while snapping and snarfing up dirt.
Souls sold for nothing, not even a show,
No newspaperman had so much as a shirt
As hatless, shoeless, they froze in the rain,
Lamenting the truth they'd tried to pervert.
Shivering, I asked to depart this plane
A request to which my Guide acceded.
Thus we abandoned the media's bane,
The encroaching ice quickly receded.
Before us there stood rows of mighty stones
And behind each a small man proceeded
To push it back and forth, with moans and groans,
Across the dismal field of outsized dreams.
"Economists," I heard the amused tones
Of the Guide, "and duly damned for their schemes
That served as the key to open the door
For terrible tax-and-spending regimes."
I spared but a brief sigh for Nobel's whore
As we fell to a field of sepulchers
Uncovered and belching forth with a roar
Crimson flames that seared those entrepreneurs
Of finance, gamblers, investment bankers
Who played games with exotic wire transfers.
Those who had been for their banks anchors
Howled in unending agony, the fire
Fueled by derivatives, lethal cankers
Of financial cunning that now require
Unthinkable time to fully unwind.
Until then, each screams in his stone pyre.
No more could I bear, horror smote my mind,
I reeled before sights I could not forget.
And then my adviser did me remind
We'd yet to meet the political set.

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Blogger Shakey March 13, 2019 11:39 AM  

That's a bit of brilliance right there. The lilting nature of it takes me back. Or at least that's how I read it in my head. Took a moment to find the internal rhythm of it but once I did it flowed nicely.

Blogger MendoScot March 13, 2019 11:48 AM  

I actually like this better than eCONomics.

Blogger peacefulposter March 13, 2019 11:55 AM  

VD, what do you make of MMT hitting the mainstream recently? It's all the rage on the Left.

For those who may be unfamiliar, MMT states that the US Federal Govt has no financial constraints, only real constraints, i.e. inflation.

Blogger Jeroth March 13, 2019 11:59 AM  

I'm old enough to remember when we did the Dante's Inferno Voxiversity. I made it through that one, but dropped out of Thucydides. Shame.

Blogger VD March 13, 2019 12:07 PM  

VD, what do you make of MMT hitting the mainstream recently?

It's Keynes on steroids, telling the politicians what they want to hear so they can keep spending.

Blogger Joe Smith March 13, 2019 12:21 PM  

A while back--maybe over a year at this point--I was listening to Tom Woods' podcast and he had a guy on there arguing in favor of MMT. He was trying to say that fiat currencies automatically have value, because those are the currencies governments force people to pay taxes in. Is this the MMT claim in general, or was it just this one guy? I don't get how anyone can believe that in light of the historical evidence. Or even the modern day evidence, considering Venezuela.

Blogger peacefulposter March 13, 2019 12:42 PM  

@6 Joe, yes that is indeed what MMT says. They get it from the old Chartalism school of thought.

Blogger Dave March 13, 2019 1:12 PM  

Before us there stood rows of mighty stones
And behind each a small man proceeded
To push it back and forth, with moans and groans,
Across the dismal field of outsized dreams.
"Economists," I heard the amused tones
Of the Guide, "and duly damned for their schemes
That served as the key to open the door
For terrible tax-and-spending regimes."

Oh God, make it so.

Blogger Nate March 13, 2019 1:27 PM  

Well... I mean you're exactly a Vogon… but...

Blogger Joe Smith March 13, 2019 1:49 PM  

@7 Thanks for the info PP. That's insane.

Blogger Stilicho March 13, 2019 2:36 PM  

"It's Keynes on steroids, telling the politicians what they want to hear so they can keep spending."

Shouldn't Keen be on board with the lack of constraint on govt spending? It's in line with his mantra that govt debt doesn't matter.

Blogger peacefulposter March 13, 2019 2:43 PM  

@11 - Stilicho, Keen is pretty tight with the MMT folks and agrees with them on public debt, but I doubt he would call himself an MMTer. His primary focus is of course on private debt.

Blogger Ominous Cowherd March 13, 2019 3:14 PM  

If you have tax obligations which must be paid only in fiat, you must have fiat. Taxes create demand for fiat. Fiat usually winds up as currency and unit of account, but not a store of value.

Blogger Joe Smith March 13, 2019 5:53 PM  

@14 Well, the government can print pieces of paper, distribute them, and demand them back to its heart's content, but it won't matter if no one else is willing to give up something for them in exchange. How does the government's demanding their fiat currency from you matter if the government can't then use said currency to fund itself because no one will do anything for them in exchange for it? The military won't fight for pieces of paper its soldiers can't use to buy cigarettes, for example. Is there a way that MMT makes sense in that context that I'm not understanding?

Blogger Unknown March 13, 2019 7:34 PM  

I never comment but that's some kind of awesome.

Blogger S. Thermite March 13, 2019 11:41 PM  

Damned impressive poetry.

Pun intended.

Blogger damaris.tighe March 14, 2019 1:30 AM  

Well it's long.

Blogger damaris.tighe March 14, 2019 1:33 AM  

Can we hear you rap it ?

Blogger Jacob March 14, 2019 8:47 AM  

It's actually a fun way to learn something about economics. I hope you do Canto II about politics!

Blogger mohamed karam March 14, 2019 3:46 PM  

افضل عروض

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