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Archive for October, 2008

So the markets are up again.  Huh.  Today’s Globe and Mail ran the headline, “Relieved Investors Lift Stocks Worldwide.”  Bolstered by the socialistic maneuver of bank buyouts and debt guarantees on the part of governments worldwide, investors have, seemingly, responded with giddy, capitalist glee, watching ecstatically as the squiggly electronic lines shot straight up.  “Hurrah” they must have squealed in unison, beneath the blinding glow of LCD monitors.  It must be a relief to know that though all may be beaten low and bloody in their own winner-takes-all game of marketeering, the rest of the body politic will be right there to help them out of their horrific mess, no matter the cost.

But, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit relieved, too.

For two weeks now I’ve incorporated a visit to gocurrency.com into my daily routine.  After watching the Canadian value of my salary dip noticeably, attached as it is to the dead weight of the South Korean Won, I must say I was a tad worried.  I wasn’t helped by stories being circulated comparing the current crisis to the Asian market collapse ten years ago– a time when many Koreans supposedly donated their gold jewelry to the government coffers in order to avoid complete bankruptcy.

And yet, I can’t help but draw an analogy between the recent behaviour of The Market and that of a certain student of mine; she (who shall remain nameless) is incredibly bossy and ridiculously needy– a deadly combination.  She demands near constant attention and can flip emotions faster than most MacDonald’s employees can flip burgers.  At times she does play fair, to her credit, but, just as suddenly, she can revert to the sulkiest of moods for passing her by when asking a class question.  And yet, since English is a business here and she is a paying customer, I’m forced to pander, somewhat, to her bewildering immaturity.

Just the same, when the Invisible Hand of market control turned malicious The Invisible Handawhile back and burst this housing “bubble,” The Market, collectively, slumped its shoulders and began to pout.  The whine droned on for months, growing steadily louder, suggesting that a full-on, pre-teenage outburst was in store.  Money was bandied about in the hopes of appeasing the fulminating beast.  When that wasn’t enough, The Market screamed for full attention and, subsequently, crashed to the floor, throwing a tantrum such as has never been seen before.  So hard did its arms flail and so frantic did its legs kick that it knocked down some rather significant financial corporations.  The “show” was so ridiculous and far-reaching that even the American Congress attempted to pander the most abhorrent allowance ever: 700 billion dollars.  That’s a lot of lollipops for so greedy a child.

All might have been well, but then those beacons of ethical parenting stepped in, namely the hard-right conservatives, to question the morality (read: realpolitik) of the deal.  The Market, furious at such insolence, flipped over front-side in steely, aggressive anger and pounded fist to floor with such vigour that the reverberations crumbled even more lending corporations and threatened some public banks and other global institutions.  “Alright, alright,” screamed the free-market conservatives, “give the beast the damned 700 billion, anything to make it stop!”

The Market tilted its blood-shot eyes from the floor, momentarily appeased and, secretly, smiling mischievously.  With every expectant, nervous eye in the world cast upon it, The Market stood up and marched straight for the suicidal cliff.  Stopping at the edge, it turned and called for attention: investors bit their nails, homeowners clung to their mortgages like teddy bears, and faith returned to secular democracy as governments wobbled to their knees and prayed for re-election.  But faith and nail-biting were not to prevail. “700 billion is simply not enough,” The Market sneered in haughtily and turned around to jump, weeping all the while.

In North America, where everyone was demanding answers from their campaigning politicians, the Canadian front-runner (and now incumbent Prime Minister) suggested that this was a perfect opportunity for the public to buy into The Market’s scam and leap off the cliff together.  Interestingly enough, that’s sort of what happened.  The big movers and shakers of the world stepped forward and laid big, comforting, governmental hands on the shoulders of the bawling, suicidal Market.  “There, there,” they placated, “we’ll buy into all your problems. The tax payers will pick up your tab, no worries, but do please stop crying.”

And so they pandered, boosting confidence and hoisting The Market higher on their shoulders than they have ever lifted The Market since the 1930s.  “Hurrah,” they must have cheered.

The whole thing, I must say, stinks to high heaven.  In fact, if the Invisible Hand happens to have an accompanying Invisible Nose, it is probably retching, invisibly, right now.

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Canada is voting today and I am viewing the process, passively, from afar (a mail-in ballot was too late in coming), so I will offer as a comment the only thing I know with surety about this election:

I know, conclusively, who Margaret Atwood is NOT voting for!

Margaret Atwood

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