Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stalled

I’m bored by the economy; surveying it I see nothing of interest. This absence of interest is starving LaMarotte. The problem really is that all that’s really happening—at least as reported by the media—concerns finance above the level where it matters; all news of services and products hype electronic or web phenomena.

I learn for instance that banks want to lend money to people who don’t need to borrow. Goldman Sachs is building a new “private bank” to lend to wealthy individuals and companies (WSJ, 7-17-12). Why is that? Lending to those who need money is dangerous. A good deal else in the news deals with that level of finance where gambling is taking place—thus where all bet money but only some win. When a company offers shares in order to get money from the public, that act is genuinely linked to economic activity; when stock is traded, that’s already a kind of gambling; when secondary, tertiary, and higher level abstract instruments are traded, that is a kind of unreality—seen from the ground up, never mind how profitable.

The real economy is where objects are sold and services provided. Here I picture a similar spectrum from real to vaporous. Real is what we need. What would we need, for instance, if electricity absolutely failed. Vaporous are things we could do without. Virtually all product and services that make it into the media have something to do with electronics or the Internet.

My own interest is in the economy is with the basics, not the ethereal or the frivolous. If a trend began to build high-speed rail and to bring back public transportation in the cities—I would get interested. If maintenance took on the popularity of finance suddenly—I would be cheering. If a third of the houses on my block were all changing their roofs to receive solar panels, mine would be one of those: that would signal the presence of a major national thrust to do something real.

As it is, the country now is frozen. The big news really is an absence of confidence—but the few polls that track it are not enough to really know why it is there and what it portends. The indirect measures available, however, make the case. Polarization in politics. Everything on hold. Therefore, in a sense, LaMarotte is also on hold. Waiting to see what happens. Just waiting for Godot.

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