Thursday, August 11, 2011

Solutions; A Beginning

Last week I posted the thought that I should begin a series of blogs that would offer solutions to the problems we face. I also asked if, given the difficulty in making a comment on a blog, I might generate more feedback if I published an email address.

Then, of course, S&P lowered the credit rating of the United States and all hell broke loose on Wall Street and around the economic world. As I am writing these words, trading day four of the post-credit-rating-decrease world, the DOW is up over 500 points, which follows, in order, a drop of 600+ points, an increase of 400+ points and a drop of 500+ points. Literally, trillions of dollars lost, then gained, then lost again.

Perhaps then, the epitome of capitalism, the stock markets, is a good place to start when discussing solutions.

Those who know me have heard me say that I would not want to win one of those high end lotteries which can reach $100, $150 million dollars. I always say that it is too much money to have all at once and that I would prefer only a few million at most. Generally, that statement is met with disbelief. Most people react by saying that they would want as much as they could win. Some even comment that I am not being honest with myself when I say such a thing.

Perhaps I distrust myself to handle such a bonanza in a responsible way. Perhaps I know that many personality types can easily lose themselves in the excitement of having so much money and eventually become a slave to the money rather than the master.

Or perhaps I truly believe that money and material possessions are too big a distraction from what is really important in life.

Don't get me wrong, I need money just like the next guy. It provides me with this computer with which I can express myself, my home in which I am sitting, the food which my stomach is currently wondering about, clothes, entertainment, utilities, transportation, a veritable list of items that help make my life easier and help make my family more comfortable, even happier. Certainly between having no resources and having sufficient resources, I choose the latter.

But when does sufficient become unnecessary? When does having enough shoes become an excessive amount? 6 pairs? 26 pairs? 260 pairs? Is there a limit on the amount of anything one can possess upon which time any amount over that number is wasteful? Does this hold true for money as well?

I had always thought that the people who moved institutions as large and powerful as the stock market tended to be more cold and calculated than most. Less driven by emotion, more by knowledge and facts. Yet, given the wild swings of the stock market this week, I am beginning to wonder how people with advanced degrees in economics, business, finance, can sell everything on Monday, buy everything on Tuesday, sell everything again on Wednesday then buy again on Thursday? What facts and information have come to light that would generate such instability? Or is my original premise wrong? Perhaps they are not as unemotional as I think? Or perhaps they are so consumed by having money that they have lost the understanding of its purpose. That money is a means, not the end itself.

The general response to "there should be a limit on what one can earn" is that if we take away the incentive to earn an unlimited amount of money then the movers and shakers of the economy will just stop working. Anyone familiar with Ayn Rand's book The Fountainhead, has read how the world could degenerate into a place where exceptionalism is suppressed and mediocrity is rewarded.

But what some people who currently quote Ayn Rand fail to realize is that her heroes did not pursue economic gain for its sake, they sought rewards for their contributions, their superior contributions. They did not seek the rewards as an end, their love of the work in which they engaged was their main motivator; the money was secondary. They were ruthless in their pursuit of perfecting their particular craft, architecture in the case of Howard Roark. But ruthless in the pursuit of money, specifically money on Wall Street, seems to include, no, perhaps require, a pursuit that causes incredible gains for some, incredible loss for others. Does taking advantage of another person in the name of money remind us of Ayn Rand's characters or merely people who have lost their sense of humanity?

So, what is my solution? Well, it depends on the defined problem. I believe that our main problem, is that we have lost sight of money's purpose. We pursue it as an end rather than the means to sufficiently provide for our needs. That we have allowed our belief in capitalism, especially given its success in providing sufficient resources to so many people, to become a belief in whoever gets the most toys wins. Therefore, we need a paradigm shift, either about our chosen economic system, or about our own priorities of money and its importance in our lives. No easy feat to be sure.

Moving forward, I have decided to publish an email address for readers to use to contact me outside this blog. It is:

I look forward to any and all comments.

No comments:

Post a Comment