Anyone following the political debate in the United Kingdom will have realised that yesterday London was filled with demonstrators protesting against the British Government’s public spending cuts. Predictably enough, within a few hours, gangs of hooded and very confused young men wearing black were attacking the symbols of their oppression: the Ritz Hotel, assorted bank offices and Fortnum & Masons (purveyors of fine teas, veal pies and ginger shortbread biscuits). I had to admire their persistence in managing to pulverise large plate glass windows with nothing more than well-aimed kicks and the odd claw-hammer.

While this was happening, the head of the Labour party, a certain mild-mannered and very well educated fellow named Ed Miliband, was standing on a Trade Union Congress rostrum invoking the fight of suffragettes (campaigning for women’s voting right) and the civil rights movement in the United States. The connection between such well-known human rights movements and a demonstration against government policy remained unclear to me, until I reflected on the fact that Miliband is a standard politician accustomed to intellectually patronising his voters, few of whom could possibly have his level of education. But judging by his performance, they may well be better off without it. I can almost see Mr. Miliband sitting in his swivel-chair with a frown on his polished face, telling his scriptwriters to “keep it real, keep it visceral, make it understandable…” Maybe those struggling scriptwriters should have invoked Churchill, the Blitz, the march on Rommel? That would certainly have stirred the buds of British patriotism. One commentator who did fall back on the workhorse of World War Two rhetoric was Liam Halligan – chief economist at Prosperity Capital Management – in an article in Britain’s mainstream broadsheet The Daily Telegraph. Halligan clarified the fact that while George Osborne, Britain’s amazingly schoolboyish Chancellor of the Exchequer, was aiming to balance the budget by 2015, this would only be the “end of the beginning” of the fiscal battle. For if Osborne’s plans go smoothly, that will be the year when his Government stop borrowing money every month in order to balance incoming and outgoing revenues. If the current rounds of savage cuts are applied and maintained for another four years, the country will then find itself in the lovely position of not having to borrow money every month to pay for its functionaries, hospitals and schools. Interest payments on its borrowing are swallowing 6% of tax receipts, and this will rise. Almost a trillion pounds of debt remain to be repaid once the day-to-day financial disorder has been settled.

How amazing it is to realise the scale of the problem not only in the United Kingdom, but also America and throughout Europe and the world. Whenever I sit at the breakfast table opening my bills and frowning at my incompetently managed affairs, I remind myself that I am an indebted individual living in an indebted world. My incompetence is a necessary product, even a requirement, in the world we live in, where people are obliged to buy useless things with the help of credit cards, overdrafts and payment plans.

Ever since the West began its assault on Islamic fundamentalism and our media spouted highly debatable conclusions about Islamic extremists I have been asking myself whether, in fact, the extremists are not the very people who claim to be our leaders? Churchill (let’s not forget him) once said “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”. Here I think we are getting closer to the point. For in spite of the crowing of Capitalists about the superiority of their system over Marxism, increasing numbers of people are now suggesting that Capitalism has also failed and is only being propped up by banks (themselves propped up by Capitalists). Is it not, in fact, economists who are fundamentalists? – persisting with their flawed ideology even when the evidence is more than enough to put them in the dock. If so, then I think we can safely assert that economics, as a science, has failed.

I repeat, I am no economist, but it seems to me that given that we invented money and the whole system of economics, could we not now simply de-invent it? We are free, after all. Surely money is nothing but an idea, an outmoded idea? Why not simply abolish it altogether and cancel the debts? Milton Friedman (a Nobel Prize winner in the field of Economic “science”) may have established in the 1980s that too much money eroded wealth (an unlikely proposition, right?) but now it seems incontrovertible that “wealth” also takes a bit of a knock when it is nothing but a polite word for borrowed money.

The Royal Mint in the United Kingdom was established towards the end of the 1700s, headed by the stringent figure of Sir Isaac Newton, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist if there ever was one (though he was unlucky enough to be born before Alfred Nobel). Before the existence of the Mint, people used to make their own money out of bits of scrap metal (silver, gold, tin, etc) and the system seemed to work reasonably well. Once the Mint came along, the Government made sure that anyone counterfeiting their production of coinage was swiftly strung up from the nearest tree. The Royal Mint has had 200 years to prove itself, and surely that is long enough?

If it were not for China desecrating its environment and its people’s health in a race for economic development, if we did not have the expansive Indian, Brazilian and Asian systems similarly “developing”, the West’s decline would be even steeper.

Let’s say this very clearly: we are bankrupt. We cannot pay back the debts, because debt-repayment is itself dependent on running up more debts. The consumption model is thoroughly discredited. Banks make profits out of corporate and personal debt. And profits in manufacturing are generated by people running up personal debts to pay for their new acquisitions – this toxic mechanism applies to almost everything.

If, for instance, I went out this morning to set fire to a car, the Gross National Product of my country would increase. Why? Because the subsequent insurance payment would finance the purchase of a new car. Every time an airliner crashes and passengers are killed, we have positive financial results: a new plane is ordered, while the grieving next-of-kin go out and buy new houses and cars with the damages they are paid.

The problem of credit and debt has been debated for a thousand years or more. Economists should be made to read Rabelais, who once (sarcastically) said that debt, rather than the human spirit, was the true measure of man. Saul Bellow, in “Herzog”, once wrote: “Dear Mr. President, Internal Revenue regulations will turn us into a nation of book-keepers. The life of every citizen is becoming a business. This, it seems to me, is one of the worst interpretations of the meaning of human life history has ever seen. Man’s life is not a business.”

I believe the time is now ripe for universities all over the world to heed Mao Tse Tung and send their Economics undergraduates back to the countryside to learn the intricacies of chicken rearing and potato cultivation. Maybe in the bosom of Mother Nature they can learn something about the real creation of wealth and prosperity?



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HENNING KOCH (b. 1962) moved to England at an early age and grew up there. After finishing college, he spent half a decade backpacking and occasionally working as a language teacher. He has a long history of involvement in low-budget movie projects as a screenwriter and continues to write screenplays. In 2005 he moved to Sardinia and, since 2010, has been spending increasing amounts of time in Berlin. He is the author of Love Doesn’t Work (Dzanc, 2011), a short story collection. His novel The Maggot People will be published in 2012, also by Dzanc Books: http://www.dzancbooks.org/love-doesnt-work/

37 responses to “It’s Official: The World is Bankrupt (And Soon There Will Be Nothing Left to Sell)”

  1. dwoz says:

    The current world problems aren’t a problem of structure, they’re a problem of policy.

    It’s important to study, and find out the specific differences between “money(or the money supply),” “currency(or cash),” and “wealth.”

    I fully agree, that digging a potato out of the earth is a far more real expression of wealth than accruing an integer number in a computer file somewhere.

  2. Henning Koch says:

    Sure, I take your point about “money supply” (i.e. Milton Friedman – Regan’s old favourite), wealth, currency, etc. But I suppose this article was an attempt to step away from the doctrines of economics. I wanted to question more broadly how we are conducting ourselves.

    You say it is a problem of policy not structure. I am not so sure about that. The answers are always so simple, right? The policies are not complex. So how come we never seem to be able to find the right balance? And in the whole history of mankind I cannot think of any people who have created stable, sustainable societies except perhaps the Yanomami tribes of Amazonia – or similar indigenous people. What can we learn from them?

    • dwoz says:

      Well, abstractly speaking, Debt is a technique for turning future productivity into a current asset.

      In essence the instrument of Debt is a promise, a contract.

      ok, and good. Definitions out of the way.

      The policy problem is that we’re not, as a society, making promises based on any real ability to fulfill those promises. Today, an eighteen-year-old is of the age to be able to enter legal contracts. In the aggregate, as a society we’re making promises against his/her productivity long past the point where that eighteen year old will be dead and buried.

      Additionally, we’ve started inflating that based on other people making bets on whether those initial promises are valid or not.

      The monetary policy of eliminating the gold standard and “floating” against the GDP of a nation is a very good idea, until it starts being corrupted by, as you say, forces that seek to whip it up into a froth. By the way, the very same problems occur ON the gold standard, so that wasn’t the answer either.

      None of which, of course, speaks to your point.

      There’s a certain dishonesty in saying “I will pay this mortgage for the next 30 years.” Especially when it’s a 60 year old taking out the mortgage. Or a soldier. No, that person is not going to pay that last payment thirty years from now. It almost never happens.

      I will sign on to your piece, with the personal apocryphal anecdote that I am no better off now, in 2011, than I was in 1985, when I was making one tenth the money. Money is NOT wealth, and it’s a rather poor MEASURE of wealth, at that.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      I’ll jump in here in my role as resident anthropologist — I don’t know that the Yanomami were your best choice, Henning. There are others, more egalitarian and less (culturally) aggressive.

      But that’s not the point. The point is that “tribal” subsistence systems and organization don’t scale up. I spent years with one, working out social structure, land use, subsistence, cash cropping, etc. etc. and they were (and are) wholly admirable people.

      Their system worked well because they numbered about 7,000 and no settlement had more than between 150 and 200 people resident, and most had fewer. They used swidden (also known as shifting or bush fallow) cultivation, which is efficient and effective so long as there’s plenty of land. If there’s not enough land, which is what happened to them (crude rate of natural increase 4% and higher), it doesn’t work well.

      I will say that what vexes me most about people who look to indigenous societies for answers relevant to the industrialized world is the failure to understand that what works in small-scale societies cannot work in large-scale ones. I am hardly the first to have pointed it this out.

      I’m certainly in agreement with you that something’s wrong, and that it’s traceable to the capitalist (ex-colonial/imperial) system in general. But the solutions are going to have to come through economic and political change in the industrialized world. They aren’t going to come from the subsistence agriculturists of the world.

      • dwoz says:

        Interesting ideas.

        Especially the idea of the society developing just enough agricultural technology to adequately sustain them, at their existing level…and how inadequate that would be in the future.

        I am reminded of a discussion I was party to at one point in about 1990, on the topic of infrastructure here at home…specifically the ability of our infrastructure to handle population growth and be “2020-ready.” A civil engineer was bemoaning the status of NH roads, bridges, and municipal water systems as being hopelessly imperiled when we reached the year 2020 (thirty years out). My point was that in many ways, NH communities were declining to allow the civil engineers to drag them kicking and screaming into the new millennium precisely to PREVENT that growth, or at least act as a brake.

        Of course, the civil engineer looked at me with this horrified and disgusted look, like I’d just asked him to sell me his sister.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Sociocultural phenomena such as kinship, inheritance of land and other property, and the like don’t scale too well either. Perhaps more importantly, when the nature of the agricultural underpinnings changes (for example, from primarily subsistence to primarily cash-crop) the social structure can fail to adjust.

          Here’s a link:

          http://wiasi.net/Wiasi-site/Frozen_Assets_in_Nagovisi.html

          It’s an argument about chance, social change, capitalism, the nature of cash crops, and inequalities. It predicts (as did all my other work) that bad shit would to happen in that lovely place, and it did. But it was small-scale bad shit, except for the people it was happening to.

          Try as I might, I can’t derive any lessons for the likes of us in the industrialized world from it, except there’s always — always! — something you never noticed happening that’s going to jump up and bit you in the ass.

        • Don Mitchell says:

          Bad typing.

          ” . . . that bad shit would happen in that . . .”
          ” . . . jump up and bite you in the ass.”

          Sorry.

        • Henning Koch says:

          Thanks for the link, Don. I get a sense that you have spent a long time thinking about this, and I do respect that. But it seems to me that any society, anywhere, is full of flaws.
          I’m sure you know the book by E.F. Schumacher “Small is Beautiful – Economics as if People Mattered”. Maybe things just don’t scale up and we have to start working by different paradigms? Of course this is easier said than done. I am not sure where we would even begin. But I do wish some of our economists and politicians would apply themselves before we run out of the basic stuff of life to sustain us.

      • Henning Koch says:

        Thanks Don, this sounds interesting, and you may well be right when you say the Yanomami were not the best example for the argument I was making.
        My underlying point was that human economic activity (whether Marxist or Capitalist) has tended to erode our environment, and I think this is one area where we could learn from indigenous people, who tend to be more respectful – whether overpopulated or not I do believe we have to start being properly responsible for the planet. Until “economic science” addresses this problem seriously, both structurally and on the level of policy, I will continue to find it a one-sided, partial and meaningless system for managing our affairs.
        I used to work for an ecologist in London who made a fantastic series of films called “The Jungle Pharmacy”. He travelled about in the Amazon talking to herbalists and showing how they dealt with their ailments. My argument – rather an obvious one – is that while this old knowledge is/ was still there, huge logging companies were clearing those same forests, thus damaging biodiversity. Short-term financial interests made sense from a purely economic perspective. But what were the longer-term losses to human health and happiness? No economic system – as far as I am aware – has as yet devised a proper system for attaching value to things, nor has it attached proper social costs. I hope someone out there will tell me I am wrong…

  3. Irene Zion says:

    Henning,

    You are scaring me to death.
    Don’t talk like this, eh?

    • Henning Koch says:

      Irene,

      Why am I scaring you?

      • Irene Zion says:

        Well, you’re not scaring me,
        what’s scaring me is you talking about politics.

        • Henning Koch says:

          Irene, I am a mainstream environmentalist & left-of-centre democrat – a few people seem to have misinterpreted my article and decided I am a crazed Maoist. You are right, talking about politics usually gets people nowhere except into arguments…

        • Irene Zion says:

          Henning,
          I once, really long ago, years even, wrote a vaguely political comment on someone else’s post and caught hell for it. I never write anything to do with politics anymore.
          Ever.

        • Henning Koch says:

          Yes, I must admit it has put me in a foul mood… But that’s politics for you, right? The new religion.

          It is a grey day here in Berlin. I think I’ll go buy a Tribune Herald and sit in a cafe.

          Hope you are having a good day, Irene, will write soon!

  4. Caleb Powell says:

    Wrong wrong wrong. Even as satire, this is a complete nonsense, a Huffington Post-like celebrity rant flooded with spurious correlations.

    Your Mao reference is heinous. It might be hyperbole to say you support atrocity, but you have no business discussing economics. Mao failed, he inspired Pol Pot and Kim Il Sung, and was one of the most vile creatures to walk the earth.

    Capitalism and socialism are two forces, they both carry corrupt elements, they both can function together in a regulated and democratic society. The chasm between Myanmar’s capitalism and North Korea’s socialism is very wide, the gap narrow between the economic systems of the US & Canada quite narrow. Your argument of the apocryphal consequences of debt is simply wrong and almost conspiracy-theory ignorant.

    My position on the strengths and weakness of capitalism and socialism is agnostic, but I find economy fascinating. I lived overseas for eight years, in S. Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Denmark, the UAE, Brazil & Argentina, and free markets combined with benevolent government social programs, as decided by democracy, create the best social systems. Perhaps Denmark has achieved the most success. However, S. Korea’s ascent is capitalist-driven, and every Asian Tiger that rises to this position is doing so by leveraging debt in wise and foresighted policies. In S. America, India, and China similar things are happening. Yes, when out of control capitalism is ruthless, individual rights can be trampled, and as China rises they also exploit their own. These are valid concerns. I taught at a high school in Abu Dhabi, Pakistani and Sudanese laborers worked for $200 a month as indentured servants, building the country. I believe and have seen the cruel effects of greed, but I’ve also seen the rise of Taiwan from misery to a place where poverty is rare (I was born in Taiwan in the sixties, and studied and taught there later).

    Your essay is replete with absurd comments: “I believe the time is now ripe for universities all over the world to heed Mao Tse Tung” (why don’t you go to N. Korea and see Mao’s paradise. Did you know Mao publicly envied Pol Pot’s “experiment,” saying that he wished China could have been so “pure”) & “Economists should be made to read Rabelais” (makes as much sense as “cooks should read Voltaire”) & “If it were not for China…the West’s decline would be even steeper” (How so? You have not stated a case.) & “I have been asking myself whether, in fact, the extremists are not the very people who claim to be our leaders?” (Really? Dude, go to Cuba)

    Your simple scenarios just don’t reverberate with how the world functions.

    PS – The Yanomami kill first-borns if they are female, have a life expectancy below 35, high infant mortality rates, and give special status to tribesmen who have killed a human in war. Your reverence of them equates with your article’s logic.

    • dwoz says:

      now, don’t feel like you have to hold back, Caleb! How do you REALLY feel?

      I think that political systems, market systems, and monetary systems are really three different classes of systems, and though you tend to see certain pairings crop up over and over again, there’s no necessity that those pairings have to occur.

      Thus, I find your OWN spurious correlations, equating of one to another to be somewhat less compelling than it might have been had your argument possessed the same intellectual rigor that you demand of the author.

      Also, I don’t think you meant “apocryphal.”

      However, having said that, I must confess that I, too have become rather dis-enamored of huffington post, unless of course I am looking to get my daily dose of kardashian kooter.

      • Caleb Powell says:

        Forgive the malapropism. Apocalyptic.

        Bad debt can cause problems, good debt can help economies. Henning’s post way over-simplified.

        Your use of “spurious” indicates you’re ignorant of its definition. When two things occur and they lack a causal link, any forced correlation is spurious. Every correlation I made is causal. Mao’s policies brought China into the disaster of the Great Leap Forward and The Industrial Revolution, Pol Pot’s agrarian revolution led to widespread death. Singapore, China, Taiwan, and even Japan post-WW II, have grown rapidly, in part, because of their banking practices. Yes, it’s way more complex than that, and there are other factors. But that’s the “nutshell” take.

        If you want, go ahead thinking Mao’s policies had nothing to do with what happened in China, or that the dynamics of the Asian growth are not related to Asian economic policies. You’re wrong.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I don’t have too much to add to this conversation except to offer a big fat cyber high-five for not letting that noble savage garbage about the Yanomamo go unchecked.

      • Henning Koch says:

        The “noble savage” is garbage, yes. But don’t forget that cruelty also exists in our own societies – rape, war, genocide and murder are hardly unknown to us, are they? Tribal groups have many abilities that we have forgotten. In that sense we have something to learn from them.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          So true. In fact, contrary to what most are inclined to believe, industrialized humans are the least violent humans there have ever been.

          Per capita, your chances of encountering violent death or deformity at the hands of another human in the Amazon are significantly greater than they are even in Libya. Even in Detroit. Even in London.

          On that account, we could just as easily say the Yanomamo have something to learn from us, couldn’t we? How to be more peaceable, ironically enough.

          It’s a non-point, anyway. We KNOW what the Yanomamo know. I have a whole book about what the Yanomamo do and know right on my bookshelf. We can look at books just like it about any tribe in virtually any time or place in the world and know what they knew. It’s not some sacred mysterious knowledge that’s going to save humanity. It’s not as if they’re keeping some kind of secret. We all have access to this information. Just like we all have access to information on how to grow potatoes. We don’t take advantage of that access because we neither need it nor want it. We don’t need it or want it because we’re not living a subsistence lifestyle in groups of 30-60 with miles in between–a lifestyle, I should add, whose glorifiiers like to call egalitarian but whose politics, in large part, center on violent raids of neighboring villages to murder men and steal women. Women who can then be dealt with via beatings or, for the more dictatorial, a good chop with a machete (which, true enough, the men did not pay money for) if they try to go home.

          No greater step forward could be taken than for people to clear their heads of this kind of primitivist utopian fantasy. Backwards-looking or, worse, nostalgia for a way of human life that does not exist and has never existed is no help to anyone.

        • Henning Koch says:

          Becky, I am not glorifying. I am well aware of the social problems among many tribal people, particularly for women. You may not feel you have anything to learn from indigenous people, but I think you probably do. This “noble savage” concept is very outdated, but in a way you are prolonging it. Many tribes now are living on the edges of big cities, in Brazil for example. I have spent time with them and they struck me as very intelligent people – also subject to the nation’s laws like anyone else. I am not talking about sacred, mysterious knowledge – although that can also be interesting. Yes, I think tribal people probably can learn something from us: they can learn not to be as materialistic as we are, and not to poison their streams or cut down the forests as we have done. Brazilian tribal people are often keen environmental campaigners.
          They could also pick up some of the positive aspects of our societies – learning, reading, etc. With time they probably will.
          A subsistence farmer may even be better off than a low-paid industrial worker in Shanghai.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I’m married to indigenous people, Henning. I learn all kinds of things from him all the time. But that doesn’t make it reasonable for me to think that because they farm taro, his family is holding the answers to global overpopulation in the face of necessarily finite resources–which, make no mistake, is the actual, fundamental problem here.

          Mao isn’t going to fix that. Even his policies couldn’t starve and kill enough people to fix this trajectory. We’ll have to find some less violently oppressive and anti-intellectual way.

        • dwoz says:

          I thought the actual fundamental problem was governmental complicity in a scheme launched by the world’s largest investment banks to exponentially expand the M3 money supply via the explosion of derivatives-based debt thereby setting off a global recession in an attempt to pull off the largest wealth transfer operation ever perpetrated on the world?

  5. Henning Koch says:

    Yes, it would certainly be hyperbole to say I support atrocity, and I would advise you not to let your emotions get the better of you. I am no supporter of Mao – and why do you bring up Pol Pot?

    I think you have misinterpreted the tone and intention of my piece. My reference to the Yanomami is brief and I would gladly engage in a discussion on the point you raise, if it were not for the fact your letter is hostile and arrogant – never very good for debates.

    • dwoz says:

      Henning, I think there wasn’t enough phlegm-flecked spittle flying through the air when you spat the word “Mao.” An easily understandable rookie mistake. We’ve all been there, no doubt!

    • Caleb Powell says:

      Me? Hostile? Guilty as charged. You wrote, without context or a qualifying statement, that we can “learn” from both Mao and one of the most violent and misogynist people ever. Arrogant? Perhaps. I could have rebutted your claims with a gentler tone, as others have on this page, but that would be boring, wouldn’t it?

      Seriously, you’re obviously a decent and thoughtful guy, yet in no means did I misread your initial statements. There’s no way to backtrack or put them into context successfully, whether or not they deserved execration is another matter. But to me it seems you think with your heart, your forte may be lyrical prose, you’re obviously well-read, but I think you could benefit from more self-doubt. I’ve lived in Brazil, too, and I wouldn’t pretend to know about the tragic lot of the indigenous, yet you seem very comfortable in your statements. Even your rebuttal of my “great strides” comment befuddles. I’m no expert on the US, and my ignorance of other countries is even greater, nevertheless, my arguments were not unreasonable. Though my Mandarin is quite poor, I have worked as a translator. The documents my employer handed me originated from the mainland and were for the BBC, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, CNN Asia, and other places. Demographics on Asia’s rise are universally accepted. The countries I referenced all have had significant rises in per capita income (including the reduction of poverty), life expectancy, and a decrease in infant mortality. There is no better measure of success in a developing country than when people die less and their standard of living improves.

      I’m an ornery motherfucker. Don’t plan on changing.

  6. Henning Koch says:

    Okay, sure, so I will repeat it. I am not a fan of Mao. But I do like the idea of city financiers getting back to basics.

    • dwoz says:

      if there’s any validation to your premise, it’s that the mere movement of money, and the fees and commissions associated with moving money around, depending on how it’s measured and who measures it and why they measured it…anywhere from 8% to 41% of the entire economy.

      In other words, by some measures, more than a third of our entire economy is either speculation or usury.

      There are signs that even the perps realize this is batshit crazy and are backing away from it. Hopefully that means that in the long term, we’re trending away from a malevolently dangerous economy toward one that’s merely insane.

  7. Henning Koch says:

    David, I like your succinct summary of the problem. M3, etc. I would just like to know why, time and time again, governments have failed to control their financial institutions? Are we not, in fact, heading into a far more unstable world, in which enormous companies wield far more power than the people we vote for? Banks are one thing, but what about oil? Should we condone what BP is doing in Nigeria – creating an environmental disaster and propping up appalling human rights abuses. How do we control big business and make it work for us? I am not sure anyone has ever really come up with an answer…

    • dwoz says:

      well, if I had the answer, I’m sure I’d either be disappeared or give the Nobel peace prize and then disappeared.

      The thing about corporations and free markets is interesting. Karl Marx had an interesting idea, why don’t we make ourselves one big corporation, and run things sanely? because really, when you think about it a corporation is really a form of communism-writ-small. Main difference being, perhaps, that the corporation is based at it’s foundation on collective economic rents, where communism is based on the collective commons.

      The charter for both is “to thrive.” In practice, both corporations and governments become authoritarian, autocratic, and act in ways that diverge from what any reasonable person would call a greater benefit to the individuals that make up the organizations.

      Now, a tangent: Patterns. When I used to work in graphics, I had a simple little discovery that revealed a secret of the universe to me. (sounds nicely melodramatic) I used to work with screens, which were negative films patterned with halftone dots, which were used to print different tints of ink on the page. A halftone is a matrix of various-sized dots, with the percent size of the dot corresponding to the relative coverage of ink, from none to solid color and all steps in between. The dots are tiny, for typical magazine print there are 133 or 150 dots every inch. They’re like pixels. When you would get two of these tints together, and align them up perfectly so each dot on the top tint covered the corresponding dot on the bottom tint, it would look like a single sheet, instead of two. Now, if you rotated the sheets in relation to each other, you came up with a pattern, called a moire. A moire is an interference pattern between the multiple underlying patterns, that has alternating dark and light areas forming a matrix or grid.

      But there’s more. That interference pattern, a large-size pattern of dark and light areas, will mimic the characteristics of the underlying patterns! So if my one tint had a two-close-and-one-farther-apart grid pattern, the larger interference pattern would show that same two-close-and-one-farther-apart pattern. If my underlying grid pattern was exactly uniform, then so would the larger moire pattern be!

      But there’s even MORE. Halftone dots were often produced in different shapes, due to a very esoteric problem with visual perception, where a graduated tint would show “banding” under certain circumstances. The older halftone screens were comprised of round dots, then we got square dots, then we got elliptical round dots, then asymmetrical polygon dots, then stochastic dots. So lots of shapes of tiny, tiny dots in these halftone tints.

      Here’s where the discovery lay: The moire pattern produced by angling the two screens together NOT ONLY showed the pattern of the dots, but the large size moire blotches of dark and light SHOWED THE SHAPE OF THE UNDERLYING DOTS THEMSELVES. If I had square dots in my halftones, the moire pattern was square blotches. If they were elliptical star dots, then the larger blotches were elliptical stars.

      To distill this down into an axiomatic statement: “the macro-level diffraction product of multiple micro-patterns interacting not only manifest the same shapes and patterns of interaction between the node elements of the underlying groupings (i.e. the relationships between the micro-level-dots) but it ALSO manifests the COMMONALITY of the underlying nodes themselves.

      This, is an apocryphal empiricism of the highest possible order. by definition, an Epiphany (with a capital ‘E’).

      Ok, so this is wonderfully interesting, an excursion into a long-obsolete and archaic craft. The two people who are actually still reading are enthusiastic. Why do I bring it up?

      The epiphany was that moires are called interference patterns, but can also be called interaction patterns. ALL STRUC

    • dwoz says:

      The epiphany was that moires are called interference patterns, but can also be called interaction patterns. ALL STRUCTURES of individual nodes arranged in a pattern will FORM MOIRES.

      INCLUDING SOCIAL STRUCTURES.

      Remember that Vedic principle, “as above, so below?”

      Well, this principle of patterns, expressed in the “moire”, occur EVERYWHERE. The large-scale interaction patterns between people form a MOIRE, which has mimicking characteristics of the underlying people involved in those interactions.

      So, a corporation, or a government, or a nation, or a tribe, will, as a collective, express the same character traits as the underlying individuals. Or, more precisely, the traits-in-common.

      Serfs coming out from under the thumb of Czar Nicholas were most CERTAINLY not ready to live utopian idyllic lives. They were trained and patterned to NEED an autocratic jackboot. They expressed this, to everyone’s dismay in the rise of Stalin.

      Corporations are comprised of (perhaps) thousands of individuals, and the overall corporate zeitgeist will reflect very accurately the underlying commonality of the component entities that it is comprised of, both worker and stockholder.

      Governments inevitably become autocratic and authoritarian because the individuals underlying it are procedure-trained and uncreative in their thinking, only looking at how to incrementally improve the efficiency of their own little worldview. This pattern reflects up into the “persona” of the collective.

      This is a universal, and it means, basically, that as long as we understand our mission statement as “to thrive” then we are locked in. Once we individually understand our mission statement as “to be, elegantly” then our commons and our collectives will be elegant.

      • Henning Koch says:

        This was oddly interesting. Off the beaten track. Reminds me a bit of “memes”. Have you heard of these? Richard Dawkins invented the term, and said, by the way, that certain ideas will tend to come along, everywhere, at the same time. Thus, for instance, we may find that the Arab revolt at loss of economic powers will soon be reflected (possibly in a more orderly way) in Europe and America. I fear for America – right-wing regressive movements springing up everywhere. But the instinct is right. We need to refine our democracies. My own view is that we must concentrate on the environmental challenge – which also offers the key to economic renewal.

        “To be, elegantly”. This strikes me as a really useful way of summarising the human project. By “elegantly” I assume (and understand) that you mean the solutions we choose – the many smart and flexible ways we can dream up to make our lives better. It is always so shocking to recognize how smart we are, and yet, how stupidly we conduct ourselves – as a civilization, I mean. Why can’t we just grow up? Stop wasting resources… Start applying ourselves to qualitative improvements.

        And personally, I believe the time for billionaires has almost come to an end… in the West. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have already given most of their money away.

        The meme is that it is no longer enough to “thrive”. In fact we can’t, using our current system, manage it any more. We have to change.

        • dwoz says:

          Yes, I went back and forth between “elegantly” and “impeccably,” and went with elegant because it evoked more aesthetics while still incorporating the impeccable.

          “elegant” in the interestingly odd way that a dry stone wall that is beautiful and pleases your eye is often the structurally stronger wall than one that doesn’t tingle your sense of beauty.

  8. Henning Koch says:

    Solutions, when they present themselves, should be like this. Efficient and elegant. “Growing rapidly” or even growing at all may not be what we need.

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