The Seduction of Free Money
Most of us have a bit of free time these days. From what I hear, we’re passing the time by consuming more fermented liquids, chips and pasta, and less milk, shrimp, and olives. How do we know all this trivia? What else is there to do than watch news, tweet, daydream, and peruse websites.
I, personally, have gotten into daydreaming and highly recommend it. Just the other day, I was on the back patio, eyes closed, and imagined being surrounded by a mountain of cash that floated from the heavens like Manna. As I daydream, the old 70’s tune, ‘I like dreamin cuz dreamin will make you mine,’ plays softly somewhere behind my ears.
Have you ever smelled stacks of freshly printed hundred dollar bills? Neither have I, but my imagination thought it, shall I say, intoxicating. So much so a big smile comes to my face as I nearly salivate. With millions, maybe billions of dollars now bathing me, I allow my self to think about what I would do with all that money.
I thought it would be easy to develop a laundry list of wants. Of things to fix. Of gifts to give. Yes, a new home in an exotic location with 20 bathrooms and an infinity pool overlooking the ocean blue. I dare dream of Harvard diplomas for all my grandchildren and maybe an honorary one for me. Folks would whisper, “There goes a real smart feller. He got himself a doctorate at Harvard” I’ve heard, with enough money, any moron can get one.
Then it struck me- With as much money as Bill and Mark and Mike, and a ‘doctor’ in front of my name, everyone will consider me an expert. I’ll be in demand on TV shows with my opinions dissected and admired by all the pundits. I’ll be asked to sit on boards and flown around on private jets and rub shoulders with the moochers and takers. Then, while on live TV, someone will ask me how I made all my billions, and I’ll have to be honest. “Well, mam, I was just daydreaming while locked-down on my patio and cash floated down from the skies till it was the size of a small mountain. Gee Golly! I don’t actually have any money other than the money I have in my imagination.” The info-babe cuts to a commercial and a big masked man grabs me, violating my safe social distance space, and throws me out unto an empty street.
Sometimes, it is hard to transition from a great daydream back to reality. For a moment, I open my eyes and gaze at the blue ocean just beyond the edge of the infinity pool. The pool boy asks if I want to refresh my Acqua di Cristallo Tributo a Modiglian. It's the most expensive bottled water in all the world at $60,000 per 750ml. But no…
“Granny, how bout you round me up a plate of fixins?” And that’s when I woke up. My neighbor talks just like ole Jed Clampet from the Beverly Hillbillies. He and the smell of possum patties on the barbie bring me back to the present.
He sees me on my patio. “Hey neighbor, you want me to toss you over a Corona?”
“Ah… I think I’ll pass. But thanks!”
Now, if you’re a Boomer, you know the difference between a pleasant daydream and reality. Of course, money doesn’t grow on trees or fall from the heavens, and you’ll likely never be considered an expert, except perhaps, by your grandchildren. But not even much chance of that.
But times are a-changing, and if you’re paying attention, we’ve got some folks in power who have started to fantasize about socialism. They, too, have dreams of money falling from heaven like Manna. To many, the visual image of money floating down is very seductive. With each new hundred dollar bill floating down, another injustice can be solved.
With printing presses housed in buildings the size of the Potomac River, the federal government of the United States has nearly god-like abilities. It can just print trillions and rain them down on us. Any economic theory that suggests the willy-nilly printing of money has any near, or future consequence has lost its mojo — it’s just dusty old-school irrational thinking from people that still use words like arithmetic and fiscal responsibility.
Any new movement needs to destroy old theories and create some new ones. So along comes this new monetary theory called New Monetary Theory (equally creative is the acronym- NMT). Think of what can be done for humankind when money is no object. We can make every injustice go away. Schools will be free. We can pay for extended lifetime vacations. Sheesh, we can pay people who wish not to work and give all of us a weekly paycheck where we fill in the amount. We could choose to give everyone an electric car, pay whatever it takes to come up with chemical food so we can eliminate farms and other evil emitters of carbon filth. With enough of that money, all my grandchildren will never be burdened with a mortgage. And healthcare? Free, unrationed, and the best money can buy because- well because there is no limit to the money. Then, when a nasty virus decides to take a jet ride and rent a lodge in your nose, you have nothing to worry about. Since we’re not working, we can just stay staying at home.
"Surely, you write this in jest, doctor," you hope. Maybe a little but frightening little. Some actual politicians who hold high office have come to believe that a fiscal policy that suggests we only spend what we earn as silly, old fashioned, and painfully restraining. To let this little inconvenience called having enough money get in the way of their social and economic agenda calls for tinkering with theories. Today, New Monetary Theory is based on the premise that we can just print and print and print more money with no consequences. Those with socialist inclinations are giddy with the idea of just printing more money.
I trust the government procurement people are better at provisioning for trainloads of green ink than they were keeping a stock of face-masks around for the coming pandemics. With this newfound notion that the printing of unlimited amounts of money will solve all known problems, the average American may soon come to believe it will. It’s a wonderful daydream to have so much money. And you can spend your quarantined time dreaming of what you might do with it all. Intoxicating. Seductive.
Exodus 16 contains one of the most interesting stories of the Old Testament. The Israelites had just escaped from the bondage of slavery and were now traversing a barren desert without food. They were beginning to grumble. In desperation, some wished to return to Egypt, where they were at least well fed. They were willing to trade their new freedom for the security of food.
God could have chosen to open a Whole Foods just over the ridge stocked with organic whole wheat, but rather, He home-cooked a unique concoction which we have come to know as Manna. Manna literally means ‘what is it?’ For the escapees from Egypt, it was a life-saving bread-like substance that rained down from heaven. It was a beautiful example of how God provides. There would be many more.