10 April 2009

Lessons to Learn: Economy Meltdown Edition

I figured since no one else is discussing our nation's economic woes, I would step up and tackle them.  Wait, what?  Oh, they have, have they?  Well, maybe so, but I bet all those economists, panicked investors, talking heads, arguing politicians and angry unemployed people have missed a few things anyway.  Here is one lesson each of the aforementioned should take from the current economic crisis:

Conventional economic wisdom holds that regulation only interferes with the proper ebb and flow of the market.  The de-regulatory nature of the last presidency's policies and the consequences thereof, prove one thing about that bit of wisdom: even though it says it rests on the innate selfishness of people, it is still predicated on a belief in the good of people.  Otherwise, how could even a selfish person be so shortsighted as to perpetrate some of the corporate policies we've heard about for much of the last decade?  At some point, doesn't even a selfish brain ask whether something is actually going to be worth the risk if things go south later?  No, you can't assume selfishness is a self-governing agent anymore.  Build a new economic model accordingly.

Panicked Investors
Before you ever invest a single penny in the stock market, you should hit the casino.  Go the day before your rent/mortgage is due and take enough money that if you lose everything, you will not be able to make that payment.  Remember that feeling, because when you lose at the casino, the casino employees get paid.  When you lose at the stock market, other people are in danger of not making their rent/mortgage payment.  Take what you do seriously, and remember the other big lesson the casino can teach you.  You're dealing with unpredictable elements.  You have to be patient when you're on a down turn, and not get overly confident when things go well.  You're just one roll of the dice away from another bad streak; don't bet so much on any one turn that it endangers your overall standing.

Talking Heads
You've proved the Brownian movement applies outside phsyical science.  Investors, like criminals, are a superstitious and cowardly lot.  Every time you run down a company, its public figures or its industry, you make those investors antsy.  I know you're in a rush to beat the other nineteen cable news providers to the story, but that's no reason to put speed ahead of responsiblity.  "That's easy for you to say, amateur blogger," you retort.  Well, go read A. Merriman Smith's Thank You, Mr. President, published about fifty years ago.  Smith knew something about being a journalist trying to get the drop on a story--he worked in the White House press corps during the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman administrations.  Even amidst scrambling after press conferences for telephones, he makes clear that he and his colleagues all made sure to dot their is and cross their ts.  If they could get act responsibly during World War II, there's no reason you can't pause to think about how your rush to report can affect things today.

Arguing Politicians
For at least my entire thirty years in this world, American politicians have argued from either the far right (government regulation is tantamount to tyranny) to the far left (only the government can fairly regulate anything).  The truth is, both are wrong mostly for the reasons offered by the other.  We cannot afford for regulation to stifle the independent nature of the American economic world, but this meltdown also makes clear that we cannot afford to rely on even the self-interests of businessmen and women to keep things at equilibrium.  By the way, most of us learned this lesson either living through or studying the precipitants of the Great Depression.  Maybe you've heard of it; it was brought on largely by selfishness run amok without any government oversight.  Those social welfare policies you've been trying to undo for the last seventy years?  There's a reason they were considered responsible at the time.

Arguing Unemployed People
You'd think I would have the least to say about this group, because they're the victim in all this, right?  Wrong.  Businesses don't just fail because someone at the top is dropping $50 grand on a rug.  They also fail because when consumers come into a place of business, the people they expect to offer them service act as if they're being put out, or they simply have no clue what they're doing.  Circuit City is a recently failed business that I personally never had a problem with, but I cannot count how many complaints I've heard about in person or read online from people who regularly make electronics and entertainment purchases.  Circuit City's prices were competitive, and I've not read about any particular wrong-doing at the executive level.

To some extent, they failed because their products are luxury items and people drastically cut back on those things, but the sales figures of DVD titles suggests that, even now, we're still buying new releases.  Bad service is the only thing that accounts for why shoppers abandoned Circuit City for Best Buy and online alternatives like Amazon.  Remember that at your next job--you can't just blame the suits that sign papers when you lose your job.  Your own performance will greatly impact not only the viability of your employment, but that of your employer.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, yes travis I agree, employees who are put out upon the presence of a consumer, should be oxymoronic in nature, as consumers keep the cash flowing, but albeit upon the toes we step upon entering some establishments and feel shamed for even opening the door, lest making a purchase. How dare we so insult and interrupt someone's daydreams with our need of products. Becky C