The Burning Platform
People who own small businesses put up with government edicts pre-Corona because on the whole it was worth it. They complied with the onerous regulations. They paid the taxes, including the taxes styled “business licenses” – i.e., the extortion called by a more benign-sounding euphemism, to make it go down easier. But it amounts to the same thing. A worse thing, actually – because it is done by the entity that is supposed to protect honest people from being shaken down. Which means there’s no protection from being shaken down. The owner of a gym or restaurant or hair salon is told they must pay out a large sum of money in order to avoid being shut down by goons with guns. How this differs from what Don Corleone does is a hard thing to discern. Except for the difference that the government’s shakedown is “legal” – and euphemized.
The United States emerged from World War II as the top banana. Having entered the war late, it not only was in the enviable position of expanding as a manufacturing nation to supply the allies with war materials, it also insisted on being paid in gold for whatever it shipped. (Pretty nice deal.) At the end of the war, it only had to switch from building tanks and radio equipment to building cars and televisions for the peacetime population. The icing on the cake was that it had not been invaded, so, in 1945, it was poised to take off as the world’s foremost supplier of goods. For several decades, the US reigned as the top banana, and indeed, that’s still true in many ways, except the peel of the banana is rapidly turning brown. The US has, in recent times, devolved from being the world’s greatest creditor nation to becoming the world’s greatest debtor nation.
The phrase “don’t fight the Fed” is an unfortunate but popular delusion. It presupposes that the central bank has limitless power to direct the economy because it can print limitless money. I’m not sure where this idea comes from, but consider the fact that anyone today who is under 30 years old was barely old enough in 2008 to understand or care about the credit collapse. These people spent their formative years knowing only stimulus and QE. In their minds, this is the norm, and they think it always works because they haven’t yet witnessed a collapse. I would say a better phrase for the 2020s is “The Fed is not going to save you”; the Fed is not a superhero and it does not have the power nor the inclination to protect the little people from economic folly. This should be readily apparent today, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and the central bank can’t seem to cure it with Quantitative Easing.
Wilder, Wealthy, and Wise
In 2020, we’re pretty proud of ourselves for making use of virtual reality. We have students taking virtual classes while never leaving home. We have virtual assistants. Heck we even have virtual assistants for people that can’t spell, like that new one from Amazon®, Dislexa™. As much as we think of virtual reality as a new concept, it’s not. Much of life throughout recorded history has been conducted using virtual systems. Some of them are common, like clubs. You’re either in or you’re out. The only thing that makes a difference is the virtual acceptance of others. You were either a Roman Senator, or you weren’t. You were a member of Legio XIII, or you weren’t. You were a Roman citizen, or you weren’t. Just because a virtual distinction of being in or out of a particular club has existed for thousands of years, don’t think that it doesn’t have significance.
Imagine what it is like right now to plan for the future as a business owner. The owner doesn’t know if he or she will even be allowed to be open for business two weeks from now, or a month from now. Indeed, politicians and their unelected (and unaccountable) health advisors keep insisting that they might elect to close down businesses or impose new restrictions on large portions of the economy at any time. The uncertainly associated with all this is immense. Consider some examples: thanks to moratoria on evictions in many cities, renters who can’t pay rent — thanks in part to government-forced lockdowns — can stay in their rental units indefinitely.