When the Bubble Bursts

As usual, we will be overtaken by events. They change everything, as we may learn, from watching the news. Unless, they change nothing.

Take for instance, the stock market, now floating in the air.

My own sense, as I’ve watched the Fed and its imitators “printing” money at an unprecedented rate – unprecedented, quite literally, if we except a few moments in places like Weimar Germany – is that unprecedented things will happen.

Ditto with interest rates, dropping below zero.

I can vaguely understand why this is happening. This “flush money” is needed to cover falling real production. Thanks to the Batflu, or more precisely, the lockdown policies to fight it, our governments are spending as if there’s no tomorrow. This includes unprecedented “investments” in things thought unnecessary until yesterday.

Notice that I am leaving aside whether the Batflu policies work, or the money is circulated for good purposes. To this question, that doesn’t matter.

I am just referring to the bubble. It is large and quickly growing; already larger than any in the history of bubbles, so far as any candid economist can see. But I’m not an economist, and have no calipers to measure bubble diameters. I am, shall we say, an impressionist in such things. All I know is that bubbles burst.

The first thing to go may be mutuals and pensions and anything that, before it was disinvented, might have been dismissed as “just paper.” A lot of our economy is like that: very large numbers that might, indeed, drive some people to leap off high ledges, but have no influence on the sunrise times.

We might call numbers artificial. But once the plug is out, a lot of other stuff drains. And current sunshine projects to demolish Keystone, fracking, and so much other “dirty industry,” make the plughole wider. So does the crushing of all the “little people” businesses along every Main Street, due to “COVID Concerns.”

Put it altogether, and even I might qualify as an economic expert.

Things are going to happen; and while I, like any other human being, have not the prudential genius to guess what, or in what order, I will not be surprised. Dollars have meaning only while people will accept them in exchange for things. If they won’t, only things have value.

And yet, nothing changes, as I began. In the words of the old pop song, “It’s only castles burning.” And castles have often burnt before.

Among the most satirized principles of the Left is, “Never waste a crisis.” My own satirical sense is that the failure of attempts to build on this principle is the legacy of our many, many revolutions, whether explicitly political, or “other.”  For instance, revolutions in marketing, or purchasing on credit.

Whatever the problem, ingenious men have the ability to make it worse. I began noticing this about the adults, in childhood.

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Everything our governments do, today, is as if designed to make things worse. They double-down on the mistakes of the past. Yet there are few novelties, and possibly none: for every mistake has been made before. (Check with Ecclesiastes.)

To Catholics, as to anyone else, I am disinclined to give advice on how to benefit from the impending chaos. This is and will become a growth industry, however the chaos works out. Fools will take financial advice from fools; when what they need to know, perhaps, is how to grow potatoes.

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” In this, Christ was quoting ancient Hebrew sages.

I don’t know, and can’t know, what shape the shapelessness will take; only that “utter chaos” eventually resolves itself, in 100 percent of cases. I know this from faith, but also from reason. Our universe is like that. Storms come and go.

And yes, there are consequences, for those who are standing in their path. This isn’t exactly news, and doesn’t need research. But as Padre Pio said, “Don’t get between me and my suffering.”

To my mind, the REAL problem today, is that when the world begins to crumble before us, we don’t know what to do. We scream and panic, and look for someone to blame.

Scapegoat-locating is a very easy game; much easier than pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, although less useful. But even after we have crucified the scapegoat, the wretchedness of our condition does not improve. We scream and panic, more.

In previous crises, as when past bubbles burst, we turned to the Church. But also in the past there were times when the Church was invisible, and even without the sacraments, we had to make do.

I also regret the passing of the Church, from so many places, at a time when her services will be most in demand. But everywhere I look, she is almost fleeing, from confrontation with a world that does not suit her. She is told to close, and she closes.

But she leaves Christ, still there to those who call upon Him; who better even than a Marine, never leaves His station.

Like the Church, when on His mission, He is soft when men would be hard, and hard when men would be soft. He is the one availing antidote against catastrophe and death; against the hopelessness that fills us when it appears that there is no way out.

Last week, I learned of a man who had two jobs; two little businesses he ran. Losing both to the Batflu closures (savage in Ontario), and unable to face his wife and children, he drove up to his (once splendid) cottage and hanged himself.

He did not help them by succumbing to despair. He is two less hands, at planting potatoes. He is one missing rock, that they needed to lean against. I thank God, for my own father, who rose from several such occasions, not even losing his sense of humor.

It is time to get a grip.

 

*Image: Christ Blessing by Titian (Tiziano Vecello), c. 1570 [Hermitage, St, Petersburg, Russia]

David Warren

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: davidwarrenonline.com.