Thursday 27 September 2012

Show me the Money!

"An artificial mirage (...) This simulates
an atmosphere with two inversion layers." [A]

"Coal baron Nathan Tinkler has lost AUD2 million a day over the past year, according to BRW, and now ranks second on the Young Rich [Australians] List with a fortune estimated at AUD400 million." (See here)

And he is not the only extremely rich bloke to become slightly less rich in the past few weeks. About two weeks ago, mining billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest reportedly lost AUD500 million in one day, 330 of them... "in less than an hour". (See here)

How could this have happened?

After all, according to the free-market cult, rich people are rich because they work hard and are smart. Did these two very rich guys suffer a sudden mental breakdown? Did they just remain in bed longer than usual?

Clearly, not. If you are one of their fans, you can relax.

Or, were they robbed by a bunch of moochers and looters? I couldn't see anybody running around with bags of money, so I'd say it wasn't that, either.

I know! Maybe it was somehow that nefarious bearded dead German philosopher's doing? After all, the mere mention of his name keeps Murdoch "journalists" and their Pavlovian readers awake at night. You see, he's "Evil I tells ya. Eeevil!", and to be blamed for pretty much everything, from dandruff and belly-ache to the Holocaust, but not even He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named can come back from the grave...

To me, what did happen wasn't much of a mystery or a drama. The mining machines didn't simply rust and fall to pieces overnight; the metallic ore and the coal veins didn't just disintegrate as in a sci-fi movie: they are still there, as they have been for hundreds, maybe thousands, of millions of years.

It was just that commodity prices sometimes go up, sometimes go down. They were inflated, and then they deflate.

But wasn't all that wealth destroyed in a matter of hours?

Think about it. Did any real wealth disappear? No. What was "destroyed" never had a physical existence, in the first place. It existed in paper only: it was an accounting mirage. It was virtual.

Michael Hudson has written about this kind of things. This is how our fearless leaders think, according to Hudson:
"Shifting planning to the financial sector [aka economic rationalism] and privatizing public enterprise on credit creates wealth by inflating asset prices".
Sounds familiar?

And, what is a free market, for Hudson?
"A free market is one free of unearned economic rent, including interest and financial fees, monopoly rent and resource rent."
Here, I don't fully agree with Hudson (capitalist markets exist to exploit one unearned income: surplus value), but he's not that far off the mark.


On second thoughts, maybe the dead bearded German philosopher is smiling in the other world.

Image Credit:
[A] "Mirage experiment..." Wikipedia. By Shy Halatzi. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share alike 3.0 Unported. My use of the image does not imply the author's endorsement of it.

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