Sunday, 7 June 2009

Everyone's a gambler

As we travelled to Feilding for a family celebration for Marilyn's parent's 60th wedding anniversary, we heard the song “gambler.” That song talks about the gambler needing to “Know when to hold them, know what to throw away, know when to walk away and know when to run.” In our present state of sorting through all that we have gathered together over 35+ years of marriage, those words seemed really appropriate. We are having to think about what to hold on to and what to throw away.

But there is a wider significance to that theme. How much of what we have held on to has actually hindered our ability to move forward. We look at a lot of what we have collected and sometimes see it as something that stops us being ready for the next challenge. Discarding some of the physical baggage that we have collected is freeing us to move forward. But it isn't just physical baggage that can hold us back. Often we are held back by our perceptions of how things should operate or be done, or maybe concerns of perceptions of what others might think of us. This baggage often has to be discarded as well so we can move forward.

Over the last six months, I have been working again in an industry position but in this position, I have brought the perspective from my research where I examined the perceptions of programming practitioners. In the work place, I have seen different perceptions in action. I have observed the impact of these perceptions on the code structures produced and on the approach to the task. It would have been wonderful to have been recording discussions and collecting code samples so they could be analysed later but that hasn't been done. All there are are my observations.

But it isn't simply the perceptions about programming that I have found interesting, it is also perceptions about the current recession and approaches to economic management. This is where the gambler song really begins to challenge me. Every step in life is a gamble and that gamble will always be based on the perceptions that we have of the cards that we hold in our hand at any given time. Is the glass half full or half empty? Does it matter how we perceived the state of the glass? I would argue that it does and it will impact how we respond to the events that surround us each day.

How do we perceive employment and the financial system? Does it make a difference? Just this week someone commented on the collapse of General Motors in the US from the perspective of the effects of the lay-offs on the employees. The comment was along the lines of they need employment. Well, do they? What economic perspective says that they need employment? They may need something to occupy themselves that helps bring self worth and they may need some cash flow so they can purchase things they need for living but is this necessarily employment?

Employment to some extent is about distributing purchasing power. It doesn't necessarily mean that people have to be doing meaningful jobs. Some would argue that many jobs aren't actually needed since they produce for a stimulated demand rather than an actual need. If this is the case then how can purchasing power be distributed in a way that doesn't ask people to doing unproductive work.

Of course, we probably should also ask the question of how the distribution of purchasing power was funded. This to me is the real cause of the problem. The funding was achieved through debt financing. The generation of credit in the capitalist system is through borrowing against future wealth. At some point, this debt either has to be repaid or cancelled out. The current process is quite simply cancelling out large chucks of debt. The booms and bust cycles of capitalism are the basis on which the system is built. For a period, the debt increases and growth occurs then there is a collapsing of the debt and a shrinking of the economy. The credit has run out and unless someone wipes it out, then everyone feels the pain as jobs are lost and people are unable to buy the necessities for life.

Western society has brought into a financial mindset that distributes purchasing power through employment and debt financing. That debt financing acts as a control over the people. They lose their freedom to satisfy their needs other than through being enslaved to employment.

The financial system was created by people. It isn't something that exists independently of the people within it. Governments invent rules so they can control how people operate within the economy. Those rules try and restrict the mechanisms for the exchange of the needs of life.

A country's credit rating endeavours to dictate how much the country can borrow and the interest rate attached to that borrowing. But why is the government borrowing for what already belongs to the country. Governments should tell the credit rating organisations to get lost and focus on generating the credit that is need for the country to operate.

In New Zealand, a major court case has just ended. A discussion on a radio program talked about the legal aid bill. That is a debt against the government and is paid for through borrowing or taxes on the people. What did the court case produce? Hopefully justice but the side effect is a bigger debt on the nation. Why can't that debt be written off as a requirement for justice. Without justice, we would have lynch mobs. Of course, it could be argued that the lawyers could have controlled their costs better but there still would have been costs. It is how those costs are paid that can either bring freedom to a country or cripple it through financial slavery. That decision is in our hands.

What baggage are you going to hold on to and what baggage are you going to throw away? What baggage do you want to hold on to in our systems and what baggage do you want to be seen thrown away? What are you vested interests in the current system?

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