I and many people about my age assume that Social Security will be toast (to use a highly specialized term from economics) by the time we retire. Ever since late November, 1963, when the president was shot multiple times in broad daylight, we've been a skeptical, even a cynical, lot--well, many of us have, anyway. I just assume that the phantom Social Security Fund will end up in the virtual pockets of virtual banks and other corporations. I will not be "shocked, shocked" to find out that there is gambling at Rick's in Casablanca.
I know as much about economics as I do about computers--just barely enough to get by. Economics and computer-technology don't make sense to me, nor do they not make sense. To me, they just are. They exist, and to make my way in life, I need to know a bit about them both, a very little bit, such as how to "re-boot" a computer (notice that boots are not involved), or that it is better to have some money than it is to have no money (what "money" actually is--that's a separate question).
I believe that the following poem, which isn't very long, exhausts almost all my knowledge of economics, which I believe to be the most elaborate magician's trick in all of human history. From where I'm sitting, the essence of economics is sleight-of-hand, and whenever I hear a term like "free market," I feel like giggling because not a single free market has existed, ever. To be a free market, a market would have to be free of human participation.
To put a positive spin on the situation, I'd say my knowledge of economics is very economical. The poem is spoken by someone who is trying to explain economics economically--in about 225 words.
Social Security: An Introduction
Certain numbers represent uncertain amounts
of money, which consists of texts (paper, metal)
on which numbers are printed. The certain numbers
just stay numbers unless you are allowed to let
them stand for something you want to get
and get it. This is called exchanging numbers
for something you want, or “buying.”
According to legend, some of the numbers
are kept by the State in the Department of Numbers.
The numbers change all the time but remain
kept by the State, which knows they are your
numbers because it has your number.
Still another number represents an amount
of years you will have managed not to die.
When this amount of years is big enough,
you may start using some of the State-kept
numbers to stand for things you think you
need to get and get them.
Getting these things is supposed to help
you to continue to manage not to die
until the time when nothing you get
can keep you from dying. The capacity
to use numbers to get things to keep you
from dying is sometimes called social
security. Certain numbers symbolize
this security. They are kept by the State.
Social security is really more personal
than social. Go over your records carefully.
Their information is not secure. Plan ahead
but look behind you. If you have questions,
call this number.
Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom