Showing posts with label economics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economics. Show all posts

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Shark Teeth Underground

I bought six shark teeth today.  Small ones.
Inexpensive. Also cheap, although not from
a shark's point of view. They came in a week
plastic box with a black foam mini-mattress.

They look a little like bobcat teeth.
Their color runs from taupe to blonde.

They remind me of when I bought
a chocolate-brown baby octopus
at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco,
when I was 8. These cheap,

eccentric creature keepsakes
(my mother's word) keep me going.
They symbolize a child's economy,
which dictates that all the stuff

in the world, like sticks, rocks, bones,
and bugs, is a vast, astonishing
pile of wealth. You can just pick
some of it up and have it! Holy shit!

You can even covet it and save it.
But most of it you just let go,
a re-investment in the infinite treasure.

The economies in which I've had
to participate in sell things the seem
necessary or desirable.  But almost
all these things harbor a tumor
of dullness. That's why advertising

must work so hard to distract
us from the dispirited quality
of goods and services.  As a
practical matter, the more I keep

current on child economics,
the more sanguine I am as I go
undercover into the adult,
capitalist polity. My

code-name today is Shark Teeth.
If you want to join this underground,
you're already a member, and remember:
the wealth we explore, the miraculous
forms that delight us--they're cool
and inexpensive, often totally free.

hans ostrom 2016

Friday, September 12, 2014

Diversity and Liberal Arts Colleges

A link to a piece about (the lack of) diversity, including economic diversity, at Whitman College. Implicitly the piece touches on a problem most liberal arts colleges now face.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Economics," by Hans Ostrom

Why do I have to share?
You don't have to share, if
you're opposed to sharing.
Why would I want to share?
You would want to share
because you are able to do so
and because
sharing expresses the proper
of your will and your empathy.

. . .No one leads
a completely individual life.
Eventually everyone
needs someone, wants
others. There
sharing begins.. . .

hans ostrom

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Economy Needs the Poor

“The economy needs the poor,” says
a wee lad  on the precipice of a bachelor
of arts in economics to me. He’s the son
of some remote dickhead CEO in France

One of the brightest students I’ve ever taught,
a Black and Latina woman from
Oakland (she likes the 49ers, I like the
Raiders, we riff on that) says, “The
political science students on campus
are the least culturally competent—
they’re not equipped for this society.”

Today, this month, November 2012,
I think, well, Whiteness will have its
way: cocaine-speed-meth capitalism, fuck-you-
we’re going to fucking war, if you’re a
thinking person, then go fuck yourself,
we will dominate you, we always have,
so suck our illiterate radioactive dicks.
Old, I wish to God it would be different
for the thinking young I know.  You don’t
know how much I wish that this were so.

I wish God would empower them.
And then I look at the mainstream shit
they all must countenance, and I think,
“God damn it, the demons have won.
The motherfucking super-rich have won.”

Hans Ostrom, 2012

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pluto's Credit- Score

(image: photo of Pluto and its satellite [or moon], Charon--taken by Professor Karen Rehbock, University of Hawaii)
I was angry when the astronomers decided to down-grade Pluto's status from "planet" to something else, so angry that I forgot what the something else is. Boulder? Now Charon can't be a moon. It is a "satellite." Not a single astronomer consulted me before the decision was made. Go figure. Pluto had been my favorite planet in the solar system. It was, after all, the most eccentric planet.
Pluto's Credit-Score
When he applied for a loan, the bank
asked him for collateral property it might
seize if he were to default on the loan,
and he offered his share of Jung's collective
unconscious human mind. The bank said
his share, indeed the whole unconscious mind,
vast as it might be, was worthless, at least
in terms of collective human economics.
He said, "The symbols of what you call
'money' are Jungian." This was a wild
guess on his part, but the bank didn't
quibble with the assertion. It refused
to lend him money. After he left the bank,
he felt like the planet Pluto must have felt
after it had met with astronomers, who
told it that they no longer considered it
to be a planet. He heard himself say,
out loud, "Well, I don't regard you as
astronomers, so we're even!" He knew
he deserved the disapproving glances
of passersby. He knew Jung, and for
that matter Freud, would suggest that
he was projecting his financial difficulties
onto the inanimate object, Pluto. Still,
if he were a loan-officer and Pluto
were applying for a loan, he would
approve the loan even without the
collateral of Pluto's moon, Charon.
Pluto wouldn't have to ask twice.
Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, April 6, 2008

What About Food?

I've always been a bit mystified by how economists measure "the economy." Rates of joblessness: these make sense, as do the other categories, such as GDP, "housing-starts," the Dow Jones (which I think of as the Tao Jones because it's essentially mystical), "consumer-spending," etc. What's left out, though?
Why don't we hear regularly (daily) about the following: is everyone getting enough food? Is everyone able to get medicine? Does everybody have access to a good school? I guess what I'm asking is: Who decides what the measurement-categories are, who appointed these people, and why doesn't measuring "the economy" involve really basic things? If the stock market goes up and a bunch of people still aren't eating, in what sense is the economy okay? I'm just going hard-headedly practical hear, nothing Marxist about it. If a disinterested observer arrived from outer space, and we told the entity that the economy was okay except for the the 3 trillion dollar deficit, poverty, famine, and a sooty atmosphere that's cooking where we live, the entity would say, "Who in the hell is in charge of measuring things down here? Fire that person."

Poets, rightly, have a reputation for having their heads in the clouds, but I think because we often think about common objects quite concretely, we occasionally can display useful "bullshit detectors"--I think Hemingway (not a poet) may have invented this term. I mean, I see Wall Street guys (never women) , wearing those goofy pin-striped suits from Guys and Dolls, yammering on MSNBC about whether "the market has found its bottom," and I want to allude to a phrase from my father's generation: "You couldn't find your ass [or the market's bottom] with both hands and a flashlight." If a nation's "economy" isn't working for huge segments of the population with regard to basic needs, then it's either not working, or it's not an economy in any practical way. Same for the global economy. I hate to use the household analogy again, but I will: What if person came home and said to his or her significant other, "You know, our household economy is in great shape, except there's nothing to eat, we can't afford to get sick, and our kid's school sucks. But our mutual funds look good."

Economists, add to categories, get more basic, become more practical, and pull your heads out of your NASDAQ.

I think this may have been a rant.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Greed Gone Wild, Lobbying Gone Looney

Maybe this is what the late 1920s felt like, financial "systems" (ha!) out of control, waves of foreclosures, no sensible planning on the part of private or governmental institutions, the never-free, loaded-dice "free market" cannibalizing itself.

What rational nation cuts taxes after hurling itself into an unnecessary five-year-plus war? Only George Herbert Hoover Bush would pull such a stunt, which enables the very rich to suck up loose cash but ruins the economy as a whole and devastates working people.

I was talking with a realtor today, who explained that after "the Fed" pumped a bunch of money into the banking system, with the idea of lowering interest-rates and getting the economy going, many makes raised interest-rates so that they would make money at both ends--from the Fed handout and from small investors (like home-buyers). Thus they stash a lot of cash, make the quarterly books look good, and raise the price of their stock. Meanwhile, the economy continues to slump, and the gap between rich and poor widens. Why wouldn't Congress (for example) regulate such behavior and instruct the banks that if they get an influx of cash for the government, the mustn't raise interest-rates? Congress/the Fed did step in to save Bear/Stearns--because they were afraid of a stock-crash. Save Bear/Stearns, but to hell with the working-class family in foreclosure. The realtor told me he has a client who can barely make house payments. He wants to negotiate a deal with the bank, but the bank won't negotiate with him unless he goes into foreclosure. It's in the bank's interest to see him fail, I guess. And the banks don't have to pay attention to Congress because banking-lobbyists own Congress.

Don't you just love the argument that lobbying, a synonym for bribery, is protected free speech? Checks, currency, and wire-transfers of money--from banking lobbyists to a congress-person's campaign, e.g.--do involve numbers and letters: texts, if you will. I will grant that technical point. But only amounts of symbolic stored energy are being expressed. No one is speaking, writing, performing, or peacefully protesting. They're just bribing.

I'm tempted to argue against lobbying and even to argue for outlawing it. I'd allow anybody to give any information they wanted to legislators. I just wouldn't allow any money to go from lobbyists and their employers to legislators. In fact, I'd require lobbyists to take a vow of poverty. Non-profit organizations would take care of their basic needs. Ideas, jokes, poems, riddles, statistics, reports, theories, draft-bills--yes to all of these. Money--no. It's not speech. It's money. Gifts--no. Favors--no. Maybe one batch of home-made cookies per year, that's it.

On second thought, however, I think I'd prefer to make lobbying not illegal but even more obviously crass and vividly bad for the common good. Like automobiles in NASCAR, legislators should have to wear patches and decals on their clothes representing every entity that's given them money. Failure to represent a lobbyist with a patch or decal would mean the legislator would have to give the money back--in a public ceremony.

And while I'm at it, let me say how disappointed I am in the Poetry Lobby. What are they doing? Why aren't they pushing the poetry-agenda more fiercely? Where are their offices, their newsletters, their think-tanks, their phony corporations, their email-alerts? I want Emily Dickinson's image to replace Jefferson's on the nickel, for instance. The Poetry Lobby could push for that. E.D. never owned slaves, and she wrote over a thousand great poems. TJ helped draft a few "founding" documents, but he's gotten enough press. He can give up the nickel.

I'd like a National Poet's Reserve. If you joined, you'd have to go to a workshop once a month and agree to be ready to be called up to active duty--for example, if the governor needed some sonnets written, or if an ailing poet needed some help with meals or errands. I'd like to see the U.S. step up poetry-exports, and I want NASA to send some poetry-satellites in orbit, so the spoken word could be broadcast around the globe more vigorously. I'd like to see the villanelle put on the Endangered Form-Poem list, and I want us to drill for poetry in Alaska. Poetry Lobby, where are you?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Social-Security Poem

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