As I wafted through the pages of your recent interview, I nearly choked in on my ambrosia in excitement. I thought you’d referred to the art of thoughtfulness, very much at the heart of my raison d’être. Never mind, the act of thoughtfulness is in much the same direction, so it seemed an excellent incentive to have a further chat, especially as much about economics and finance leaves me discombobulated. The closest I get to understanding them is in quiet moments when I play with my abacus, as in my youth, not least to check how the votive offerings are stacking up. Unfortunately, the times have gone when my statues were regularly frequented by mortals in search of wisdom, who showed their appreciation in all kinds of ways. Nowadays, gifts to the gods seem to have been replaced by occasional tweets.
We could have done with your thoughts on economic growth, which most economists deem essential. Perhaps I’m missing something but surely economies can only continue to grow for as long as Gaia still has a few resources left? The way things are going, that won’t be for much longer. Or is the idea that the growth tap is turned off once everyone is rich and happy? The laws of probability suggest that that could encounter technical problems.
The other recurrent mantra is of a high-income economy. If that means far more money will be spent on educating slow learners – and bringing back gymnasia – and if it leads to people understanding their responsibilities before producing offspring, it might start to make sense. Otherwise, it seems nothing more than an appeal to greed, a quality for which no daemonic representation exists. Apart from a few ignoble landowners, Athenians rarely aimed at acquiring masses of possessions, a contemptible notion. The consumer society, which drives economic growth, was an unknown concept. What hope is there for a society that considers successful greed malin rather than a vulgar aberration?
Economists, who between them prophecy everything and its opposite, rarely explain how a rich economy will help those on the bottom rung of the ladder. The idea of increased wealth trickling down is based on a somewhat unproven hypothesis. And there’s a gap in the idea of a minimum wage. What about the self-employed, often earning far less than fat-cat messengers in the public sector? They can’t increase their prices without putting themselves out of business as a result of what are quaintly termed market forces. They’ve not been included because no-one can work out the necessary mechanisms. The effort would cause mal-fonctionnaires to blow a fuse and result in the meltdown of the energy network.
Who’s asked for a high-income economy anyway? The already expensive hotel industry, along with many other sectors, would become uncompetitive. Even if there’s greater productivity and new technology, there’ll be fewer full-time jobs for domestic helpers and other manual workers who can’t be retrained. It’s starting to happen already. In other words, it’s likely to be catastrophic for the lower paid. Meanwhile, as in other advanced countries, people would start doing their own minor repairs – although DIY shops might flourish.
Some disagree, of course, with what you say and what you’ve done – and you wouldn’t expect otherwise. Listening to others in an atmosphere of mutual respect is an essential part of thoughtfulness. But it’s a dying art, swamped by shrill voices twittering through the ether. As you’ll probably now flee the country, thank Zeus there’s still the odd news rag trying to fill the gap!