Department of I Tried to Warn You
One of the most useful tools at a blowhard’s disposal is a search function of his gaseous blatherings. When one is in the business of spouting unsolicited opinions, few of which garner attention or reflection worthy of their profundity, having the means to retrieve long-ignored pronoucements allows the self-annointed know-it-all to remind himself (and anyone else who can be persuaded to look) that his ideas and arguments were more or less correct, and that his fellow citizens would probably be better off today had they taken his oracular assertions as seriously as they do the fashion choices of their favorite television court jesters.
For a pointedly non-random examples, type the words “stock market” in the search function on this site. (You can add the words “pyramid scheme,” too, for more specificity.) You’ll see that as far back as 2003, the shrieking harridan that occupies this space has been describing everyone’s favorite investment vehicle as the world’s largest casino — and we all know by now what happens when you gamble at a casino long enough. Likening the equity markets to a global pyramid scheme must have seemed hyperbolic and alarmist five years ago, the hysterical rantings of a boring loser rationalizing his timidity and unwillingness to play for high-stakes with the big boys.
Type in “municipal bonds” and have a little read.
I feel badly for my friends and my family, and everyone else with whom I tried to reason. They used to feel rich. Now they feel poor — which tends to happen when your net worth falls by more than 50% in a year.
But I feel even worse for my country. We once had the magnitude of treasure that allows its possessor to practice moral suasion upon those less fortunate and clever. Now, broke and busted, we’ll have to figure out how to convert our SUVs and 42″ plasma screens into something to eat. The world once begrudgingly accepted our pompous posturing; today, our great “success” is understood to be an elaborate illusion, a dysfunctional Ponzi scheme disguised by a pretty facade constructed of mutual-fund statements and unpayable mortgages.
What happens to a consumerist society when the citizens stop consuming is the same thing that happens to a stock market when fresh suckers can no longer be found to enrich the folks who got there first. As our economy implodes in sympathy with the banks and automakers, many of us will have more time than ever to read and reflect, to study and to understand. Some of us will even take a few minutes to look back at the warnings, delivered with various levels of solemnity and chiding during the glory days, and we’ll ask ourselves why heeding them seemed like a terrible thing to do.