"It only encourages them," as Doug Casey says...
"YOU'RE GOING to vote? Why waste your time?"
We had two conversations at the dinner table last night, writes Bill Bonner, best-selling author of Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. The first was a repeat of a quadrennial discussion about democracy. The second was a conversation we have never before had to have.
"In the first place, your vote will have no effect," I began the argument. "It would only be meaningful if it had an influence on the outcome. Statistically, the odds are greater that you will be struck by lightening twice on the same day you win the lottery...and get trapped for hours, alone in an elevator with a beautiful nymphomaniac who had just been released from prison. Well, never mind...
"In the second place, even if by some remote miracle your vote did have a consequence, it would be worse. Because then you would be responsible for what could be a disaster. Think of the poor conservative who might have cast the winning vote for George W. Bush because he said he wanted a smaller government with a more humble foreign policy. Or the guy who put Woodrow Wilson over the top because he promised to keep the United States out of World War One. Or the fellow who voted for Franklin Roosevelt because he promised to balance the budget. You don't have any way of knowing which candidate will do most damage.
"And by voting, you become like a collaborator in a prisoner-of-war camp...betraying your fellow prisoners in order to get a little extra ration. Isn't that what almost all voters are really up to? One wants more from Social Security. The other wants his fellow tax-slaves to pay for his medical treatment. Another wants a job, another wants a bailout – financed by the rest of the prisoners, of course. One wants government to ban gay marriages...the other wants the government to force gay people to get married."
Then came the response.
"There's no point in your continuing, I've heard all this before. And I still think it is nonsense. We live in a democracy. We can participate or not participate. But not participating doesn't make it go away. The best you can do is to try to make the best decision you can..."
"Well, who are you going to vote for? McCain? Or Obama? And what about the Senate and House races? You haven't even followed them..."
"I'm voting the party line..."
"Republican, of course. I know, I know. They've erred and strayed like lost sheep. But at least they're in favor of low taxes. Or, at least, they say they are in favor of low taxes and lower spending. They may end up spending even more taxes, for all I know. But the Republicans tend to be a disaster by accident. The Democrats are a disaster by choice."
Then came the harder conversation, but on near-enough the same theme. Pater Familias began:
"Look, the whole economic picture has changed. We are no longer in a world where we can spend more and more money. The world economy is shrinking...or at least our part of it. And that means we can't be so free and easy with our money. We have to adjust our expectations and our habits.
"Elizabeth, I know it's not nice having a husband whose earnings are going down...but that's just the way it is. And I know you wanted to remodel the kitchen...but I think you should put it off...or just do only the essential work now. Also, you wanted to go out to California to visit Maria, but maybe you should delay that trip too. Or, at least look for a discount airfare. And we were going to get a new car; well, forget that. Our old car is just fine.
"And if you're going to make a call overseas, use Skype; don't use the telephone. You can talk as long as you want on Skype, it doesn't cost anything.
"Edward, when you leave a room...turn out the lights. And stop ordering a pizza every time you get hungry. They're much more expensive than you realize. And no more shopping at Cyrilles, or whatever that fancy clothing place is called. It's back to K-Mart."
"Darling…we live in France; there isn't any K-Mart."
"Well, up by the office there's a Chinese guy with clothes on a rack right out on the street. You can get sweatshirts and jeans for only a couple dollars."
"Are they Diesel jeans?" Edward wanted to know.
"I don't know what they are. And it doesn't matter. Jeans are jeans."
"No they're not. And I'm not going to wear some jeans sold on the sidewalk by a Chinese guy up by your office. I've got my image to protect."
"But seriously, dear," came the voice of Fair Reason, "if the world economy is melting down...not ordering a pizza is not going to make much difference, is it? In fact, it's going to make the situation worse. Because then the pizza guy won't have any money. Are you sure you're not overreacting?"
"I don't think so. This is the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression. It could be worse than the Great Depression. I'm not saying we're broke – not yet. But it's a different world. It's not a time for free spending. It's a time for thrift. Making do. Getting by. Saving every dime you can...because you don't know when you'll need it...or when you'll get another one. We've never lived in a world like that...at least, not that we can remember. But that's what we've got now..."
The FWD – First World Depression – is upon us, in short. Everyone with any sense is cutting back as fast as they can. Everyone except the politicians.