Punchinello’s Chronicles

February 1, 2009

Fear or Caution?

Filed under: Butterfly Wings — Punchinello @ 8:13 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The latest fortune-cookie psychology coming out of the journalism fantasy world is that people aren’t spending money because of fear. It’s a psychological problem, they say, and if only we would get “past the fear,” the economy would magically fix itself.

This kind of pap would ordinarily be dismissed routinely, except that it happens to go along with the FDR myth. We’ve all heard that Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” right before he walked on water and wiped away the Great Depression. The fact that FDR’s actions prolonged the Depression for years doesn’t seem to be so visible.

Fear is a feeling. It’s a biochemical process and either can be created through chemistry, or through behavior. Caution, on the other hand, is a reasoned assessment. Caution pulls up a bit of fear, but nowhere near the same amount as raw fear itself. Caution is first a reasoning analysis, secondly an emotion. Fear is primarily a body response.

So the question becomes whether people aren’t spending money because they’re being cautious or overly cautious. Or; are people not spending money because they’re afraid? If so, afraid of what?

I would argue that today’s environment is totally different from that of the 1930s. Back then, much of America’s economy was still agricultural. We’d just entered into the Industrial Age with textiles, so there was a significant industry in textile manufacturing. The railroads were still developing and much of the population was directly involved in real production.

Today, with the much-acclaimed switch to a “service” industry and information technology, only a small portion of the population is involved with real production. And a lot of that’s controlled by unions, as power-hungry as modern-day politicians. We have a very small agricultural system, railways are important but matched by over-the-road trucking. And let’s not forget airline commerce.

Additionally, today’s world rests on fiat money — money that has nothing at all behind it. In theory, our dollars are backed by products we make, our gross domestic product (GDP). But we can say whatever we want to about production, and call anything at all production. Back in the 1930s, money was backed by gold. The government was severely limited by what it could spend because paper had to match gold.

Another major argument rests on the decades of astoundingly poor education we’ve had. Instead of promoting competition, difference, and excellence, we’ve had nearly half a century of the opposite. Students showing critical thinking and analysis are penalized. Those who mindlessly accept whatever their teachers and professors say are promoted.

Given the near complete lack of analytic skills and competitive adaptation, it’s no wonder we live in a world of magical thinking.

The problem of calling the national “mood” fearful is that it proposes that simply saying the word “fear” will cause fear. It’s like using the word “Christmas” in July to cause people to spend money during the summer. Modern-day linguists and language specialists have taught generations of students that speaking a word causes reality to instantly change.

Every time someone says the public is “fearful,” they’re promoting this ignorance. Why aren’t we hearing that the public mood is “cautious?” Or how about “pessimistic?”

It’s because we can play on fear. Politicians can use the term to increase fear. Mostly it’s mindless, thoughtless, brainless feelings. With enough fear people will accept anything, including a shift into totalitarianism. We can build a police state, all because people are afraid.

No. Most rational people are cautious! They understand the reasons we’re in this economic condition. They can see that nothing whatsoever is being done to reduce debt spending. That’s what caused the current meltdown, and we’re pouring gasoline on the fire. Rightly so, those people are cautious. They’re not spending money because money itself may not exist for much longer.

Tragically, in a population increasingly dominated by unexamined feelings, fear is easier to understand than caution. So is adulation, worship, and mindless acceptance. Feelings require zero effort. Just biochemistry. Emotions, on the other hand, require a mixture of thought and analysis with those original feelings. Thought mitigates the power of plain feelings.

Without thought, we descend into the great abyss of primitive mythology. We become a nation of tribes, driven by animal rages and manic ecstasy. And that’s the perfect condition for The State to step in and take control of everything.

For the good of the people!


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