Do You Believe in Santa Claus?

Few 21st century adults believe in Santa Claus, at least not in the small-scale Santas in department stores, who are obviously employees, nor in the old man reputedly at the north pole who yearly presides over a supply chain of elves to deliver billions of presents each year on Christmas eve.

Yet many of these same sophisticated skeptics nevertheless believe in the existence of Santa Claus on a far larger scale, who give away trillions, convinced government can pay for things so taxpayers don't have to. According to the New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman, Washington could scare the public into accepting printed money by faking a space alien invasion:

“If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack, and we needed a massive build-up to counter the space alien threat, and inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months,” Krugman says, referencing an episode of The Twilight Show [sic; should be The Twilight Zone] in which an alien threat was manufactured to bring about world peace.

To them Santa looks like Joe Biden who has promised to make sure everyone, including foreign dictators who don't believe in Christmas, gets presents under the Christmas tree  paid for with debt.  "Just after midnight, the House passed a bill to raise the debt limit by $2.5 trillion, sending the bill to President Biden’s desk just in time for the deadline... that should allow the U.S. to pay its bills through 2022 and into 2023."

What's the matter, afraid of something for nothing? Don't worry the elves in Washington, D.C., have an ideology, called Modern Monetary Theory, to explain why all our debts will be paid by the Future. If government spend its it will come.

For these advocates of modern monetary theory, the insistence by both political parties that all the $550 billion of new spending be matched by offsetting revenue, known as “payfors,” goes against their belief that money is merely a tool for government.

MMTers detest payfors as wrongheaded thinking about money. Money only exists because of government spending, and under MMT, the government should just create as much as it needs to finance its projects. In a tight economy—like we have now—MMT might want offsets to new spending. But higher taxes or lower spending elsewhere would be aimed at avoiding inflation, not at balancing the budget... The most important claim of MMT is that a government need never default on debt issued in its own currency."

It's like having an irrevocable credit card. And it won't cause inflation, MMTers argue, as long as government taxes the rich enough to take the printed money out of circulation. "Taxes are, they concede, sometimes necessary to stave off inflation, and as a consequence, preventing inflation can require cutting back on deficit spending by hiking taxes. But the lower inflation caused by higher taxes is not an effect of 'lowering the deficit'; the lower deficit is just an artifact of the choice to raise taxes to fight inflation." So long as inflation is kept low enough to match the real rate of growth that somehow arrives from the future this process can continue indefinitely.

But this is intellectually unsatisfactory. Who is this future Santa? Why is the future necessarily fecund, such that humanity can rely on it to pay its debts? The probable answer is that life, if not stifled, gets "smarter" as time goes. It struggles to its feet despite government burdens. The definition of life is that it grows. It finds ways to turn natural "free energy" into information and intelligence that 'transformative' governments can use to pay their bills.

Entropy reduction is another way of saying bringing order from disorder. As Jeremy England of MIT recently argued, life may well have originated as process of dissipating the energy that was so abundant in the universe by inventing patterns. As England put it, "a great way of dissipating more is to make more copies of yourself.” Life turns energy into information and that energy was present at the outset, all the way back to the Big Bang or its equivalent. We discover it's Santas all the way down!

As far as the eye can see...

This Santa business turns out to be more puzzling than it initially seems. Gottfried Leibniz posed it as what may be the greatest philosophical puzzle of all, namely: why is there something rather than nothing? "The question is a challenging one because it seems perfectly possible that there might have been nothing whatsoever – no Earth, no stars, no galaxies, no universe." This puzzled even the great fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who remarked to Watson in The Naval Treaty:

“Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

In this Christmas season, when even the Davos Economic Forum itself has been postponed by the pandemic, it is well to recall that it is life that resets institutions, not the other way round. That the Great Reset has been reset should be humbling. As governments fruitlessly plot to control the climate as if it were some oversized air conditioner, in various countries humble life will work a miracle. Parents will give their children gifts they can hardly afford, especially in this time of inflation; a cheap sweet, a hand enhanced article of clothing, some plastic thing from China, paid for perhaps by dint of missed meals and foregone bus rides. And the earth will continue to move. For while nobody believes in department store Santas, Leibniz's question remains: "who lit this flame in us? No war can put it out, conquer it." What made life grow? Perhaps only faith can explain it.

Modern Monetary Theory Meets the Great Reset

Between 1930 when his two-volume magnus opus A Treatise on Money was published and his preparation of what became The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, published in 1936, John Maynard Keynes had a very bad idea. His very bad idea formed the core of this latter, and much more famous book. Simply put, Keynes’s bad idea was that spending drove an economy. This idea had been eruditely pilloried by John Stuart Mill in the nineteenth century and -- kaput! It was gone.

But, hold your horses, bad ideas are not so easy to be rid of when they appeal to specious reasoning.

After all, who doesn’t like spending money? Of course, we know that if we spend too much ourselves, we will get into terrible trouble and end up in Queer Street. But suppose it’s the government spending money and, to boot, giving some to us. And, at same time, so-called economic experts are explaining that this spending will cure unemployment. Now that’s a bad idea whose currency persists. I expect it to be around in perpetuity.

So dumb only an egghead could love it.

Human history is replete with bad ideas. Slavery, bloodletting, Operation Barbarossa to name just three of very many. If we are lucky only one or two bad ideas hold sway at any one time. We are not so lucky. I will canvass four contemporary bad ideas plaguing our lives; or, at least, the lives of those susceptible to reason. And show how they have coalesced to form one grandiose idea hatched in a remote part of Switzerland.

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the promotion of abortion on demand, gender dysphoria and men in frocks playing sport against women, or iconoclasm, or national self-loathing, or trigger warnings and ‘hate-speech’ on university campuses. All of these, and more, are redolent of contemporary bad ideas too. But one runs out of puff covering them all. In any event, it is the four I’ve canvassed which lead to Switzerland.

Follow the logic below. It is a stretch. But since when has that been an unjumpable hurdle for the leftist mindset.

Green New Deals whether of the AOC variety or of the slightly watered-down Biden/Sanders variety or even of the Boris Johnson variety are, shall we say, on the expensive side. Lots of things to be done and so little time with the planet we know and love on the brink of extinction:

  1. Undermining reliable sources of energy (to wit, coal, oil and gas) while subsidising unreliable sources of energy (to wit, wind and solar).
  2. Chasing internal combustion engines off the road while building a whole new infrastructure to power electric cars.
  3. Refitting many thousands of buildings to increase their energy efficiency.
  4. And, lest we forget, somehow reducing the belching proclivity of farm animals; or, alternatively, mandating mass switching to veganism.

None of this will come cheap. This is where MMT comes to the rescue; whether it is called that or not. Required, à la MMT, is a carefree approach to government spending and borrowing; all underwritten by central banks keeping their money-printing presses (figuratively speaking) at the ready.

MMT -- it's fun and better yet, it's free!

And, in case you don’t see the next connection, lockdowns have already provided a trial run. Governments have borrowed and spent big to keep the ship of state afloat after crippling their economies and throwing millions out of work. Financial restraint has been defenestrated. It will be a much more sellable proposition than it ever would have been to spend and borrow still more to underpin economies (MMT / Keynesian-style) and, at the same time, save the planet. And that isn’t all.

The emergence from lockdowns to a greener future provides yet another opportunity. And this is to lift those whose underprivilege has cruelly held them back. To be fair, innately overprivileged though they are, poor white guys and gals are not specifically excluded.

If you haven’t already guessed, the coalescence of four bad ideas have ineluctably led me to The Great Reset – and to its goal of producing a greener, more inclusive, more equitable world. This latest manifestation of the utopian-pipedream genre was unveiled in May 2020 by the World Economic Forum, which is made up of rich people and notables, passionate about saving the planet from fossil fuels, who fly into Davos Switzerland from their mansions or yachts each year in their private jets. You sense they know that they could run things much better than the hoi polloi ever could.

Prince Charles together with Klaus Schwab, the chair of WEF, presided over the great unveiling of The Great Reset:

There are reasons to believe that a better economic system is possible—and that it could be just around the corner. As the initial shock of the COVID crisis receded, we saw a glimpse of what is possible, when stakeholders act for the public good and the well-being of all, instead of just a few... Rather than chasing short-term profits or narrow self-interest, companies could pursue the well-being of all people and the entire planet. This does not require a 180-degree turn: corporations don’t have to stop pursuing profits for their shareholders. They only need to shift to a longer-term perspective on their organization and its mission, looking beyond the next quarter or fiscal year to the next decade and generation.

Building such a virtuous economic system is not a utopian ideal.

Can a cacophony of four bad ideas produce a harmonious good idea? Maybe for those living in the Davos bubble. Not for those living in struggle street; white, black or brown.