Last night, within a matter of minutes of each other, I heard two politicians assert, with considerable, er… passion I might add, that the Economy must be protected at all costs.
Wow, I thought, this Economy must be important. And at that very moment, I suddenly realized that here was something of monumental importance, perhaps the most important thing in the cosmoverse, and I had never even seen it.
The Eiffel Tower? Tick. The Sydney Harbour Bridge? Tick. Times Square? Tick. But I’ve never seen the Economy.
So this morning, I put an apple and a cheese and pickle sandwich in my back pack, got out some money for the bus and set off to see the Economy.
Thing is, I had no idea where to find it.
I began to ask people. But no one could tell me. Not one soul I spoke to had a clue. Most couldn’t even tell me what it was, never mind where it was.
One lady did tell me it was the government’s job to look after it.
Goodness me, I thought, as I sat in the park, munching on my apple and wishing I’d packed a bottle of water, here’s something that’s so big it takes an entire government – actually several entire governments, it turns out – to operate it, and yet nobody knows where it is.
Just as I was about to toss the core into the bin – I’m most correct in matters ecological – I had a brainwave. Banks know all about the Economy; I’ll ask a bank manager.
So, I went into my local bank and stood in the queue for three quarters of an hour – as one does.
The teller gave me quite a strange look when I explained what I was after and scurried off to talk to somebody.
It turned out that the local manager was too busy to see me, but an immaculately dressed young woman took me off to one side.
When I explained my mission, she told me that the Economy was everywhere.
“Like God?” I asked.
“No, not exactly.”
“Like the air?”
“Well, sort of.” She took a neatly printed report from a desk. “See all these numbers; GDP, Productivity, Borrowings, Lendings, and so on?”
I nodded enthusiastically. Now we seemed to be getting somewhere.
“Well,” she continued, “That information, it, well, it describes the Economy.”
“Ahh,” I replied, “So the Economy isn’t an actual thing. It isn’t real.”
“Exactly,” she said, as the perplexed expression she’d been wearing disappeared.
“So it’s just an idea,” I murmured.
She nodded vigorously. “You’re getting it.”
“Thought up by we humans?”
More nodding. “Precisely,” she said. Now she was actually smiling.
“So,” I engaged in a bit of head scratching. “Why did we humans think it up? What’s its point?”
The perplexed look returned as she thought, really, really hard. Or so it seemed to me.
Finally, she said, “To serve humanity.”
“Okay, I think I’ve got it.” I thanked her and turned to go.
Then I turned back. “Just one more question.”
Her eyebrows rose. She looked quite confident by this time. I rather think she felt pleased with herself to have been able to explain everything to me.
“If the purpose of the Economy is to serve humanity, then why did the incoming Greek Prime Minister say this morning that health care in Greece would have to be further reduced, (causing even more cancer sufferers to no longer have access to life saving treatment), and that food prices would have to rise by at least 6%, (meaning that more Greeks would starve), all in order to save the Economy? That sounds to me as though humanity is being made to serve this Economy.”
The poor girl burst into tears.
I can’t think why.