Kickin’ it with the ruling class


411: Guiltily swilling my martini and puffing a stogie.

Listening to: Public Enemy, “911 is a joke”

I just learned about a cottage industry of companies that buy up defaulted debts of poor countries and then attempt to foreclose on the assets of that country around the world. If you’re Pakistan and your economy is in the crapper, your country may have made obligations that it can’t pay, and our legal system is intact enough to allow some enterprising attorney to seize your assets abroad.

It occurs to me that this is an economic Death Spiral, and reminds me of the way I often enjoy strangling other players in various closed-system games like Monopoly. Usually the turning point in any Monopoly game happens when you can force another player to start selling houses to pay rent or other expenses. With their money-making assets diminished, they’ve entered the Death Spiral. The money they pay you goes to making the envionment even more expensive, because I buy yet more houses with it, and their ability to make money has been diminished further. Its almost impossible to recover unless I make the same mistake.

While I’m a great believer in the enforcement of contracts, it makes me wonder if this isn’t the kind of thing that just encourages countries to nationalise their industries.

I feel lucky not to live in such a country, and I try not to take my good fortune for granted.

Between Sarah and I, we’ve seen what normal, blue-collar people live like in places like Cuba, Jamaica, China, and Pakistan. You can be poor anywhere (including just down the street from me in DC), but I think it’s probably worse to be poor in a country where your options are pretty limited for improving your life. Things like corrupt governments or poor human rights systems can make it all but impossible to catch a break.

I remember being in Cancun once, and having the cab driver tells me how every month or so a Cuban fisherman washes up on their shores. They take their boats out to the edge of international waters and then jump in if they can’t convince the Communist Party member to defect with them. Party members don’t defect, they have too good of a life.

The defector then proceeds to try and stay afloat the 90 or however many miles it takes to swim/float/dog-paddle to Mexico.

The level of desperation this suggests is not lost on me, and every time someone makes a toast, I can’t help but think we should just be damn glad we were born here, and at this time period.

Which may explain why people think my toasts are a downer.