Sunday, April 26, 2009

And now for something closer to home...

What do you call it when you look back at the last decade of your life and go, "Boy, what a waste of time that was"? A couple of weeks ago in church there's this German man who asked if anyone is interested in working with the homeless, just go see him after the service. I considered it. I seriously considered it. But I didnt go see him. Im in the middle of a project and much as I want to bail on it, Im committed to seeing it through. But when we finally put the project to bed, inshallah, what then? What have I accomplished? Where in the ultimate scheme of things does that so-called achievement figure? Was I able to help the homeless, the widows, the orphans, and all those people God said we should help if we're to continue to live as Christians?

Before I joined my present corporate overlords, I was working as a research assistant for social and marine scientists doing coastal resource management projects, working with coastal communities, and even if it was back-breaking work, with lots of physical labor, and long hours writing papers, spending days, weeks, months away from home in some remote barangay where there's no electricity and no plumbing, that was the most fun I had in my life. And I actually felt I was doing something worthwhile instead of just making somebody rich. I had to leave that job though. I figured with my baby daughter growing up, I needed a job with more stability, that was more mainstream, even though it required me to wear a necktie and leather shoes. Blek. It paid well. We were able to live comfortably and I can send my now two daughters to private school and all that but... Im at that stage when Im thinking if that's all there is to it, the chasing after the next paycheck. And what am I teaching the kids? That in this life you graduate from school and get a job -- any job as long as it pays good -- and then you die? I want them to chase not after a paycheck, but to chase after what theyre passionate about, to have a meaningful existence, and I dont think theyre getting that from me. Ive lost the desire to draw and paint and write and read stories, things that gave me pleasure before. I bought a sketch pad and some drawing pastels and tried to make something come out and nothing would. It's just not there anymore. Ive let the thing atrophy. I can't write either. I started on a story that I was to submit somewhere just for the heck of it and it started well but slowly it got into a hole I couldnt get out of until I eventually lost the energy to try to dig it out since all that energy's needed for my day-job.

All this traveling used to be fun. Now it's just tedious. My older daughter just turned thirteen and my younger daughter eleven. Theyre at that age when theyre starting to discover boys, and I feel I should be there with them, but this project would keep me away for most of the year. It'll make us good money, sure, but Im not sure it's worth it. We can make do with less if it means I won't have to abdicate being a parent for long stretches. It's times like these when I appreciate the sacrifice our OFWs make, for this isnt the natural state of things. But more than that I feel Ive lost something this past ten, twelve years. Ive even lost interest in wanting to be good at what I do, whatever the heck it is. It's like Ive been on a holding pattern with no definite airstrip to land in. We'll see how it goes, as always. Because it all goes, it eventually goes, and you can only pray to God that it'll go his way.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gold watch

It seems that the inevitable abandonment of the US Dollar as reserve currency is gaining momentum as China admits that it is building up its gold reserves in a report to the IMF.
"The financial crisis means the U.S. dollar value is changing fast, and it may retreat from being the international reserve currency. If that happens, whoever holds gold will be at an advantage."

Look for China to dump its trillion-dollar reserve in the mother of all spending sprees as soon as it feels comfortable about its own gold reserve buildup.
The European Central Bank recommends its member banks hold 15% of their reserves in gold, but among Asian nations the percentage is far smaller...

Go we therefore and do likewise? Buildup gold reserves and dump the dollar? Do we have enough gold in the ground, or have our gold reserves been spirited away to other countries by our own wonderfully corruption-free governments?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

It's a small step to be sure

But a step in the right direction. Im talking about Russia's proposal to the G-20 summit to return to some form of currency backed by gold. Not 100% backed by gold, but it's better than money backed 100% by government say-so, as a monetary system anchored on something tangible instead of 'confidence in the State' could impose some kind of discipline.

The article points out that
The Gold Standard was the anchor of world finance in the 19th Century but began breaking down during the First World War as governments engaged in unprecedented spending. It collapsed in the 1930s when the British Empire, the US, and France all abandoned their parities.
Unprecedented spending. Interesting. The unprecedented spending was due to the fact that the governments of Europe began inflating their currency on a massive scale, bankrupting themselves in the process, in order to be able to kill millions of people in the Great War. That's what inflation and debasement of currency allows them to do. The governments of the world, the US included, are all essentially bankrupt. It is only because they can create money out of nothing that they manage to stay afloat. That and the docility of the citizens who do not know they are being fleeced, believing as they do the old government fairy tale that it's all the fault of the free market.
The world's fiat paper currencies have lacked any external anchor ever since. It is widely argued that the financial excesses and extreme debt leverage of the last quarter century would have been impossible - or less likely - under the discipline of gold.
It is less likely, sure. But even with gold-backed currency, the Central Banks of the world, acting in concert, can still issue paper far in excess of the actual gold, as long as they inflate together and at the same rate. That's basically what all this talk about the new reserve currency to replace the US dollar is all about.

I wish I can say that it'll be fun to watch all this G-20 crap unravel but it won't be fun. There are hopeful signs, such as when European leaders, most notably Merkel, balked at more stimulus spending, but they'll toe the line soon enough. We're addicted to fiat money and credit and deficits and all those things that make this world a wonderful place to live in.

Update 03 April: Right. Doesnt take a genius to see this coming:
The deal agreed by the leaders of the world's largest economies included reform of the international banking system and the injection of more than $1 trillion into the world financial system.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had voiced concerns prior to the summit about the wisdom of pumping further public money into economies already in recession, welcomed Thursday's agreement -- though hinted at unresolved disagreements behind the scenes.