Monday, December 22, 2014

Damocles Had Nothing To Do With It. It Was Cassandra All The Way For Sippican

Cassandra, daughter of the king and queen, in the temple of Apollo, exhausted from practising, is said to have fallen asleep; whom, when Apollo wished to embrace her, she did not afford the opportunity of her body. On account of which thing, when she prophesied true things, she was not believed.
THE GAS TANK OF DAMOCLES (first offered in 2012) 

Let me wax philosophical about my wife's gas tank.

We drive old vehicles. I don't like driving old vehicles. The reliability of your transportation is paramount. Old cars break down. Buying a new car is a form of insurance against risk. But real insurance against risk is unavailable, or illegal, for such as us, with one exception -- personal avoidance of risk at all costs.

My wife saw a piece of metal hanging below the car that looked as out of place as an honest man in Congress. One of the two straps that held the gas tank from dragging on the road had rusted clean through and broken. The other strap looked as reliable as cell phone service in a tunnel. Something must be done, and immediately.

My family never goes anywhere much now. We cannot hope to weather much bad luck with our own meager resources, and we cannot rely on others, so we keep our heads down. We were lucky that we discovered the problem in our driveway, instead of on the highway. You might think us daft for being grateful for a broken gas tank strap in our driveway, but we were. We were doubly grateful that it wasn't February, as well. So we offered our hosannahs. Now what to do?

In a fiscal landscape that made any sense, I'd pay a mechanic to repair the car. There's a fellow down the street --walking distance, what a luxury for us ---and he's honest and could use the money. He's my neighbor. But I poked around and found out that the repair would cost maybe $750 at a dealer. The mechanic down the street might only command half that, but it's still too much. I'd have to fix it myself.

I do not enjoy fixing my car. I've done it, back when I was young and Gerry Ford and Jimmy Carter were desolating the landscape, but I have no natural ability or affinity for it. But I went to Amazon, and found the correct parts, and ordered them, and crawled under the car and fixed it. My older son is old enough to help now, thank goodness. I am somewhat infirm in certain ways, and to lay vaguely upside-down under a car yanking on rusty bolts nearly overcame me. But after two days of effort interspersed with trips to the fainting couch, we had replaced the parts. The repair will outlast the car.

I did not earn money by fixing my own car, of course --just the opposite. The mechanic did not earn money. The people who rely on the mechanic to earn money will not earn money, and so forth. Ultimately, through a process which must be deduced, because it cannot be observed, this lack of commerce will ultimately filter its way through the entire economy to the point where someone will not buy what I make because I didn't hire the mechanic. It's the circle of life, except it's the circle of the death of commerce.

I am barraged daily with references to Helicopter Ben running the Treasury printing presses day and night, and thereby causing inflation. It's an insane idea. When the velocity of money sniffs zero, there is no inflation. The Fed makes money and gives it to the government, who lends it to itself, and none of it ever makes it into the wild where a car mechanic and his downstream brethren might get ahold of it. For productive people in today's American economy, the money might as well not exist. The bill for it will exist plenty in the future, of course. But when the velocity of money is zero, the future must be entirely discounted. It's a meaningless concept, like watching an unplugged clock.

The term velocity referring to the passage of money through the alimentary canal of commerce is very descriptive, and apt to my circumstances. The economy is in exactly the same shape as my wife's gas tank -- filled with fuel which only makes it sag on its rusty underpinnings further, making it more difficult to fix, and dangerous to be underneath, but you must bang around under there anyway because there's no other choice.  Nervous Nellies endlessly warn me that if it was all released at once, it would explode, but that eventuality is remote compared to going hungry because we can't drive to the supermarket until it's fixed. Above all, the fuel isn't taking you anywhere because the whole apparatus is busted, and the process to fix it is busted, and if you want it fixed you better do it yourself because nobody outside a building with a seal on it has any money.

It's hard to work under the gas tank of Damocles.


Everyman said...

We - you and I - must find a way to thrive, not merely survive. Let's find a time to talk about that.

Christopher Taylor said...

Where is this mystery money being spent if none of it is entering into the economy? Clearly you believe that its not being used to buy anything or pay anyone so what's it being spent on?

Sam L. said...

I hears ya, Mr. Sippi; a man gets mighty nervous in them situations.

Mizz E said...

The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. This alignment destroys the commonwealth - that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community - and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.

― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

I like your storytelling.
Wishing you and your family a joyful Christmas, Mizz E

SippicanCottage said...

Hello all- Merry Christmas.

I just wanted to thank Mizz E in particular for her generous contribution to my son's musical instrument fund via the paypal button, and for bringing her equally generous smile, sporty hat, and trenchant, spot-on quotation to the proceedings. The Sippicans all send their best wishes for a wonderful holiday.

chasmatic said...

Nothing is simple anymore. Nothing ever works. Nothing ever fits. Everything's gotta be special. Standard is never good enough.
What doesn't break falls off, and what doesn't fall off catches fire. Or close enough.
"Abandoned in a useable condition" might well apply to me if Life breaks bad. This is an option that I will not consider.

SippicanCottage said...

I also want to thank Chasmatic for his generous contribution to the kids' PayPal button, and for his words of fellowship sent along privately. I've noticed that there are a lot of nice people that infest this blog, me excluded.

julie said...

Merry Christmas, all you Sullivans! May your home ring with glad tidings, and may the new year be overflowing with blessings great and small.

Or barring that, may the rust hold together long enough, and only disintegrate when you've gotten where you need to go.

SippicanCottage said...

Many thanks to our great friend Julie and her family for her generous donation to the kids' PayPal button. It's very much appreciated. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Plumbers tape for the fuel tank restraint.

Bastiats broken window for the mechanics unrealized income.

May your blessings continue.

Ken Mitchell said...

Christopher Taylor said: "Where is this mystery money being spent if none of it is entering into the economy? Clearly you believe that its not being used to buy anything or pay anyone so what's it being spent on?"

It's being spent to pay bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. and New York. Eight counties around D.C. are in the top ten counties in the country for income and wealth in the nation. The hinterlands and "fly-over country" are sending money to our political masters in the Capitol City.

Anonymous said...

Izzat beekeepers suit from malwart?