Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking
- J.M. Keynes

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Grim Central Banking Fairytale



Once upon a time there was a bright young boy called Eco who was the sole breadwinner for his family. He was diligent and innovative, usually managing to grow his income steadily every year. His only flaw was a tendency to binge ever so often. This usually happened after a string of successes at work led him to believe that his future income would continue to grow at a fast clip. It made him borrow heavily from moneylenders and go on a partying spree. Although his family loved his binges since they shared in the borrowed bounty, they detested the inevitable hangovers which followed and the consequent loss of income as Eco’s work suffered. They tried several ways and consulted many wise men to temper his binges and cure his hangovers but it was of no avail.

Then one day, a doctor of little renown called Greenspan visited their village and convinced Eco’s family that he could cure the boy’s flaw. He was a believer in the Rand(om) school of sophistry whose core thesis was that sickness was entirely the patient’s fault and no medicine was the best medicine. Dr. Greenspan stuck to his strong beliefs as long as his patients displayed outward signs of health.

Over the years Dr. Greenspan cemented his reputation and his popularity with Eco’s family by never interfering to temper Eco’s binges. Sometimes he admonished Eco’s intemperate lifestyle but he never failed to quickly administer a large dose of alcohol whenever a hangover seemed imminent.

Eco’s family were delighted with the good doctor’s ministrations. They were even more ecstatic about the money Eco was bringing home. In their haste to spend on baubles, they never realised that Eco has borrowed a large part of the money from moneylenders. Under the influence of Dr. Greenspan, Eco’s occasional overconfidence about his future income now turned into a firm belief.

However every party must end and after two decades of partying with wild abandon, the strain began to tell on Eco. His youth was long gone and his internal organs were failing. But Dr. Greenspan made sure that Eco looked his usual boyish self and an epitome of health. At this point Dr. Greenspan, now an old man, expressed a desire to retire. Eco’s family were sorry to let him go and they appointed another highly regarded doctor, Dr. Ben and hoped that he would live up to Dr. Greenspan’s high standards.

No sooner had Dr. Ben taken over that Eco suffered a complete breakdown. Initially Dr. Ben brushed it off as a mild case of work-stress which would soon pass. But he was quickly forced to put Eco on life support when his condition worsened markedly. Now Dr. Ben fervently believed that most patients in Eco’s situation died because their doctors were too parsimonious in doling out alcohol. He was certainly not going to be one of those doctors. He explained to Eco’s panicked family that since the breakdown was the result of excessive drinking, the recovery required administering even greater doses of alcohol.

Most unquestioningly acquiesced in his prescription since doctors commanded great respect in the village. The few who did question the sagacity of the learned doctor and his team were dismissed as cranks and troublemakers. The large doses of alcohol soon revived Eco and his pain subsided somewhat. He was still too weak to get out of hospital and more worryingly his recovery soon stalled. The pain returned and he was in danger of relapsing. Eco’s continual partying had not only destroyed his system but also, like any addict, made him increasingly immune to the abused drug. His family were not only horrified by his condition but alarmed by the sudden influx of bills which they were unable to pay without Eco's money. So they decided to lend a hand in ensuring Eco’s recovery. They reasoned that eating rich food and living the good life had led to his breakdown and thus a little starvation and austere living might do him good.

Eco’s deteriorating condition drove Dr. Ben and his team to desperation and they decided to administer opium alongwith his daily alcohol. The effect, at least on surface, was magical. The blood came back to his sallow cheeks and he sat up and started walking about. Although he went back to work, he was not his old self and couldn’t work as hard as before. The truth was that even though he tried very hard he had little strength to carry on as before. Moreover, now he was also addicted to opium. Every time the learned doctor even mentioned a reduction in the opium dosage, Eco suffered a fainting fit.

Dr. Ben and his team were now trapped. Reduce the dosage and Eco’s fits might get worse but continuing with the dosage would permanently destroy what remained of his internal organs. Meanwhile Eco’s family continued in their attempt to starve him to make him stronger. His opium-addled smile made most of them believe that he was on the road to recovery. The moneylenders were also happy since they believed that the learned doctor and his team would be able to keep Eco working to pay off his loans.

And as this is a fairytale, they all lived happily ever after.

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