To paraphrase the words of a wiser politician than any we have today, no-one would remember the Good Samaritan, for all his kind intent, if he had had no money. Economically our society must be, to use a fine old word in danger of losing its meaning, sustainable. It's worrying, therefore, to reflect upon two pieces about economics I read today. First NickM writes about the EU's economic crisis over at his excellent blog, Counting Cats in Zanzibar. He makes several good points, but none better than this:
The basis of any economy is making and selling things or providing services. It is not and can never be about borrowing huge amounts of money against domestic dwellings which are on a mortgage anyway because at some point reality has to set in. And the simple truth is houses are for living in.
We in the real estate business understand that. While providing accommodation to others is business, our own homes are just to keep the rain off. That millions have mistaken their shelters for piggy banks should not be anyone's problem but theirs. Only the bitch goddess democracy could make it otherwise, as a majority of losers force the minority who should have been winners to disgorge their savings, via taxation or inflation.
Meanwhile, over at the Losers' Gazette, official publication of those who regard it as high morals to make others pay for their mistakes, another point of view is proclaimed;
Public sector workers are in the firing line. Find out how much they contribute to your economy
The article goes on to tell us that;
In South Buckinghamshire, only a mere 6.7% of the work force rely on the public sector for employment. But in Newcastle-upon- Tyne over 53,000 people work in the public sector – 30.5% of the workforce. In Copeland, Cumbria that number is 14,200, or a significant 50.4% of the workforce.
Where to begin? Firstly, let's answer the question about economic contribution. Public sector workers contribute, give or take a few basis points of GDP, nothing. That, at the risk of causing offence to decent people, some working hard, is the kindest possible interpretation. It's not to say that all of them contribute nothing of any kind of value, but economically they quite simply create no wealth. It is wealth creation, not good intentions or diligent attendance at an office, that ultimately pays for everything, including public services.
The Guardian may see jobs as an economic benefit, but they are more like a by-product. In economic terms, they are a cost. That anywhere is so forsaken by all gods as to be 50.4% dependent upon the state (more so if you add those on the dole, the sick or otherwise "economically inactive") is a matter to be mourned, not celebrated. Such places are economic zombie-towns. At that level, it's very likely that most "private sector" jobs are merely providing services to public authorities or their workers.
That its fleas are plump, glossy and breeding freely does not, as the Guardian seems to think, speak well for the health of a dog. The wealth-creating portion of the population is now such an oppressed minority that it may be time for Trevor Philips to add them to his little list. Certainly the way they are treated smacks of "hate crime".
Higher house prices or a bail-out from the Germans are just not going to cut it now. The one economic question no-one seems to be asking at present is this:
What can we make or what services can we provide that the rest of the world will buy?
Sadly, as NickM points out, that's the only question that matters.