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The Daily Paradox

The Daily Paradox: The MMMs of life and debt

The world is aware that DEBT is a four letter word whose spelling can change to BUST. If only it were that simple. It is easy to see what happens at a company level. A big international building business is an example. The forecasts on which the debt was incurred turned out to be wrong. The money was lost. Some forecasts are bound to be wrong, some money may always be lost. It’s a gamble. When the amounts get high the gamble becomes unacceptable because it hurts too many people too much.

International finance is more complex but follows the same laws of moderation for success. Governments cannot always run surplus income from the taxation they impose on their citizens. Equally, in a democratic domain they cannot publish forecast losses if they are to win the citizens’ votes. The voter has a conflict of interests – we all do, most of the time. S/He needs more to spend personally, hopes for greater amounts on civic services and demands lower taxes. When untruthful politicians tell them they can have all that, they believe them. Why?

Because their education has been woefully short of Maths, Morals and Moderation. These three MMMs are missing in our society today. Competition and the speedy development of technology have exacerbated the pace of change. Wisdom is acquired by thoughtful pondering, not by gambling-speed reaction. Wealth is often acquired by light of foot – and sometimes by light of finger, too. We value wealth more than wisdom which is daft when you consider which produces the greater happiness.

By mortgaging the future we provide ourselves with wealth now at the expense of cash later. This is often a good thing to do. For a developing company, today’s investments are tomorrow’s profits – mostly. Certainly without the input there would be a very delayed output, if any.  For the individual an investment in housing to accommodate the family is clearly wise. Borrowing to enjoy something transient and non-essential is not prudent. Borrowing to wage war on neighbours is obviously wicked, except in the case of self-defence.

For politicians, with their often transient tenure, borrowing while in power to provide public services purely to ensure re-election is a weapon of destruction culminating in suicide. But the concept of ‘today’ seduces a ‘Maths, Morals and Moderation weak’ populace more effectively than the reckoning of ‘tomorrow’. Technical progress is wonderful, but only if matched by the wisdom needed to handle it.

What must we do to ensure that wisdom tries to keep up with weapons?

We must make the MMMs the foundation of education right at the start of a child’s life. There will be those who say a child should be allowed its early years to enjoy playing, running about and shouting. In an ideal world that is true. Our planet is no longer ideal – it allows 5-year-olds to have a mobile phone with access to all the good and all the bad in the world. Efforts to limit this invariably end in failure with bad people finding a way round the controls. Parents are mostly good people who have more than enough work to earn a living to feed and educate their children. They cannot spend all their time supervising phone behavior.

An educated voter is one who thinks for himself or herself, weighs up the value of ‘now’ versus ‘later’ and uses their vote to elect responsible people who themselves understand MMM. Sensible politicians will only be elected by educated voters.

That is why MMMs must now be the foundations of our education of the young.

It’s not new but it seems to have been forgotten.

Good morning
John Bittleston

As always, your opinions are invaluable.

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26 April 2024