The Big Short: Divorcing Economy from Autonomy

I watched the documentary after this movie, The Big Short. The guys in charge of the government positions that controlled money like the Federal Reserve all seemed to be desperate and clueless on how to help the American people. Because pretend value was created out of nothing, and we live in a weird world where we can temporarily offset the cost of creating resources and pay for it later. But if the “resource” created is shit or not even real, when the bill comes in, we can’t pay. And before this ability to offset, if you can’t pay you don’t get the resource. That’s basic poverty. For an explanation of The Big Short and the housing crisis watch this video.

Now about that documentary on the housing crisis. Those desperate politicians are regular human beings with self-interest to protect their families and lives. They wanted to help. Their natural instincts just got warped because their level of power in government was so unnatural. Also, the kind of people who get into positions like that are immersed in economic ignorance, with only a specific kind of economic competence that causes these problems, and absolutely can’t fix them. Just think of someone you know sucked into a pyramid scheme and what made them susceptible to it.

The high level feds bailed out the banks instead of directly digging into the problem at the ground floor with the families that couldn’t pay the mortgages or at the very least, people who got screwed because of economic downfall they didn’t participate in. The house of cards came crashing down when enough families couldn’t put money back into the banks that they had been given to buy something they can’t afford. 

And so the banks were bailed out, because a financial institution without extra money on hand just can’t provide the services that make up its income. And the banks didn’t pass that money onto the citizens now losing everything. Everyone needs safety and economic wellbeing. It’s hard to take care of your own family, let alone millions and millions of people tied into a larger global economy.

This is the biggest warning that government, other authoritarian structures and any organization bigger than the Dunbar number (150) is just not functional. Cells learned how to do this billions of years ago. Divide when you get too big. And above all else, the foundation of human relationships must be built on self-determination (autonomy, competence, interconnection). If any human being’s autonomy is disrespected, their needs are not met and their choices are less natural, less voluntary.

The more people in this position, the more they make choices to protect their autonomy, out of fear. This is the core reality that too many authoritarians miss: you can’t steal a person’s autonomy. When you try, you only further damage and suppress your own autonomy. To quote the amazing book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH –

“we’re fleas on a dog. If the dog drowns, the fleas do too.”

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