7 Jan 2014

Smaug Economics

One of the great lies of our times is that very rich people are good for the economy. The richest amongst us, we are told, create jobs and affluence for everyone else. ‘Trickledown economics’ is a myth, and one sorely in need of debunking.

The difference in wealth between the richest 1% and the rest of us, is vast, and growing. By comparison, the difference between a mediaeval peasant and a king of the same period was on a far smaller scale.

The superrich are not driving the economy. What they are doing, is creating huge stashes of wealth for themselves. More material goods and financial potential than they can possibly use. It sits there, in their hoards, gaining interest – sucking money out of the rest of the system. If more of that money was in circulation, passing from hand to hand, a lot more people would be a lot better off. Stockpiling wealth deprives the rest of us.

If you’ve seen The Hobbit, then the dragon, Smaug, is a very useful metaphor here. Smaug the dragon sits on an enormous stash of gold. Riches beyond imagining are piled up for him to lie on. He has no use for it, but will kill anyone who tries to take it from him. Meanwhile, down in nearby Laketown, ordinary people and even their leaders, are very poor and struggling. There is no trickledown from the dragon’s hoard in the mountain to the impoverished people at the lakeside. There never is.

Peter Jackson has breathed life back into a very old metaphor here. We’ve been telling each other stories about evil dragons sitting on piles of gold for a very long time now. It is a very simple expression of a very simple truth – that which sits on a big pile of gold is not helping anyone else. The odds are, it will also want your cows and a steady supply of attractive young women.

The gap between the richest and the poorest keeps growing. This should be evidence enough to demonstrate that trickledown economics are a lie. As the rich get richer, the rest of us do not benefit, we fall further behind. However, our government, and others around the world, pander to extreme affluence, and to the myth of trickledown economics, with tax breaks and investments to tempt them out to play. We give them more money, whilst telling ourselves that it’s in our best interests. We hand over our cows and virgins, and very little comes back.

At least in fantasy fiction, people tend to notice that the demanding and hoarding dragons  are bad news. Out here in the real world, we seem a lot happier to swallow myths unquestioned. Next time someone mentions what a great thing trickledown economics is, picture that one gold coin bouncingly slowly down the enormous pile, while the dragon considers eating you, because it’s a good deal closer to the truth.

(Dragon by Stroud artist Tom Brown, with permission... www.copperage.deviantart.com )


Philip Booth said...

Love the dragon!

Anonymous said...

being a big evil dragon, I suppose he doesn't have much choice...If he gave it all away, then the town would probably drive him out, or kill him.