What makes the world go 'round

I'm at the beach reading Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which was given to me some time ago by my co-conspirator Negocios Loucos.

The title does not refer to the current Messiah or the current mess of a market. The book was written in 2007 by Bill Bonner of the Daily Reckoning, who has seen this all coming through his understanding of the repetitive follies of history.

This passage was too good not to share:

Why do people by Hummers, for instance? For a simple reason. It's all about superiority. Why would you want to feel superior at all? Why would you want to feel one up on the other guy? Again, it's simple: because you want to impress some woman. Why do you want to impress her? Because you want as many of your genes floating around the gene pool as possible. Just look around.

"All progress is based on a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income," said Samuel Butler, but he didn't explain why; so we will.

Why is there a $700 billion trade deficit? Because Americans want to buy things they can't afford. Why do they want to buy things they can't afford? To pretend to be richer than they are. Why do they want to appear richer than they are? Because it gives them higher social status. Why do the want higher social status? So they will have better access to the opposite sex.

There it is, dear reader. When it comes down to it, it's all sex and lies. Everything: Romance. Cars. Jobs. The debt bubble. The real estate bubble. The trade deficit bubble. The American Empire. They are useful only as evidence of conspicuous consumption; they wink to the opposite sex that the animal is fit for procreation and game for a little hanky-panky. If he can carry around all that extra baggage and still survive, he must be tough. So, too, if a person can live in a McMansion and drive a Hummer without going bankrupt, he must be a good prospect for a date.

But it's all relative. If everybody on the block buys a Hummer and puts in a swimming pool, the man who has those things already loses his edge. An arms race in consumption begins. He has to spend even more -- bringing himself even closer to bankruptcy -- in order to show off. What can he do? Write poetry and put a feminist bumper sticker on his old Hummer? No, he must carry around the biggest, gaudiest, most implausible rack of lies he can carry; he must make a public spectacle of himself.

I couldn't have said it better.

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Happy Super Tuesday!