Are you good at math? Can you do calculations in your head? Did you get A’s in all your math courses? Then I gaze upon you with the same admiration I feel for the Champion Camel Jumper in a tiny village in Yemen who, and I kid you not, jumped clean over six camels from a running start. How the heck did he do that?!! As an artist and a math cripple (or should I say “digitally-impaired?”) that’s how I feel about people who are good at math.
In my quest to understand what happened in the Crash of 2008 that changed my life so dramatically, I unfortunately run smack into math. Then my eyes glaze over and I realize after awhile that I have been gazing out the window at the treetops waving in the breeze and once again-not getting the math.
Today I ran into another way to understand the crash of 2008. It’s in the form of a Persian proverb. Aha! A Persian proverb, right up my alley.
A certain Shah who wanted to reward the inventor of chess, asked what the man would like. The man asked “as his only reward that the Shah would give him a single grain of corn, which was to be put on the first square of the chess-board, and to be doubled on each successive square; which, to the surprise of the king, produced an amount larger than the treasures of his whole kingdom could buy” as the amount doubled on each of the board’s 64 squares.
Really? One corn on one square, then 2, 4, 8, 16, 32…and by the time each corn heap on the chess board is doubled and doubled again-there is not enough corn in the kingdom to pay that clever inventor of chess? This is called the Miracle of Compound Interest, or as J.P. Morgan and J.D. Rockefeller said, The Eighth Wonder of the World.
“Wonder,” that is, if YOU are the one collecting it.
If you are the one PAYING it, then you are enslaved and parasitized by the creditor, a situation expressed, shorthand, by “1%” vs. 99%” According to 19th century writer Michael Flürscheim, when Napoleon was first shown compound interest charts, he said, “The deadly facts herein lead me to wonder that this monster Interest has not devoured the whole human race.”
Flürscheim commented: “It would have done so long ago if bankruptcy and revolution had not been counter-poisons.” I am no good at math, I am not the one to come up with a formula to fix the Compound Interest Monster-which has nothing to do with productive economy and a lot to do with never-ending, legalized robbery.
To put in simple terms, being in debt is a no good, very bad way to live. We humans are clever, we can figure out how to escape the Compound Interest Monster. I know this because you are good at math, our ancestors escaped saber-toothed tigers, and there’s a kid in Yemen who can jump six camels from a running start.