‘And it is a holy thing, and it is a precious time
And it is the only way
Forget-me-nots among the snow, it’s always been and so it goes.’
—Jimmy MacCarthy, The Bright Blue Rose
The priest in St James’ Church, Mallow, gave a good sermon for Easter Sunday.
The gist of it was that ‘God can do what He wants.’ She [this was the Church of Ireland, not a Catholic church] told the familiar Easter story about how the disciples searched for Christ’s body after he was taken down from the cross.
‘This was the most important thing that had ever happened in the history of the world, and yet, it is a story of confusion, mixed signals, and false starts. It is a very human story; we never know what is really going on.’
Yes, there are some things we can make happen. And some things happen to us.
Gravity happens, whether we do anything or not. But if we want to fix the roof, we better get out our tools.
In a recent poll from Gallup, more than half of millennials (people in their 20s and 30s) said they have a positive view of socialism.
The rest seem content with capitalism, provided it is ‘reformed.’ Even The Sunday Times of Dublin took up the theme in an editorial: ‘Capitalist, it’s time to heal thyself.’
But is capitalism something you make happen, or something that happens to you? And if it gets sick, can you heal it?
We saw last week that the biggest burst of stimulus in the US — $3.6 trillion of quantitative easing (QE), negative real interest rates for 10 years, and deficits of $11 trillion — brought the weakest recovery ever.
The activists wanted faster growth. But they couldn’t make it happen. GDP crawled forward at barely half the rate of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. Wages were basically stagnant. So were pre-tax corporate earnings.
The Japanese couldn’t make it happen, either. Stimulus had no greater effect on the Nipponese Islands than it did in the USA.
In the entire 21st century, so far, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) increased its holdings (monetary stimulus…the base money supply for the nation) some seven times.
During the same period, the Japanese feds increased government debt (fiscal stimulus) from 100% of GDP to 250% — the biggest increase ever seen in a major economy.
The BoJ also stimulated the stock market directly, by buying $250 billion worth of ETFs, and is on its way to nationalising most of the country’s industries by buying up shares with the money it printed up itself.
Note that nobody knows where this will lead.
But note also that all this Godzilla of stimulus has produced almost no growth. Japan’s nominal GDP is up less than 6%, total, for the entire 18-year period.
The latest stimulus program in the US is the China Deal — the supposed end to the US-China trade war…said to be coming soon.
Will that finally ‘stimulate’ the economy as advertised? Or is economic growth, like the capitalism that brings it about, not subject to gimmicks, deals, and stimulus?
We’ll leave these questions for another day. But before we leave, a quick update from the Irish countryside…
We came back to Ireland to move into our newly renovated houses. But when we visited on Friday, we found workmen still putting in doors and windows. The fireplace had not been built. The floor tile had not been ordered. The painting had barely begun.
We were supposed to move in before the end of the month. Not going to happen. We’ll be itinerant, homeless drifters, at least until the end of May.
‘What happened,’ we asked.
‘Holidays, rain, mud, accidents, breakdowns, mistakes — the usual,’ replied the builder.
‘Irish time,’ said a friend. ‘No building has ever been finished on time in Irish history. It’s not God’s fault. It’s man.’
We went back on Saturday and got to work ourselves. There is an abandoned cottage on the property. The rafters had rotted and about half the roof had already collapsed into the house.
We pulled the rest down and cleaned out the debris. Our plan is to put on a new tin roof as quickly as possible. At least then we’ll have a place to store our tools.
When the roof came down, so did the stone wall over the windows. The lintels were rotten, too.
On Sunday, after Easter services, we replaced the lintels with treated wood, mixed up some lime and sand, and began rebuilding the stone work.
Next weekend, we’ll be able to put on the sill plate and begin framing.
That is, if it doesn’t rain.