Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Market, Gold, and other Myths

A talk given at the Committee for Monetary Research and Education, posted by Jesse on 22 October, caught my attention due to the high praise Jesse heaped on its author, Ben Davies. Ben Davies is an investment manager who claims to be having a hard time in the markets, which are not operating as they should. He begins by referencing Rumsfeld (Donald), Heisenberg, Popper and Soros, an illustrious group variously famous for their work on uncertainty, with Davies’ point being that The Market is about as uncertain a playground as you can get. His belief is that they whir quite closely around dynamic equilibrium unless interfered with. Sadly governments do interfere, then markets suffer, then we all do. It’s that simple, despite the uncertainty and complexity. One thing is crystal clear; The Market, in Davies’ world, is the god of truth and blind wisdom, and must not be tampered with, ever. It is beautiful in its awe inspiring complexity, merciless, all-knowing, rewarding and punishing participants with unerring accuracy.

We mortals, on the other hand, are cripples of imperfect knowledge, Davies laments. No matter how smart a particular Master of the Universe might be, “No one person can likely understand everything.” This is an honest admission, since perfect knowledge is one of the prerequisites for perfect competition, without which markets cannot work as Davies eulogizes. Nevertheless, he leaps deftly from all this uncertainty and imperfect knowledge straight onto the broad shoulders of Rational Economic Man, who sadly is not always allowed to be rational:

Rational behavior becomes irrational in the thickening of the maddening crowd until the crash wakes us from the insanity.

There is rational behaviour as a rule and things are generally fine, then folk get crazy and bubbles form. Accursed bubbles, blemishes on the beautiful face of The Market. How dare they!

How indeed. Davies blames government:

Intervention in or manipulation of markets by the state is such a distortion. Its acts postpone the day of reckoning for years or even decades. It creates false sense of equilibrium that ultimately gives way to disequilibrium and heightened instability. We have not experienced free markets -- that is, the invisible hand -- for decades.

Only The State can do this of course, no other person or entity. It wouldn’t be in a businessman's or corporation's interest I suppose, it wouldn’t be rational of them, because they understand full well that The Invisible Hand takes care of everyone, a beneficent Big Daddy quietly doing good by coordinating our rational, self-interested pursuit of ever more money far better than anything else possibly could. This is why there is never any fraud or other crime, or market manipulation from business, unless The State comes along and pokes its nose where it's not needed. Things were so good in the past, when Hand, The Invisible was free to work his magic.

But governments are peopled by the economically ignorant, and can’t keep their busy-body fingers to themselves. Nowadays, “financial markets are the mirror of state intervention, revealing our every hour of labor confiscated, our lack of personal ownership for our decisions, and the resources the state absolves us of.” If only government could be rational, like Economic Man, we wouldn’t be in this fix. Perhaps we should privatize it. Or establish laws making market intervention illegal. Maybe that would be a rational solution. Without government in the way, there’d be no crime, because The Market would be free at last!

Ah, Rational Economic Man, how I hate him. How I want to punch him in the mouth, knee him in the gonads, then, as he doubles over to vomit out his rationally consumed breakfast, stab a ball point pen into his neck. Is this rational of me, this venomous rage? Am I being infantile? Probably, but I don't care. I don’t even know what rationality is.
My wife met a piano tuner earlier this week, who told her the following tale. A musician friend of his could no longer play, and was forced to sell her grand piano. Its value was €15000, known to her at the time. She sold it for €4000. Obviously no one was prepared to pay €15000, right? Wrong. She had offers of €15000 from various parties, but sold it to the buyer who she believed loved her piano. This buyer could only afford to pay €4000. Rational, or irrational?

If we were indeed as rational as economics theory needs us to be, fashion would not be fickle yet pervasive, advertising would be a waste of money, we wouldn’t flock to watch sentimental, or horrific movies in our millions, and a million other ‘anomalies’ we indulge in daily. The world would be a very different place. We irrational, untrained ones know this, but worshipers of Market Almighty and orthodox economists alike won’t. On purpose. They belligerently refuse to allow a rich and complex human beast full play in their theories. They can’t. It would be too difficult. And economics would have to change from the bottom to the top.

Another element of Davies’ speech which irritated was about money.

Twenty years ago, according to the Forbes Rich List, there were 140 billionaires. Three years ago there were almost 500. This year there are close to 800, each with an average net worth of $3.3 billion. Why the surge? The "invisible hand"? No. Animal spirits? I doubt it. Did the world just get eight times more get-up-and-go? Hardly. So what then?

Money -- that's what.

Not money per se, Davies lambasts fiat debt-money (rightly, though fails to mention money is created by private banks), but reckons gold to be the ultimate money, and that what we are witnessing in gold’s price rise is the inexorable return to gold as money because, well, paper’s just paper, right? Anyone can print some of that shit off the press with some fancy markings on it, whereas gold has history, longevity, stays shiny, has heft, charisma, and can’t be created out of thin air. And that forever. Even the direction of the Earth's spin is uncertain for Davies; “Remember: Just because the sun rises in the east and sets in the west doesn't mean it always will. That, I know, is unknown.” But gold is eternal.

The fact that gold can be manipulated via clipping and other scams; can support debt-created money via ever thinner fractional reserves; is finite in amount on the planet (at least until technology can create it) whereas man’s economic imagination is infinite; that is has been the cause of deflations in the past, as well as inflations, Davies does not mention. No, everybody just knows gold is the real deal. All you have to do is look at it, so pretty and shiny. And though he does not mention store of value, his gold-love is dripping with that notion. For Davies, money is wealth, or should be. I’m sure he would agree with the following:

In most of the world's advanced economies, the local currency can be counted on as a store of value in all but the worst case scenarios. However, currency can sometimes come under attack as a store of value (such as in hyperinflation). In those instances, other stores of value have proved their consistency over time, such as gold, silver, real estate and art. The price of gold, in particular, will often skyrocket during times of national peril or when a financial shock hits the broad markets, as demand grows for other widely recognized stores of value. [Source]

I shouldn’t be disappointed, but I am. Have these people not read the story of King Midas? Have they not considered that a world suddenly robbed of all its gold would present humanity with a minor problem, but stripped of its soil humanity wouldn’t last another year? Similarly, if all notes and coins disappeared, along with all digital records of all money everywhere, we could recreate money and go through a system reset, or (small chance) try out a resource-based economy. Money does not make the world go around. Money is a medium of exchange, not a commodity. I’m repeating myself, I know, but this needs to be said again and again, because the wrong idea of money is out there still, and deeply so.

Money’s value and stability cannot possibly be intrinsic, in gold or art or anything. If they were intrinsic, inflation and deflation would be impossible. Money gets its value relative to goods and services available for sale. It is a legal invention, a fiat whether paper, gold or cow—there can be no market without some sort of state apparatus, however simple, laying down the laws of its operating, and no money without consensus—and represents value and performs stably only for as long as social, economic and environmental conditions allow it, not from inside itself.

Davies’ analysis of money is woefully ignorant, and that Jesse touts him as eloquent and knowledgeable surprised me; I had held Jesse in high regard. There is a growing nostalgia out there at the moment for 'the real deal,' whether this be gold, or genuine capitalism, or rational behaviour, or the Invisible Hand unmolested and free. Perhaps those who love these notions can sense their end is near, and turn to such melancholy musings as Davies'. Whatever the reason for their increased appearance, the sentiments are as wrong now as they always were. I can only hope we are able to wise up to it this time around.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Change in Econosophy

Just a short note to inform my tiniest reader-base that Debra and I have parted professional company. Having someone write on my blog was an experiment which produced sweet fruit, but in the end, in the blogosphere, I've discovered I'm a bachelor at heart. Econosophy is a small blog with small ambitions and a low profile. That's how I like it...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Us AND Them

I'm still reading on idolatry, so won't get back to it for a while yet.
I've been padding through the economic blogs, and thinking about language.
Thinking TOO MUCH about language can send you to the place where Rabbi Akiba ended up (a mental black hole). (Thinking too much about quantum physics could probably send you there too, from the looks of a recent book review/interview I read.) Maybe, just maybe... TOO MUCH THINKING about anything can send you into a mental black hole.
The major inconveniences of consciousness.
On Naked Capitalism I told somebody that I think that, regardless of our extremely naive and destructively idealistic attitudes, the poor will always be with us. And because the poor will always be with us, the rich will always be with us too.
Because... in order for the poor to disappear from our society (careful, I mean BENEVOLENTLY and not through FORCED DISAPPEARANCE), I think that... the word "poor" would have to disappear from our language.
I see no immediately perceptible indication that the word "poor" is getting ready to disappear from our language(s). Do you ??
So, since the poor, and "poor" are not going to disappear from our society any time soon, what about the rich ?
Cut to some casuistics (not theological nitpicking, but case study, like starting from a practical example).
Two days ago my husband handed me the mini Big Ben alarm clock (shoddily made...) we bought in the U.S. on our last trip, and showed me a little thingamagig on the back with a graded scale in dots between two letters, F and S. He wanted to know what "F" meant and what "S" meant.
And I was stumped. I had to think for at least five minutes before FINALLY finding that "F" had to stand for "fast" and "S" was "slow". The alarm clock is organized in such a way that we immediately look for OPPOSITES. (Think distinctive opposition.)
Now we go back to "poor" and "rich". And you see why the words bounce off each other, and how they mutually define each other. They are in intricate relation.
You also should see from the above example WHY we polarize, and WHY and HOW MEANING emerges FROM polarization, in our language.
Think about that MECHANICAL little alarm clock. IF we make linguistic meaning emerge EXCLUSIVELY from polarization, then we will live in a.. black and white world, right ??
Let me see.. how many OTHER examples of polarization come to mind right now ?
Like.. + and - (I'm thinking of accountant sheets..)
And cops and robbers ?
How about... US (we are POOR, or getting there in our own eyes) and THEM (they are rich, rich, rich elites) ? That's pretty polarized too, isn't it ? ANTAGONISTIC, even, right now ?
Going back to the words "poor" and "rich", I feel like asking what does "THEY" mean ?
If you think about it, one of the MAJOR FUNCTIONS of the word "they" is to EXCLUDE people, to locate them outside. Outside of what ? Outside of.. "we", at the very least...
And so I'm saying that the word "they" exists... to stick people OUTSIDE. To exclude them (obviously, when it refers to people, and it doesn't JUST refer to people, it can refer to OTHER).
Behind this entire logical edifice of opposition there is... ONE "joining" word.
One..COORDINATING conjunction that RELATES the distinctive elements, but remains in the background.
It is the word... "or".
A little, little, word, right ??
But with BIG BIG implications.
One OR the other.
And the word "or"... it opposes... "and".
You AND me. The rich AND the poor.
I believe in AND.
AND builds a world where we can be together.
OR builds a world where.. we are at each other's throats.
I'm not saying that "or" doesn't have value. But.. it has value WITH "and".
And.. "and" is having a pretty hard time of it these days, I fear.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Real Tragedy of the Commons

One of the most important conditions for a perfectly competitive free market is perfect knowledge on the part of all actors in that market, buyers and sellers both. That perfect knowledge is an impossibility is of little interest to theorists pushing Efficient Market Hypothesis, and that it would in fact be against concentrating material success and for distributed equality is overlooked. What therefore caught my attention recently was how open information flow assists cooperation and sharing rather than competition, keeping the playing field level where it is actually practiced. In “Governing the Commons” 2009’s ‘Nobel’ prize winning economist, Elinor Ostrom, looks at real world examples of folk who have successfully escaped the supposedly water-tight trap of the Tragedy of the Commons. Of course, perfect knowledge is flat out impossible, but decent transparency among members of some particular scheme is very doable, helping otherwise mutually suspicious participants trust one another, so that they can share fairly a resource held in common without over-using it.

In the huerta (farms) of Valencia a robust non-ownership system for distributing the scarce water of that region has been successfully operated on a commons basis since 1435. Water is a vital and scarce resource, and yet the farmers self-organize to operate their particular solution for sharing equally among themselves the water they need for irrigation (“Governing the Commons” 1990, pp71-2). Theirs is a complex system including regular Thursday meetings of a lawyer-free, judicial committee to settle disputes, and has an amazingly low infraction rate of 0.008% (p75). This is long-term cooperation over many centuries for managing a scarce and vital resource, including maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure, in which all participants have equal access to all relevant information. It is but one example of many in that semi-arid region of Spain (see also Murcia and Orihuela, and Alicante).

In Alicante, where water is scarcer still, water rights are locally issued in the form of scrip, which can also function as money should its holder so desire. “Considerable information is made available by the irrigation community to enable farmers to make intelligent choices [regarding their scrip].” (p79) Indeed, a repeating theme throughout the book is the importance of all participants being fully informed as key in establishing trust. This is not about having good information for yourself then cornering the water market for profit, this is about helping sustain the community which sustains all. Note how sharing information helps the community, but how ‘information-hoarding’ would lead to profit at the expense of others. It seems to me that accumulating profit for self is the enemy of healthy community, over the long term.

The sharing system which most appealed to me though was developed in the Philippines (the zanjeras), again for irrigation:

biang ti dega [contracts] share an underlying pattern. The area is divided into three or more large sections. Each farmer is assigned a plot in each section. All members are thus in fundamentally symmetrical positions in relation to one another. Not only do they own rights to farm equal amounts of land, but they all farm some land in the most advantageous location near the head of the system and some near the tail. In years when rainfall is not sufficient to irrigate all of the fields, a decision about sharing the burden of scarcity can be made rapidly and equitably by simply deciding not to irrigate the bottom section of land. (p83) [My emphasis.]

Ah the genius of humans! See how an open, transparent setup sustains community and enables trust and sharing, rather than fostering perfect competition? See how important fairness is to us? Doesn’t reading that warm the cockles of the heart? It certainly cheered me up. And yet the word “fairness” barely makes an appearance in the entire book. Ostrom seems most concerned with the Benthamite idea of Economic Man, that rational, machine-like creature who lives solely to maximise profit:

I use a general conception of rational action involving four internal variables — expected benefits, expected costs, internalized norms, and discount rate — that affect individual choices of strategies in any situation. (p195)

Run that description of rational action by the Piraha, who cannot count higher than one, and see what sense it makes there! Recently, as I discussed in an earlier blog, economists were shocked to discover that humans might be hard-wired for fairness. The scholar of economics involved in the experiment tried to define fairness as selfishness, but it was a desperate and hollow attempt. I read “Governing the Commons” seeing our need for social fairness writ large in each of the success stories detailed, as well as in the failures (of which there are many), and yet those students of human behaviour who want to be cooly scientific studiously avoid notions of fairness. Indeed, there is a palpable and pervasive reluctance to consider ‘airy-fairy’ matters such as sympathy, empathy, compassion, charity and so on, in economics, a ‘science’ more important to the shaping of the human world than any other. Its blinkered insistence on pure, rational selfishness is a cultural straightjacket we need to escape, a straightjacket responsible for the real tragedy of the commons; ‘free’ market economics itself.

How then to proceed in a manner that engages those in the halls of academia still too timid to confront the bleedin' obvious; the beautiful and kaleidoscopic complexity of homo sapiens sapiens, but a youngster on this planet? I think McMurtry’s “The Cancer Stage of Capitalism” holds the key. We should start by addressing ‘need’:

A need for something exists if and only if, and to the extent that, deprivation of it regularly results in a an absolute reduction of its owner’s life-range capability. (“The Cancer Stage of Capitalism”, p153)

We can apply the term ‘need’ both to the healthy functioning of individuals (whatever an ‘individual’ is), as well as to society generally. In the human sphere, human-as-system and society-as-system are of course interdependent. For McMurtry a healthy society provides:

(1) Continuity of life-sustenance to members of the social body;
(2) Functioning contribution of members to the life-requirements of the larger life-organization to which they belong;
(3) Maintenance of the biophysical carrying capacity of the environmental life-host. (p104)

Systems function healthily or they don’t. A healthy system has, at a minimum, its needs met, where society should by definition meet the needs of its members. Humans and societies both are systems. This is a non-political aspect of reality we should all be able to agree on. However, Capitalism has signally failed to yield this base requirement; the healthy society. Yet still we cling. Our mainstream continues to laud ‘free’ and efficient markets. What do their ‘freedom’ and efficiency deliver? One example of many:

With 97.5 per cent of all foreign exchange transactions devoted in 1998 to predatory appropriations of the world’s money demand by currency speculators, the ‘constituency’ for instability of the global economic system appears, in fact, to have run out of control. Money investment which seeks to become more money without production of any life good or service has been known as long as usury, but never before as the dominant decision-structure of social life-organization. (p116)

We have an insane culture focussed psychopathically on profit for profit’s sake. Since Smith’s (co-opted) invisible hand and Bentham’s rational man, we have been labouring under the cultural belief that rationality is profit-maximizing selfishness (though the roots of this stretch back into antiquity), and that that particular type of ‘intelligent’ selfishness benefits society better than any possible alternative, because this invisible hand thing somehow smoothes all our squabbling and turns it into progress and prosperity for all. There can be no ‘rational’ argument against this water-tight hypothesis, because it is itself the product of pure rationality. The evidence is all around us. Shiny cars and buildings don’t grow on trees you know.

The evidence is piling up that the ‘post-modern’ way is rotten to the core, serves the psychopathic elite before all else, while efficiently trashing the life-host which enables our existence. Somehow, despite the evidence and the great thinkers bringing it to our attention, the mainstream remain so lost in the bullshit, even enquiring economists like Ostrom can miss the obvious. Karl Polanyi shows us the steps of this strange dance:

Liberal economy, this primary reaction of man to the machine, was a violent break with the conditions that preceded it. A chain-reaction was started - what before was merely isolated markets was transmuted into a self-regulating system of markets. And with the new economy, a new society sprang into being.

The crucial step was this: labor and land were made into commodities, that is, they were treated as if produced for sale. Of course, they were not actually commodities, since they were either not produced at all (as land) or, if so, not for sale (as labor).

Yet no more thoroughly effective fiction was ever devised. By buying and selling labor and land freely, the mechanism of the market was made to apply to them. There was now supply of labor, and demand for it; there was supply of land, and demand for it. Accordingly, there was a market price for the use of labor power, called wages, and a market price for the use of land, called rent. Labor and land were provided with markets of their own, similar to the commodities proper that were produced with their help.

The true scope of such a step can be gauged if we remember that labor is only another name for man, and land for nature. The commodity fiction handed over the fate of man and nature to the play of an automaton running in its own grooves and governed by its own laws.

So we have The Global Market, or The Price System, or money-value, running our lives; we have the idea that we must ‘earn a living’, exchange our freedom for a wage to be free; we are told efficiently transforming the planet into various types of commodity, forever and ever, is The Way To Live, and this in a well-known curve called Perpetual Growth. This is what we culturally believe, and deeply. We are confronted, then, with the task of killing our most cherished cultural beliefs to rescue civilization. Polanyi again:

As a matter of fact, human beings will labor for a large variety of reasons as long as things are arranged accordingly. Monks traded for religious reasons, and monasteries became the largest trading establishments in Europe. The Kula trade of the Trobriand Islanders, one of the most intricate barter arrangements known to man, is mainly an aesthetic pursuit. Feudal economy was run on customary lines. With the Kwakiutl, the chief aim of industry seems to be to satisfy a point of honor. Under mercantile despotism, industry was often planned so as to serve power and glory. Accordingly, we tend to think of monks or villeins, western Melanesians, the Kwakiutl, or 17th-century statesmen, as ruled by religion, aesthetics, custom, honor, or politics, respectively.

There is not only One Way, there are Many. Even trade can be diversely motivated. We are complex beasts, not binary machines operating on a simple profit=good/loss=bad duality. Don’t believe the hype.

We devise astounding means of communication, but do we communicate with one another? We move our bodies to and fro at incredible speeds, but do we really leave the spot we started from? Mentally, morally, spiritually, we are fettered. What have we achieved in mowing down mountain ranges, harnessing the energy of mighty rivers, or moving whole populations about like chess pieces, if we ourselves remain the same restless, miserable, frustrated creatures we were before? To call such activity progress is utter delusion. We may succeed in altering the face of the earth until it is unrecognizable even to the Creator, but if we are unaffected wherein lies the meaning?
Henry Miller

The real Tragedy of the Commons will be our failure to progress in the only way that matters; culturally. In the end, there is only The Commons, which is the entire Universe, in which there is enough to go around for all, if we choose to see it that way. The system devised by elitist control-freaks to prevent social nucleation, to encourage perpetual tribal tensions and mindless competition over shiny gadgets and widgets, deliberately blinds us to alternatives. It is not easy rescuing our free thinking from the labyrinthine prisons it is rutted in, but it can be done. If we are to survive, it must be.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Monetary Reform

Just briefly, I want to draw my tiny audience's attention to Stephen Zarlenga and The American Monetary Institute. Stephen Zarlenga has dedicated his life to monetary reform. Dennis Kucinich works in close affiliation with him, and the U.S. Green Party have recently adopted his monetary reform proposals (August 2010). Here is a sample from their statement:

3. The new money that must be regularly added to an improving system as population and commerce grow will be created and spent into circulation by the U. S. Government for infrastructure, including the human infrastructure of education and health care. This begins with the $2.2 trillion the American Society of Civil Engineers warns us is needed to bring existing infrastructure to safe levels over the next 5 years. Per capita guidelines will assure a fair distribution of such expenditures across the United States, creating good jobs, re-invigorating the local economies and re-funding government at all levels. As this money is paid out to various contractors, they in turn pay their suppliers and laborers who in turn pay for their living expenses and ultimately this money gets deposited into banks, which are then in a position to make loans of this money, according to the new regulations. [My emphasis.]

What excites me most about this reform and Zarlenga's work and efforts, is that they are accumulating significant momentum around the powerful recognition that money is not wealth. Let me repeat that: Money is not wealth. Money is a ticket denoting best-guess value, and which also enables complex trade and economic activity. It is not a commodity, nor can it possibly store value. It should not in and of itself create more money (interest or usury), it should not concentrate power and real wealth to the criminal few, while the multitudes suffer, desperately waiting to be needed for their labour by the powerful.

In the end, and for environmental and technological reasons, I strongly suspect, as do Jacque Fresco and Peter Joseph, that we will outgrow our need for money. In the meantime we need a money that can get us on the path towards a resource-based economy. Stephen Zarlenga and The American Monetary institute have designed a money capable of such a direction change, and have my full support. I wish them well.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Stroll through the Shopping Center...

"Idolatry" is going to have to wait for me to calm down after sounding off...
This morning I was driving along the road to our local shopping center to go stick gas in the car. (We don't use the car A LOT, but we DO use it, and when we use it, it's nice to have GAS in it.)
I passed by the stretch of land where our local government is building an extension of what we call a "zone industrielle" here. An INDUSTRIAL ZONE. Aptly named, I think. And even more aptly named when you consider that in France, the expression "la zone" refers to a lawless no man's land. Universes away from.. a country, right ?
The local government tore up an expanse of relatively undisturbed nature to roll out its little ticky tacky boxes, with office space, and space for new... STORES for us to CONSUME from, little boxes that resemble.. ALL THE OTHER LITTLE BOXES in the already existing ZONE.
And while driving past it, I felt a... GREAT TEAR in my soul, in my heart for this thoughtless destruction that MANY will justify in the name of jobs (who are we kidding now ??) for people to put meat and potatoes on the table...
Continuing on further, I entered the shopping mall, and passed by a newly opened restaurant for businesspeople on site. I passed, and did a double take, with a very strange feeling, the foreboding feeling that I got while back in the mother country U.S. three years ago.
Everything was smooth, humming, that black plastic, metal, those cool tones of gray and white that caracterize SO WELL the MECHANICAL UNIVERSE that we have erected TO COMPETE WITH what MOTHER NATURE already does so well. IDENTICAL MASS PRODUCED OBJECTS : chairs, tables, etc. Food.. that comes out of boxes, and is already prepared SO YOU CAN FORGET WHERE IT COMES FROM. So you can forget that.. THERE IS AN OUTSIDE to all this inside.
Don't tell me that I'm imagining this, because I'm not.
It's there for EVERYBODY TO SEE, who WANTS TO SEE IT. This colossal and stupendous.. HUBRIS.
On the radio this morning, our national editorialist made the comment that people in Stuttgart were rioting over the local plan to cut down trees in their park. She said... "why should people get so upset about just cutting down SOME TREES ?? There must be something behind this..." Something like.. economics, right ?
Shall I remind you that last time I checked, "economics" meant the LIFE OF THE HOUSE.
NOT.. the life of the shopping mall...
I think she is just plain wrong to imagine that there is anything behind people's being upset about chopping down those trees.
I am getting more and more radical all the time, as I feel more and more like I am.. holed up in a bunker WHERE I DON'T WANT TO BE, but where I take refuge against the bulldozer that is mindlessly mowing down... our souls, and our civilization with it.