Economy Suffers from Altitude Sickness

I simply have come to the conclusion that our economy and the actions taken by governments reflect many of the symptoms of Altitude Sickness.

Altitude Sickeness is Dangerous

Altitude Sickeness is Dangerous

More and more I’m comparing the economy and our lifestyles these days to mountain climbing. Not that I have any aspirations to becoming a mountaineer, but I simply have come to the conclusion that our economy and the actions taken by governments reflect many of the symptoms of Altitude Sickness.

We have seen the volume of global economic expansion sky rocket over the past 30 years, fueled by cheap unsustainable credit, to a point where the economy is suffering from oxygen deprivation.

The resulting Altitude Sickness has typically a great variety of non specific symptoms. In humans it can resemble a case of flu, carbon monoxide poisoning or a hangover with additional conditions such as headache, fatigue, stomach illness, dizziness, and sleep disturbance. In the economy and our lives we see bankruptcies, foreclosures, homelessness, unemployment, part-employment, repossessions, failed marriages, neglected and abused children, neglected and abused animals, diminishing and evaporating public services, hunger, rising alcoholism and general dismay, to name just a few of the symptoms.

As in Altitude Sickness, which usually occurs following a rapid ascent, our economy went up so high so quickly, that we lost connection with the resources that need to support a healthy economic growth. We leveraged economic resources beyond their productivity and created a floating economy, devoid of the reality that “something has to give”; whether that’s competitiveness, currency value, employment balancing, productivity, environment, liberties or power structures. The availability of Fed promoted cheap money created a lifestyle un-deserved at this time of human progress. A typical case of wanting beyond needing.

Like a mountain climber suffering from Altitude Sickness we need to carefully return to the Safety of our Base Camps, acclimatize and then learn to ascend slowly and balanced with attention for all aspects that create responsible lifestyles. We need to take a moment in our recent history where balance was struck between lifestyle, employment, productivity and accountability. A moment before Enron changed the words honesty and decency into “it’s fair game to steal and pilfer”; back to a moment where you would be laughed at presenting a business plan on a napkin and get millions in funding as happened before the Dot Com bust. An unfortunate moment even before Clinton turned the Oval office into a joke and before the dollar started to lose it’s connection to some kind of a gold standard. If we don’t, we may find out soon that in extreme cases, altitude sickness can be fatal.

I’m not a dreamer, I’m an economist who knows that lots of us will¬† fall off the cliffs into the ravines, whether we continue pursuing the fast climb up the mountain or the return to the safety of the base camp.

I’ve never been an aspiring mountain climber, contrary to my friend Peter, who now lives in the Panamanian Highlands, close to the Costa Rican border. Peter “did” the Alps, parts of the Rockies, the Andes Mountains and was in training to do Mt. Everest or Annapurna in 1995 when hurricane Luis hit our mutual homebase of St.Maarten in the Caribbean. He’d never been to Nepal so I helped him out with some information from my own travels in those regions. I described the trek to South Base in Nepal, which at an altitude of 17,600 ft is as close as I ever got to mountain climbing.¬† This trek is the harder one of the two, yet more popular that the Tibet accessed North Ridge. It’s a long often steep and challenging walk. With Sherpas at your side as guides, motivators, story tellers and experts, you know you will make the trip, however hard it is for the individual. You know that once you get to base camp, life will be good, comforting and comfortable. It’s a form of socialism based on dependency on each other.

If you’re not a fan of that ‘ideology’ and you want more, you have the option and liberty to set out for the summit of the mountain. Raise the ante, so to speak. You can set up other exclusive “camps” in the ridge on your way to the top, which you can use to descent to, if a snow storm or nasty winds get in your way.

Some people will make he summit because of training, preparation, talent, perseverance, caution, teamwork, conditioning and consideration… but never ever on crime, greed, carelessness, dishonesty and deceit. It’s time to return to the values and opportunities of base camp, to figure out and prepare the next collective ascent. But this time there are many more players in the game such as China, India, Brasil, Russia and all those nations that have embraced modern technology. The playing field has changed and America needs to collectively get back to the drawing board.

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