TUMBY BAY - You may have heard more than once persons of senior years proclaiming that the older they get the less they know.
That proclamation doesn’t mean a shrinking knowledge. What these aged folk mean is that the older they get the more they discover the vastness of human knowledge and the small part of it that they know or understand.
It’s a bit like suddenly being able to see the incomprehensible vastness of space beyond the stars visible in the sky at night.
Younger people rarely admit to such a lack of knowledge. As far as they’re concerned they know just about everything and what don’t they can easily find out with a few taps on their smart phone.
There are a few subtleties involved in elderly knowledge of course. There are some things, for instance, that elderly people don’t actually want to know about.
Technical stuff is high on that list, especially if it is related to mind-muddling digital matters.
There seems to be a constant snowstorm of technical guff blowing across the landscape designed specifically to befuddle older folk.
At the other end of the spectrum is the ancient stuff they discover they should have known about a long time ago.
A similar phenomenon is finding out that something they have believed all their life is wrong. That happens a lot. Older people often vividly remember things that never happened.
All of these discoveries, whether old or new, are delightful chirrups at the tail end of life. Waiting for the next revelation can be life affirming.
As you have probably guessed I’m speaking from experience. Fortunately I’m old enough to admit to my cognitive deficits and my inability to understand stuff.
There’s lots of stuff I can’t get my head around no matter how hard I try. It comes and goes but a recent example is what economists call ‘quantitative easing’ and journalists refer to as ‘printing money’.
How on earth can a government simply print more money without having some sort of asset like gold bullion to back it up?
Now, I know there are financial wonks out there dying to explain it all to me but please be assured that I was programmed way back in the 1940s and my operating system doesn’t recognise fuzzy logic.
What I think happens is that governments like the USA and Australia, who seem able to print money when they feel like it, actually do so by selling the banks and other financial institutions a form of promissory note or bond.
Those who buy these things are taking a gamble that they will eventually be able to sell them back to the government with a bit of interest added.
This can get a bit dodgy, as the USA is finding out, because one of the major buyers of their bonds is China. Sooner or later China will be in a position to bankrupt the USA by cashing in the bonds they hold. Except, of course, it is also up to its neck in debt.
No doubt treasurers in Papua New Guinea have contemplated printing money by issuing bonds at some stage but then realised no one would buy them because they knew the likelihood of getting their money back was next to zero.
Or maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe it’s simply a matter of the treasury department telling the finance department to type numbers into bank accounts.
Keystrokes on computers in a virtual system creating money out of thin air! Imagine how that could work in the wrong hands, inflation going through the roof.
If that’s the case it also means that the government, if it was so inclined, could turn the value of that $10,000 you’ve got stashed in the bank into $1,000 in the blink of an eye. Such is the tenuous nature of our money economy.
One thing plain to me is that the global financial system is floating on very thin ice with nothing underneath to save it if the ice gives way.
That’s the bit I just can’t grasp. To me that all sounds incredibly dumb. But, then again, there are lots of things going on in the world that seem dumb. Ignoring climate change for instance.
Well, dumb to me at least, but I’m just an old grey fogey who can’t be expected to understand.
Now why does that make me feel so uneasy?
Maybe I’m better off not knowing.