Saturday, June 23, 2007

Economics, Zimbabwe and Me

I know my blog is usually just very goofy, but the very first efforts I undertook in this project were actually economics and international relations based. For those who don't know, I have a MA in European Studies where I largely focused on studying economics, poli sci and the international relations. My thesis was on Russia using Gazprom and its natural resources as a foreign policy tool and how it affected the emerging new EU states of Eastern Europe.

I kind of shut my brain down from studying those issues the past year. I wanted to shift away after I finished my thesis, I had some distance from my past life as a journalist, I started a new academic program in fraud investigation and forensic accounting, and I started to devote a lot of my spare time to my comedy projects.

But the past few weeks, I've once again reclaimed an interest in the world of macroeconomics and politics. The main reason is because I had nothing to read at lunch and the campus bookstore actually sold The Economist that week.

This blog was a great tool for when I was in school because it was a release from the seriousness of my schoolwork. Not that I was in this demanding, rigorous program or anything like that. But I did work hard and I spent a lot of time writing and researching. Getting away from that to write about poop, getting farted on, relationships gone awry and the usual chaos of my social life was a great escape. But now that I spend a lot of time seriously thinking about writing comedy, I'm going to shift in a new direction. I love the people I perform with to death -- they've seriously been, aside from my wife and brother, the best friends I've had this year. But it is a group dynamic and there are stressful situations which emerge. I think I need a diversion from my hobby, so maybe my blog is going to enter a new phase where I'll talk about "serious" issues which I haven't talked or written about in a long time. I'll try not to be boring about it and who knows, maybe I can actually somehow put something together like P.J. O'Rourke, who is a master at taking serious (and boring) topics and somehow mining them for comedy gold.

Now that's out of the way, I want to link to a story I'm absolutely obsessed with the past two days. GUARDIAN This is The Guardian. I'm more center-right/libertarian so The Guardian isn't usually my cup of tea, but they still have great international coverage. Yesterday, their main story was on a prediction made by the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, who said that he estimates, conservatively, that the inflation rate in Zimbabwe will approach 1,000,000% this coming year.

This number is fucking incredible to think about. Prices across the whole consumer index in Zimbabwe will rise by 1,000,000% in one year. To put that in perspective, imagine if the American inflation measures were 100% in one year and doubled, how much of a fucking burden that would be on everything in your life. Gas would be $6 a gallon. A new car would be out of question. Orange Juice would be about $8 a carton.
The American Fed freaks out if our inflation measures go over 3% for a year and fiddles with the interest rate constantly to prevent that from happening.

The article gives all of this great information about how this affects life in Zimbabwe. The currency is worthless and the Mugabe government is doing its best to keep foreign currency from entering the nation. As a result, the economy is essentially now a barter economy.

My favorite passage: "Hyperinflation is spreading poverty, as even basic goods become unaffordable. Supermarket trollies lie idle as few can afford to buy more than a handful of goods. Government regulations only permit the withdrawals from banks of Z$1.5m a day, which is not enough to buy a week's worth of groceries. Golfers pay for drinks before they set off on their round, because the price will have gone up by the time they have finished the 18th hole. One Zimbabwean was recently told by a pension company that it would no longer send him statements as his fund was worth less than the price of a stamp."

As fascinating as this is to watch, this is just absolutely brutal for the Zimbabwe nation, which already have had to endure an insane amount of hardships directly related to government misrule. The one positive from this is that no government has ever been able to withstand this kind of hyperinflation, it's probably only a matter of weeks before the Mugabe regime crumbles and hopefully, the UN or the US/UK get involved quickly to prevent the country from spiraling into a civil war in the inevitable power vaccum.


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