I know how to fix the economy, because I’m a stripper. What qualifies me, a lowly bejeweled naked person, to dictate the economic future of America, you may ask? Shut up, you, I’d respond. It so happens that my work environment is the last bastion of free market economics in America – the last ordinary place where supply and demand exist as actual driving forces removed from the hazards of management. Oh, you’re gonna get freaked out on me now, and go looking confused, right, because I say that management’s a fiscal hazard? You bet you will, since the odds of you having worked in an environment with zero management are about zero themselves, just like the odds of you being taught that the way to achieve financial success is not to go to school and train yourself to contain the skills some company or agency already in existence says it needs for you to have in order to fill a vacancy.
Or you, people at the top with all the money, think that you have made it and escaped all that, think that running a ship or owning one is proof that you know where we’re going? You believe it, don’t you, that the market speaks sweet nothings in your ear, and that the things you do are not bureaucracy? Pssh! It’s bull, my wealthy friends (whom I will likely see this Friday). It’s bull, because you know all about the law of averages, and you know it doesn’t matter what you sell as long as you advertise, and that contradicts everything they think about supply and demand – you create demand, because you can, and your supply is anything you want to have, cause you can pay for it. The old rules are your legends now. And you saw Wolf of Wall Street, too, and knew all about it beforehand anyway – how the economy pumps out wealth and the game that people at the top play is just to find the ways to harvest fruits that fall, as much as you can, as fast as you can. Your job is to manage wealth, not create it, to surf the crests of our economy and find the grooves most shallow to linger in when our crashes shake the waters down below. The economy comes from – God knows where – people existing? Population? It just happens, and the biggest and strongest and smartest and fastest take what exists for themselves because they can, and because Darwin spoke of competition as our surest glory, where in the market all the big and strong and smart and fast you have makes you the best and anyone can rise to the top who is as good as you, and anyone else might grab ahold of your enterprise and also rise – not as much, but as much as they are bigger and stronger and faster and smarter than others underneath them.
I do not belong to either of your groups. I exist at the bottom of the economy – the very pits of it, where no one looks, and everything happens. I am your invisible hand. Go to a strip club – any club, and ask for a lap dance. Ask for an hour in VIP. An entertainer can sit you down and, without showing you anything you haven’t seen in a million unrated documentaries, without touching or being touched, fill you with a force of pleasure worth a twenty or two or three. Sit by the stage and watch the dollars pour out in honor of this presence – a veritable Stone Soup of wealth happening before your eyes, where castaway capital multiplies and becomes meaningful again. Look at that entertainer – who, however fat or thin, old or young, scarred or smooth, is a master of experience. Your stripper knows how to create value out of thin air. And he does it, consistently. She employs others with her earnings – paying out to the doormen, the dj, the establishment’s overseer. And leaves with cash – cash! – the all-but-forgotten currency which alone directly translates the magic of your experiences into tangible haves.
This is the magical dream to which Republicans and Libertarians refer when appealing to the rest of the country on behalf of a free market – the dream of a land where you are only as limited as you allow yourself to be, and where there is no sin in pursuit of glory or desire, because your each and every indulgence supports the works of others. And this, great land, has been remanded to the grotesque realm of symbol, danced around and spoken of in tones of worship, fallen in love with, and never believed in.
You can measure, physically, the shame of a pure-hearted capitalist by the feet of bureaucratic exile constraining strip clubs to municipal nethers and peripheries. You can hear it in references to “exotic” entertainment – as though the nude and sexual were unusual forces, other to the human psyche. As though the shame that greets an out-of-the-closet creative who prefers to draw in the park or write in the basement or drive around touring in a band or looking for work as an actor than get a **real** job is a shame of a different nature. Collectively, what our society has done is agree to pretend that entertainment and creativity are not real forces that impact our economy. Collectively, we prefer to allow these scary things to exist as ideological aberrations, unexplained, unexamined, stamped out where possible and just happening elsewhere. No one responsible would feed them.
So it is that when economists speak of fiscal reality, what they’ll reference nine times out of ten is a system like a rocket ship – one of finite resource. Growth exists not in terms of idea, but in terms of population – the more bodies fueling the systems that we already created, the bigger the systems will get. This form of growth is but a loophole, of course, to stay the accursed sensation of standing completely still. The alternatives to practical stasis are, to management, carts gone off the track. Ideas are dangerous – surprising geysers, knocking some systems sideways, always disruptive, never very easy to predict. It should surprise no one to consider that management has a vested interest in maintaining, which comes at odds with novelty. Nor that ownership, itself, is a thing of management. No one managed can afford to talk about job creation in its own context – that of industry creation. No one dares breathe a word about such impossible dreams, for fear of being laughed out of the world of hard mathematical reality, on account of no one seems to know or dare to ask where the systems we have now all came from. And risk, perhaps, knowing that the base and savior of wealth is not thing, but notion.
The world as it is will not suffer creation to grease its wheels, and hence it snags, too often. Good luck finding anyone to invest in a new idea. Oh, you want to start a Laotian restaurant? People out here have never heard of Laos –make it Thai food and we’ll see what we can do. Oh, you want to run for office as an independent? That won’t work – we’ll tell people you belong to this party and have this other politician standing next to you at each event to show everyone you think just like she does. Newness has no track record, no statistical data to prove it is good; it cannot be run through your number machine. Its worth is still subjective, meaning the responsibility for ascribing value to it has not been owned. Who, in the publishing industry, would dare to read a manuscript by some no-name author, and perhaps enjoy it, only to have no one else in the world agree? Don’t you dare tell anyone who calls your office what you really thought about the quality of your last employee’s work – just confirm the dates she worked there and move on. Opinions are ideas, and ideas are out of control. Old ideas are fairy-tales and newness can lose money. Only in strip clubs is that ok – only where the music’s loud and the lights are dim and the alcohol gives you excuses for being swept away by forces apart from calculation. More than most might care to admit, ideas are a liability, and that makes them guilty pleasures you really can’t afford.
This is a problem. The prospect of saving our economy is hopeless if you’re looking at it as a collection of finite systems, where the whole economy boils down to one great pyramid scheme. Surge and burst, surge and burst, and at first it’s a bunch of calamities, but then you buy into what everybody’s saying about it being the natural cycle of things and then it becomes inevitable that one day the basis of your economy will collapse underneath you and everybody’s racing to the top with a grave calm explained only by the fact that no one allows themselves the luxury of imagining what it would be like if the economy did, in fact, collapse.
Thankfully, I’m a stripper. You’re welcome. I’ve adopted other, better models, based on the wildly impossible premise that is my birthright as a bad girl. I look at wheat, once worthless, and smile, thinking of the freaks like me who first tried to boil and eat it. Then it became food, and wealth, rampant wealth, growing under everybody’s feet. Go back further than that, to the first genesis of who we are as people, when fire was a force as alien and scary as the lightning, sweeping through the forest, eating up our value. One crazy asshole decided not to run away, and came back with a branch of it. One crazy fuck decided not to let the others in the tribe stomp it out, and kept it burning, finding what it liked to eat and feeding it, a terrible pet and luxury.
How long do you think it took for us to come to grips with having that around? How long before we wanted it, to have forever – such that when it died, we went looking through the trees for its source? One day, someone with a pair of sticks kept banging them together, making too much noise and wasting too much time, and feeling at his fingers a heat he couldn’t explain. One ordinary day, some lucky weirdo learned how to draw a spark from dead, dry wood – the spark of what might have seemed the force of God itself, power of life and death, heat to cook and heat to keep the house while we moved from hot savannah into cold unknowns.
Everything changed with that spark, and everybody changed, and that’s who we are, now – ordinary animals, except for our magic. Except for we figure out sometimes how to make things appear where nothing was before. That’s how we made God’s lightning go running through lines in the ground, and it’s how we got under the ocean and into the sky and past the sky to other worlds. The stories are wrong that tell us our fire was stolen from some other people and some other place. It wasn’t stolen – we made it. We are the gods. Though only the bad girl may say it.
Economy is not who can own what that already is, and the longer we believe this myth, the longer we will suffer. They’ll tell you investment is, you give me 2 today and I’ll give you three tomorrow. That’s wrong. Investment is, I’ll sit here rubbing sticks with nothing to show you for hours, and you fight off the foxes while I work. Neither of us knows what will come of it, but something drives me to discover, and something in you makes you want to trust my vision, though no known math can prove my vision’s worth.
Think about the ways your economic sense is capped by the thought that wealth is finite, that there is only so much to go around. You’re all worried about distribution, when what you should be worried about is creation, like, as a thing, that you take serious. I don’t give a shit how rich you are. Make as much as you want, and more power to you. But are you worried that if you value full-time employees in proportion to what was valued in the 50’s, when the 40-hour-work-week for one person was able to support a large family, that there won’t be as much wealth left over for you to have? Have you failed as a result to factor employees’ time in full as part of the cost of doing business, supposing their leisure a luxury that has no effect on you? Have you watched the burgeoning of a new business jealously, certain that people spending money there won’t be spending money here? Have you been afraid to grant yourself time to fuck around, because it’s selfish to spend money or time on things that others don’t understand? Or have you kept your wildest ideas a secret for fear they’d be stolen or disowned?
When people believe it a human right to fuck around, things will start to change. When the delusions of finality are gone, and new businesses springing up are neither seeking nor supposed to be in competition with those that already exist, there will be more businesses. There will be more leisure time, when leisure time is valued as a cost of living, and not an excess. There will be more ideas, when we accept that there are new ideas to be had, and someone claiming to have a good idea is not expected to disguise it as something established and proven already. New money will come, when we make it.