Sunday, November 23, 2008

I have always liked the phrase Catch 22. It means a no win situation. This description of a no-win situation applies to so many things in life, especially in today’s economic dilemma. It means that no matter which way you go or whatever decision you make there is always an undesirable result. For example with the question of, is there an afterlife? To get the answer you have to die. The phrase describes a circular paradox.

This phrase comes from a very interesting book by Joseph Heller called “Catch 22.” In the book, a World War II bomber pilot named Yossarian tries to get himself declared insane so he can stop flying bombing missions. Unfortunately, there is a regulation called Catch-22, stating that if you want out of combat duty you aren't crazy. Heller wrote, "[A pilot] would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to."

Today’s economic situation and the stock market are really Catch 22 situations. For example, the stock market won’t go up unless consumer confidence and spending go up. On the other hand, consumer confidence and spending won’t go up unless the stock market goes up. The result is that neither will go up. It’s a circular paradox.

Another one on consumer spending has to do with the price of gasoline and the stock market. When the price of gasoline was high consumer spending was high and the stock market was up. Consumer spending was up because we were spending all the money on gasoline. Now that gasoline prices are down we should have more money to spend on everything else and the stock market should be up. But no, consumer spending on everything else is also down because the stock market is down and everyone has lost their savings. With the lower price of gasoline more money should have been available in the consumers paycheck to buy everything else. It’s an insane paradox and you can’t win.

Economics is really fun. You can find an expert to tell you anything you want to hear or you don’t want to hear. There are no experts on the economy or investments. The ship is sinking because we have a big hole in it and we must also have a big hole to let the water out. We can’t win

Catch 22 even applies to the deer I see every day from the porch. There are so many deer now that it’s a danger to kill them for fear of killing a human in the line of fire. The number of deer is also dangerous, creating a hazardous driving situation and a threat of attack when approaching the herd on foot. In other words they are a hazard to get rid of and a hazard of we don’t get rid of them. We are in a no win or Catch 22 situation. Help, I’m confused.


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