Speed-the-Plow

A glance back at the last Brisbane Truck Show is instructive for a host of reasons not in the least on how different the recognisable present world is from the one which now exists in memory only.

The 2019 event, if one recalls, took place on the eve of the federal election, which would return incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison in an upset result — depending on how much trust one puts in the polls and media pundits.

Like the TEUs making their way up the world’s busiest shipping channels, trust, around the world, is in high demand by our institutions, politicians and media at the moment, yet sorely finds itself at historic low levels of supply.

Border lockdowns, mask mandates, social distancing and hotel quarantining have during this crisis tested the planning and resources of companies involved in key industry events like the truck show and those also who attend them. Uncertainty does not inspire confidence.

Financial markets, however, do. How serious would a vastly contracted private industry of depleted small businesses take the public sector which in turn has gotten even bigger, based on futures only counter-intuitive to one of them?

In 2019 as the respective campaigns of the leaders of the two major parties neared their end the latest cycle of economic crisis precipitated by the Lehman Brothers collapse nine years earlier, was already brewing on the horizon.

With governments stretched beyond measure to protect banks, mitigate recession and inflating increasing amounts of currency into financial markets, state interventionist policies delivered unprecedented rate suppression which continues even as global debt stands at USD$284 trillion, roughly 355 per cent of global GDP.

That’s trillion with a T. As governments print money at a rate of knots that would make the Weimar Republic blush, the recent grounding of an Evergreen-owned container barge in the Suez Canal won’t, despite some feeble attempts by journalists, be blamed for the incoming fallout felt in global markets.

Even scapegoats are at a premium.

Where conditions and room in the budget allowed, governments stopped the freefall of global growth with extraordinary monetary and fiscal support to the tune of $11.5 trillion globally, to extend lifelines to businesses and people. If that last sentence sounds like gaslighting it’s because it paraphrases the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In the ‘IMF Annual Report 2020 – A Year Like No Other’, it asserts swift action helped fight the pandemic and limit the damage to people’s lives and the global economy. “These exceptional times required equally exceptional, quick action,” the report concludes.

“The IMF has worked to help protect people, help protect the economy, and help countries prepare for the recovery.”

You know who else was prepared? A total of 2,365 billionaires. Under these ‘exceptional circumstances’ asset prices have rallied over the past year to increase their total wealth to $USD12.39 trillion.

A 54 per cent increase over the span of a year.

“Entrepreneurs,” as economist Joseph Schumpeter puts it, “dream up products that they think advertisers can persuade us to want.”

That might be an engine compressor, adjustable vertical shock absorbers or indeed a pandemic.

The concern for privately owned businesses and independent operators, many of whom would have normally attended a trade fair like the Brisbane Truck Show in previous years, is reducing one’s business to a node under edict of governments backed by partners both abroad and locally.

The demagoguery used by corporate media in equating these very credible concerns with conspiracy theories or the oft-heard tinfoil hat pejorative, are tiresome.

Alexis de Tocqueville who, lamenting the result of unquestioned soft despotism two hundred years ago, rightly suggested that it “hinders, compromises, enervates, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.”

Yet here we find ourselves.

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