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Ohhh, so *that’s* why they call it ‘currency’

I was looking up Margaret Atwood videos on youtube and one thing lead to another, you know how it goes, when I ran across this one where Atwood shows the connection of debt to some of the English canon’s great pieces of literature.  Now that I understand how debt figures into the examples she cites here, I start to see it everywhere.  It’s all over Thomas Hardy novels, for example.  She talks about Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Madam Bovary.  Very interesting from just a literary point of view.

But in the middle of this interview she gets into the nitty gritty of how money works that is explained so simply that only the truly illiterate could fail to understand it.  I’m not sure that even this is enough to penetrate through the impregnable wall of deficit reduction hysteria that conservatives have built up but it’s worth a shot.  Here is Margaret Atwood explaining the role of debt in literature, what the word ‘currency’ actually means and its importance to the economy and society.


6 Responses

  1. Thanks for this – I really enjoyed it. I think though that the answer to the question about the role of money in modern literature has already changed – at least in Women’s Fiction. I noticed it first in British novels but, it’s true in American women’s fiction too…. Very often the plots revolve around a woman struggling for success in an economic venture (a shop or bed and breakfast or something) AND in several – a whole town struggles.

  2. That was so interesting.
    Does Atwood teach?

  3. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” — Shakespeare

    I wish most people understood the wisdom of that quote. Having studied basic economic principles (I’m not an economist), I understand the need for borrowing and lending, but the reason people get into trouble is the excesses of borrowing and lending.

    • I think you missed the entire point of the clip. Atwood says that for currency to have any real value, it has to CIRCULATE. You can’t have a little tiny group of people sitting on the whole mountain of it like a fricking dragon. If they are hoarding it, it won’t be of any use to anyone, even themselves. Think of it this way, tomorrow, through some exceptional twist of fate, the face value of that currency might be zero, in which case, it doesn’t matter how much you own or what virtual amount you have, you won’t be able to buy food with it. It will only be those people with stuff of real value who will be able to trade goods and services. Sitting on a pile of cash will get you nothing.

      BTW, most people in this country borrow money to buy houses. They borrow money to buy cars. Maybe we shouldn’t have borrow money but that’s they way this country works. Now, consider all of the people in my situation. We didn’t do anything wrong. I haven’t borrowed money out the wazoo. My car is paid off. I have very little credit card debt and the only significant thing I owe on is my house. I don’t take fancy vacations, don’t spend a lot on clothes, don’t have the most expensive furniture or tvs. I have a gadget problem but I have it under control. I haven’t bought any new computers except for Brooke’s for school in the last year and a half.

      In credit card terms, I am a ‘deadbeat’ because they can’t make money on me.

      I certainly don’t need any lectures from anyone about debt. I’m not the one who laid me off and terminated my salary and made it hard for me to refinance my mortgage or pay my COBRA.

      I also NEVER approved of going to war in Iraq. Did YOU?? I’ll bet you did. I have met very few people who didn’t jump on that bandwagon.

      AND I think the Bush tax cuts were a horribly stupid idea. So there, DM. I’m betting you share a lot of the blame for the deficit while I am not culpable at all. I did my best to live within my means, obey the law and do my job. And I still got screwed. Save your silly Polonius wisdom for the people who got us into this mess, ie every conservative leaning voter who was gullible enough to think we needed to get us in over our head in a war we didn’t need while cutting taxes on the wealthy. That was pretty fucking stupid.

  4. Fantastic! I always wondered about the obsession with debt in the right wing circles. It’s the rationale for austerity, cutting off services and any harm they want to inflict on people they don’t like (women, grown fetuses, the elderly etc) I even saw “debt ” used in the attacks on Sandra Fluke as if private insurance covering contraceptive would increase national debt. it’s the universal boogyman with those people.

    • Franklin, Washington and Jefferson ALL railed against debt because it was a national security problem and in desperation, they lost their negotiating position. The “Center/Right” opposed the War but were shoved aside by the Media who drummed up the “adventure” for the purpose of ratings, winning Pulitzer Prizes and “living the dream” that Clinton had denied them. Nevertheless, the Founding Fathers took on the Debt and then conceded that there truly must be a “God” that could send them choices that could, if carefully managed, deliver them from taxation via carefully leveraged debt. Slavery owed most of its existence to the extensive debt of the property owners who had to 1. own and 2. work their land in order to participate as representatives and to Vote! We thank the French for so competing with the Brits that they willingly lent us cash and sold us property to keep the Brits off balance.

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