Archive for February 20th, 2011

Bondholder Inferno

Saying that you’re going to burn the bondholders might sound big and clever, but there is a catch: it implies that there will be some sort of pain inflicted on those wealthy individuals who expect states to expropriate wealth from poor people in order to ensure that their own position of power and privilege is assured. It might be mildly unpleasant for such individuals to hear that they aren’t going to get exactly what they want, at a level of pain comparable to stubbing one’s little toe against the bedpost, but it’s certainly not going to plunge them into searing agony, which is what would happen if you set them on fire.

So talking about burning the bondholders presents the bondholders as being a group of people who are in a far more precarious, vulnerable position than the position of power and influence that they enjoy in reality. Thinking about someone who has her social welfare payments cut in order to ensure that the bondholders, the markets or whatever other synonym for the rich you may care to use are sated with what they feel is rightfully theirs, it would rarely occur to anyone to say that she is going to get ‘burnt’, even though the suffering inflicted is likely to be far greater than any bondholder awakened rudely.

When I hear people talking about burning the bondholders it reminds me of that stupid joke about the mouse who tries to have sex with an elephant and in the course of doing so a coconut drops on the elephant’s head and the elephant lets forth an “ouch” and the mouse shouts “suffer, bitch, suffer”. We should steer clear both of presenting ourselves as mice, and of presenting bondholders as mighty elephants.

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February 2011