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Blowout (by Tomáš Sedláček)

Those who saw the French film Blowout (Marc Ferreri, 1973), are quite clear about what is meant by
decadence. Here, a group of gourmets indulge in gluttony embarking on a trip where they cook and eat all the time. But soon they find that they’ve had enough. No matter if they are persuaded and want to eat, it is simply not possible to continue. While preparing delicasies - it's a pity. It is quite simple to feed and please the hungry, but it is nearly impossible to feed those who are overfed. Unfortunately, it is just what the Western civilization focuses in its argument: to feed the overfed?

The most remarkable - and perhaps the most decadent for me - is a scene from the film when one of the parties will use a specific method for increasing appetite. He starts to think of the poor children of Africa as they must be hungry- such a horrible feeling - and what a pity it would be if the food will not be finished. By eating through a hunger born out of the imagination and borrow the hunger of others to increase their own.

This method is vulgar at the first (and even upon the second) sight, but to be honest, didn’t our (grand) parents do the same thing when we were young too? You have to eat because children in Africa are starving. The correct response should not be the child's compassion and ideas somehow send them food (it would probably be get a slap), but more to eat, despite saturation. On the cinema silver screen, such behavior seems particularly absurd, but used in daily life.

The Western economy is doing likewise. We do not consume all their production; in other words, they
are not able to eat all what is cooked . Politics challenges people to consume more (even if they do not want to) and the situation resembles Blowout. So consumption becomes imperative not only for
ourselves but for the whole economy. Ironically, no one have an idea to stop cooking when nobody
wants to eat. Our solution is to cook more efficiently, cheaper and in different way. And through debt.

Our problem is that we do not properly engage the demand of poor countries, just their work. The
problem of hunger in third countries is that their hunger is not based on money. If so, there would not be the problem of demand. But the current system cannot economically account (or use) such a hunger. What is wrong with the poor countries is in their selling and do not get rich , just by production (and subsequent sale in the rich countries , which was partially Czech way). Poor countries could enter the rich world through work - it is slow process , but functional , because poor countries cannot negotiate for much; the price of labor will move to the local level or only a little more. The rest of the gain ( ie disproportionately more) will go to the stronger side. So yes, international trade is beneficial to poor countries, but it is much better for the rich countries, which can extract much more from their power dominance of negotiation.

We can feed only the rich , or those rich enough to be equipped with some kind of worldwide
recognition of value or hard currency. And now the romantic fantasy: if only a global currency would
have the smile to feed, global flows and profit margins would immediately look different.

Back to the world of reality. Economic problems seem to be slowly moving into poorer countries,
India, China and other "former-future draught horses" of global growth. The crisis in Europe (or in the
USA) was and is unpleasant, but nobody died of hunger or cold. However, the poorer countries bear the impact of the consequences much worse.

If Europe was able to do for the third world what the U.S. once did to Europe, akin to the Marshall
Plan, where the U.S. government provided assistance to post-war Europe in exchange that part of the
return will go to America, we could get help for ourselves and give help to the Third World without
dumping. Because if people are suffering from hunger, all the economic arguments about undermining local market goes to the side. Yes, if you want to help a friend, teach him how to fish (this is an ideal situation). However, if he is starving, when there is no time for lengthy training and he must to be particularly alive and healthy to learn to hunt.

And for now we should consider, if the solution for the lack of hunger locally is actually to devise
bigger and bigger delicacies, or to calm down for a moment, and to start cooking for others.


About the Author: Tomáš Sedláček (1977) is a Chief Macro-economic Strategist at ČSOB. He served as a non-political expert advisor to the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Czech Republic, with special responsibility over fiscal consolidation and the reform of the tax, pension, and healthcare systems. He also served as an economic advisor then-president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel. (www.tomassedlacek.cz