Week 8 of the Quarantine
SAN MARTIN, ARGENTINA – “Never, ever bet against America,” says the Oracle of Omaha, perhaps exaggerating.
Countries, like individuals, make mistakes. And they have their seasons. It was a bad idea to bet against America throughout most of the 20th century. That, of course, is when Warren Buffett got the idea.
But this is the 21st century. America’s capital industries are losing value. Its GDP growth is slowing. Its government – technically insolvent already – prints $1 million PER SECOND to cover its deficits. Its military is engaged in pointless meddles all over the world. Its menfolks’ life expectancy is falling. Its Swamp is rising.
And its people are dependent on government handouts. They seem ready to panic whenever any threat – no matter how implausible or remote – presents itself.
Yes, the Great National Hysteria continues.
We understand why we, personally, are “social distancing.” We are among the 15 million Americans who meet one or more of the risk categories that make us vulnerable to the disease: either old, fat, diabetic, hypertensive, or with heart or lung issues. But what about the rest?
Why do our children and grandchildren have to be isolated? Why can’t they go to school? Why can’t they go to work? Or to a bar… and enjoy themselves?
For them, the C-virus is less of a threat than auto accidents or suicide.
And who are these people who think they can tell the rest of us what to do? Where do they get that power? Where do they get off?
But here’s The New York Times still stoking the panic:
Rural towns that one month ago were unscathed are suddenly hot spots for the virus. It is rampaging through nursing homes, meatpacking plants and prisons, killing the medically vulnerable and the poor, and new outbreaks keep emerging in grocery stores, Walmarts or factories, an ominous harbinger of what a full reopening of the economy will bring.
Uh… all new viruses “rampage” through the population. But we doubt they check balance sheets. A young, poor person in good health is no more likely to die from the disease than a young, rich person in good health.
No Real Danger
Nearly three million people die in the U.S. every year, at an average age of 78.6 years. This year, according to The New York Times, they’re dying at a higher rate – approximately 12,000 more per month than expected.
But only half of that is because of the C-virus. The others are dying from an increased rate of heart attacks, cancer, suicide, accidents, and who knows what else.
Based on the latest guesses, the C-virus may add as many as 135,000 to this year’s U.S. death toll – at an average age of 78.6 years.
In other words, the death toll, relative to the size of the population, is expected to be about half as great as the Asian Flu in 1957. That was a recession year, too, with 7% unemployment. But no shops, factories, churches, or schools were closed.
And presented with stimulus legislation – the Douglas-Payne Bill – Eisenhower vetoed it. The year ended with a $3 billion surplus.
Nobody wants to die. But the C-virus poses no real danger to the nation. It’s a risk for your editor and many of his Dear Readers. But not for most people.
A Bad Bet
But it’s all part of the national madness. We’re all supposed to get on board, in spirit as well as action, and obey! No surfing… Don’t let your kids play with other kids… And don’t even think about attending religious services; they’re banned – in the name of civic virtue and national solidarity.
And it’s not enough that people make fools of themselves in the name of fighting a molecule. They also destroy their own economy.
This is not your grandfather’s pandemic, in other words. Today, they make birthday parties and normal commerce illegal… And then, they pretend to “replace” the wealth they destroyed with printing-press money. Trillions of dollars’ worth.
We’re now only seeing the first part of the costs – unemployment, lost profits, lost sales, dead businesses, breakdowns, suicide, careers on hold, lives suspended…
The next part will be even costlier. Fake money will foul the economy and sour our society, too.
Someday, sober historians will look back and wonder: What were they thinking? But for now… the country Buffett won’t bet against looks like a bad bet.
History of Revolution
Meanwhile, our neighbor, Ramón, puts the Originario War in perspective.
“This valley has always been a battleground,” Ramón explained.
“The words change. But the battle is always the same – between the landowners and the locals. The landowners are almost always foreigners. I mean, not from the valley. Even if you’re from Salta City (the provincial capital), they consider you a foreigner. And if you’re from Buenos Aires, you might as well be from Mars.
“You can’t possibly make a go of farming here unless you have some investment capital. You need machinery. And you need labor. Probably nowhere on Earth do you need so much labor. Everything needs to be irrigated… and it’s not mechanized. You have to flood the fields and direct the water with a shovel. And you need a property of enough size to make it work… and enough workers to run it.
“But the labor always gets restless. And then, someone comes along with a bad idea, almost like an infectious virus. In the 17th century, there was that guy Pedro Bohórquez. A complete imposter. He was from Spain. But somehow, he convinced the local Indians that he was the grandson of Atahualpa, the last Incan Emperor.
“Then, in the 18th century, there were Indian uprisings up north, led by Túpac Amaru. There were echoes here, too, but I don’t think they amounted to much.
“And then, in the 1970s, it was the workers’ revolution. Marxism. I was here for that one. It was strange for such a remote valley. But it was everywhere in Argentina at the time. The revolutionaries – and remember, Che Guevara was from Argentina – wanted to take over the world… and to take the property away from the capitalists.
“Well, somehow, one of them came to our part of the valley. And the next thing we knew, people refused to pay their rents. And they refused to work. Back then, the tenant farmers were obliged to work… and of course, they were paid for it. They had to work for us for one month of the year. It was just part of the tenant-farmer deal.
“Anyway… this guy came into the valley where now your grapes are planted. And he began agitating. And I talked to the tenant farmers. Some of them were my old friends. I tried to reason with them… to bargain with them. But they were convinced that in the new “worker’s paradise” here in the Calchaquí Valley, they would be the owners of all the land.
“Finally, I just had to start eviction proceedings. It took a long time. But finally, I won.
“This was back in the time of the generals [the military dictatorship]. “They weren’t putting up with any Marxist revolutionary crap. So, the government backed me and sent police to evict these guys.
“It was sad. I was there. We had to round up all their goats, sheep, and cattle… and herd them down to town, where they were sold at auction. And we had to clean out their houses… loading their stuff onto burros and taking it off the property. It was your ranch hand Natalio’s father who led the work party.
Flight of the Condor
“And I remember, the ringleader of the tenants had a big, stuffed condor. It had a wingspan that must have been almost 2 meters wide. We didn’t know how we were going to load it onto the burros.
“And he threatened us that if “one feather” was out of place, he was going to sue us for destroying his property.
“Well, Natalio’s father had a bright idea. He put a bed frame crossways on a burro. And then, he laid the stuffed condor on the bed frame, with the wings stretched out.
“I remember how satisfied we all were with this solution.
“And it worked beautifully… For a while.
“We headed down the valley, with all the stuff loaded on mules and burros… and the condor carefully laid on the bed frame on the burro’s back.
“Then, the sun moved around. All of a sudden, the burro saw the shadow of the condor hovering over him. Naturally, he was terrified and took off. We lost sight of him.
“When we eventually caught up with him on the trail, he was standing under an algarrobo tree (the shadow of the tree must have made the condor disappear). He was exhausted.
“The bed frame was hanging at an angle… and the condor was drooping from the frame. It looked like it had been run over by a car.”
Ramón threw his head back and roared with laughter.
Stay tuned for more on the latest war with the originarios in the Calchaquí Valley…
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