Sovereign Substance Abuse:  Overusing Pain Killers?

London, UK - 7th March 2012, 10:25 GMT

Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends

[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

The global financial markets have not been feeling too well for a few consecutive days now. Neither have I. What does this mean?

Once upon a time there were three patients: Uncle Sam, Dame Europa and a Sumo wrestler. All three were hundreds of pounds overweight for their optimal health and their knees were giving out because of this. As a result, they were all losing their mobility. They took aspirin every day, twice a day, to relieve the pain. But they kept walking any way. They even played some pick-up light games. Their knees were slowly getting worse for wear. The pain persisted. So they faced a stark choice: take a stronger pain killer to quell the pain, which really got to them, or undertake some radical changes in their lifestyle to improve their diet, drink fewer fizzy drinks, cut down their food and alcohol intake drastically and start exercising. All three decided to take a stronger pain killer. The Sumo wrestler was the first, Uncle Sam second and Dame Europa the last. She helped herself to a double dose and tried to hide it by giving the medicine a fancy name and mixing it with baby formula. The pain was almost gone and everybody in the family was very happy. Since the New Year, everybody in the extended families began to dream about going on long holidays now that everybody appeared to be so well on double-triple medication. But the pain killers' efficacy eventually wore off and having done nothing to fix the problem, it came back with a vengeance -- and in fact had got a lot worse!

Consequences of Obesity

Could the three patients predict when one of their knees would give out next? No. Neither can most risk management groups including ours. Welcome to the global financial markets as they are at present. Can we predict that without radical structural change, the patients' knees will continue to deteriorate? Yes. Can we predict, with certainty, that the efficacy of the pain killers will radically diminish even as the dose is doubled and tripled over a finite period? Most definitely. And then at that juncture, the patients again face the same critical decision. Do they double the dose of their pain killers yet again? In the meantime, let us remember, their brains are getting even foggier, and they are increasingly losing not only the ability to sense the deteriorating condition of their knees but also exactly where their knees are located. At that point, they are left with no choice but to fall on their knees and pray!

The problem: radical change is not easy in social institutions, especially in politically charged situations, where change means admitting to problems and perhaps even accepting some responsibility -- all of which is inconvenient when the governors want to get re-elected and their opponents can seize on any frankness they might display.

So, what do you think? Is taking pain killers a good idea to manage a chronic condition? Short term, this might be the only solution because it helps the patients focus on the immediate and urgent tasks at hand. But if they are just a ticket to another day in "La-La Land" then all they are doing is sedating the patient whose slide downwards is picking up momentum and spiralling out of control with every passing day. What makes the global financial crisis situation so interesting in terms of financial debt deleveraging, is the similarity it has to managing obesity and curbing drug abuse, and it is so difficult to analyse this because it varies from patient to patient. The fact that it is interconnected with the emerging global financial power houses -- most of whom have similarly bloated balance sheets -- precludes their capacity to fully digest another older economic power's woes. What happens next? Well, it all gets very interesting. This is the seminal question of the hour. We wish there was a simple fix... unfortunately, there is none! But if there is one thing we have learned from the human experience, it is that there is only one way to manage pain in the long term, and that is to stop the denial, accept the gravity of the problem, begin to work straight through it and consider surgery if appropriate.

In the meantime, I'll go back to nursing my intermittent cold and thanks for your input!

All the best



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