My Uncle Sam is addicted to cocaine.
The story started innocently enough in the 80s and 90s when things were going well for him, at least superficially. His business was expanding, much of it financed from others, but he deluded himself into believing that it was his business savvy and not deficit financing that was the secret sauce. Flush with other people’s money, he got used to living the high life -expensive cars, vacations, Armani suits, Rolex watches and gold jewelry. In his deluded state, he did not notice the debts piling up. His financial consultant presented him with rosy outcomes that hid his worsening state till it all came down in 2001. Suddenly, his business just stopped – no one was buying his cool aid. He went into a deep depression and took to the bottle. If he had put down the bottle, sold his assets and learnt to live within his means, it would probably have ended well. But a tragedy occurred. In stepped his buddy, Fred.
Fred is a strange guy who, for some reason, liked to keep Uncle Sam living the high life. So Fred gave Uncle Sam money and introduced him to cocaine. Fred’s rationale was that alcohol was a depressant whereas cocaine was a stimulant and in small doses, would perk Uncle Sam just enough to get his life back. So my Uncle Sam took to cocaine, in small doses.
And it seemed to work. After two years, in 2003, Uncle Sam seemed to be back in his feet. His business was expanding again, but with more borrowed money. With cocaine induced aggression, he also picked fights with people that cost him in lawsuits and restitution. The cocaine also worsened his false state of financial well being till it again came crashing down in 2009. He was again depressed, and the small doses of cocaine were not doing the trick anymore.
So Fred started giving him more and more cocaine. It has been three years now, and Uncle Sam is in deep trouble. He appears normal to an outsider, but we know what trouble his business is in. He is deep in debt and it is getting worse. His family won’t intervene and give him the tough love that would lead to slow and but eventual recovery. They are happy with the cocaine that Fred gives him.
But there is a problem with that. The high doses of cocaine seem to be having a less and less effect. In science, we call this phenomenon tachyphylaxis where a receptor becomes used to the stimulus and thus, after a while, responds less and less with each stimulus. And every time Fred tries to take the cocaine away, Uncle Sam goes into a funk. Not surprising is that this phenomenon is not restricted to science but occurs in sociology and economics as well.
So there it is. My Uncle Sam and his cocaine addiction. I don’t know where Fred gets his cocaine from or how he pays for it. But I know that cocaine dealers, like bond vigilantes, are not kindly old ladies and that one day Fred will have to pay the cocaine dealers or run out of cocaine. That day will be horrible, both for Fred and Uncle Sam. Fred thinks that sooner or later, Uncle Sam will get better and be able to pay off the cocaine dealers. I’m not holding my breath for that.