Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Onward and Upward

In less than a week, I will leave the country I have called home for the last few months. Early next week, I will travel to the Netherlands to meet up with a couple of friends from California who have been studying there through the same program I am enrolled in here in Denmark. Together we have planned an extraordinary adventure to cap off what has been nothing less than a fantastic semester abroad. Our journey will take us to Barcelona, Marrakech, Madrid for Christmas, Lisbon, and Paris for New Years. Once this trip is over, I will have been to every major European country and Africa for the first time in my life. While I am somewhat sad about leaving Denmark, the upcoming trip has me so excited that I can't really feel bad about anything.

Luckily, the job I have been working at here has prevented me from burning through my life savings in this outrageously-expensive country. In fact, all told I have probably made some money. Gotta love these social welfare states, eh? I fit right in the sweet spot of the system, avoiding the insane taxes (38% is the base rate) by not making quite enough money to be noticed. Unfortunately, due to a clerical error, the Danish government took 60% of my first couple of paychecks and have yet to return that money. I suppose if it's not in my possession then it's like savings.

Speaking of savings, I just read a Times article about the latest sale of short term securities by the Treasury. Investors scrambled to get the opportunity to... get 0% return in four weeks. I'm not economist, but from the tone of the article and common sense, it sounds like things are getting even worse. Maybe someone could explain to me how buying Treasury notes at 0% return is a better deal than just holding cash. Are the securities adjusted for inflation (which should be nothing at the moment anyway)? I have never taken economics very seriously. Why they give fake Nobel prizes to people in the field while ignoring mathematics bothers me. It dilutes the meaning of the award and gives people the impression that economics is scientific. Imagine if green florescent protein or anti-biotics just stopped working one day. I realize the analogy is far from watertight, but I'd really like to see a reproducible experiment in economics that goes beyond "when prices go up, people buy less."

I've got mixed up confusion about how I feel about the future. I have read somewhere that people my age are remarkably optimistic about it even though times are so bad right now. Maybe that's because we believe in America, and are young enough to know that we will see it shine brightly again. Pessimists will tell you our time is over and China will take the reigns. I find that laughable, but what do I know? I think of myself as a realist, and know that the best man for the job is about to take power in America. It's true, he has a bigger mess to clean up than we have seen in many decades, and more expectations resting on his shoulders than anyone deserves. But we have no other choice but to believe in him. For the next eight years (knock knock) Americans of all stripes are going to have to give things up to help us all. Based on his rhetoric, it sounds like Obama will stress personal responsibility and the power of the individual. He will find ways to put Americans at work for America. If we answer his call, we will rise from these ashes.

Now excuse me while I discuss long term savings plans with my Danish bank.

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