Okay, this is going to be a tough one, so let’s start with one of the popular flavours of human economic activity: Capitalism.
On our own planet of Gloabon, we are all content to work together for the good of our glorious government, and while some of us go to our work with a broader smile than others, we’re all very much in it together, and above all, we’re happy, whether we like it or not.
But we Gloabons need to understand that other planets operate in different ways, and we all need a firm grasp of the basics because we never know where we’ll be posted.
Now, you may be lucky and be dispatched to an advanced civilization with its own highly sophisticated economy, or you could be less fortunate and wind up on some strange backwater like Earth.
If you find yourself struggling to get to grips with Earth’s economics, it may help you to realize that humans are essentially gamblers. They have evolved to take risks, to try out all manner of outlandish schemes, even ones that are almost certainly doomed to failure, so long as there is just the tiniest possibility that their wild plans may work out after all.
This explains why humans idolise their most adventurous explorers, despite the tendency of these intrepid souls to turn up dead, sometimes accompanied by a selection of lightly steamed vegetables, but I digress.
Once we understand the human addiction to risky ventures, we can appreciate that Earthlings can’t just restrict themselves to the mundane exchange of goods. They can’t simply buy and sell; they need to invest. In other words, they have an irresistible urge to exchange the money that they have today for the possibility that it will be worth more tomorrow. “But you can’t buy a possibility!” you cry, and on any sane planet, you would be right, but on Earth, the trade in abstract possibilities is very much de rigueur, and there is a complex system designed to represent these “opportunities” with certificates called stocks or bonds. And perhaps this would all be all right, if only most humans had a working knowledge of probability, but alas, this isn’t the case. Humans eschew mathematical precision in favour of risk. For humans, risk is an end in itself, while we Gloabons might have invented the term risk-averse. We have good reason for our caution: when you come from a world that is essentially one giant swamp infested with submerged predators, an inbuilt sense of suspicion isn’t just healthy, it’s vital to survival. But I’m afraid that most humans see us as a dull crowd.
A side note here:
While on Earth, you may feel tempted to throw caution to the winds in an effort to fit in, but be careful! Anyone offering you a “dead certainty” or a “sure-fire winner” is likely to be embellishing the truth. Remember that on Earth, the guiding principle is exemplified by the saying, “Never give a sucker an even break.” Keep your wallet firmly in your pocket and walk away.
But back to capitalism.
As humans trade in the abstract probabilities of potential profit, relying all the while on their shaky understanding of risk, the value of the stocks and bonds can often escalate until it bears no relation to the actual value of any goods and services involved, at which point, surprise, surprise, the whole enterprise comes crashing down.
A recent search of human history will show you many such examples of this type of economic failure, but here are a few to get you started on the right track:
The Tulip Bubble
The Wall Street Crash
The World Banking Crisis
And more recently, the Bitcoin Vortex of Utter Despair.
I hope that these very brief notes will help you on your visit to Earth, but if you have any trouble with your finances while posted to this sector of the galaxy, just show your Gloabon Government ID badge and offer to send any bothersome humans on a free holiday aboard The Gamulon. Humans may enjoy risk, but if there’s one thing they really don’t want to gamble on, it’s the prospect of a little probing.
Peace and prosperity to you all.
You may comment below, but any foolishness may well result in you receiving a visit from a member of the Earth Liaison Unit. You have been warned. Thank you.
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