Another uncomfortable truth

Ever since 2018 began, more articles than usual have been dedicated to Karl Marx. It shouldn’t be a wonder, since May 5th this year will be the 200th birthday celebration of the renowned mathematician/economist/philosopher/journalist. People’s opinions are divided, of course, from one extreme to another. And that’s just scratching the surface of his genius: he did not leave anybody indifferent, so even those who were against his scientifically-based analyses got themselves thinking.

Marx’s disciples are quick to defend, while his detractors are happily rubbing their palms in delight. Okay, that last one might be an exaggerated caricature… but kidding aside, his detractors must at least be smirking because evidently, the global community has not evolved into a socialist system (even though some countries are leaning  towards this tendency). Their enthusiasm is such, that they are willing to throw away a solid, logical framework explaining (and pointing out the weaknesses of) the capitalist system, just because his ‘prediction’ is not yet coming true.

Regardless of whether Marx (and Engels, and Co.) predicted or strongly wished for a global socialist system (socio-econo-politico), there was one thing that everybody’s overlooked: the fact that even before the invention of private property, human nature has always been frameworked by greed (need for survival?). This means that regardless of the prevailing system, as long as it risks falling into the hands of a human being, it will always be doomed to failure. So let us leave the socialist aspiration aside and discuss this topic with the least possible “noise”. Let us only refer to a global community. Bear with me, my point will come in 2 minutes (3, if you’re a slow reader).

Remember in history class? when our teachers would point out that in pre-historic times, everybody had a function in the community? Every member: man, woman, any child that has undergone his or her rite of passage, would contribute to everybody’s well-being. It might be as a hunter, a gatherer, a builder, a witch doctor, etc…

Do you remember when we were taught that back then, vulnerable groups such as children, old people, the sick and pregnant women were protected and prioritized during the distribution of food or resting area?

When private property was invented, people started to increasingly go berserk accumulating, using their talents and abilities for the purpose. It didn’t matter whether it be for their family’s security, or for the joy of it because it had become the standard for success. This way, the concept of “common good” started to be pushed back to satisfy individual interests, something still strongly rampant until now.

So, how can we currently aspire for a society (that doesn’t even have to be global) that protects the weak, when we are made to understand that doing so could go against our best interests?

This pursuit has crossed borders, spreading worldwide, inciting men to take ownership of lands (and other resources) not their own and making them resort to plunder, leading to oppression.

Historical events have eventually shaped the world as we know it, and have allowed for material accumulation be enough to end hunger, poverty, and guarantee education and free health for all- maybe threefolds, even. So if the global material requisite is already present, why the delay in evolving into a society concerned with the common good?

Becuase of us. People. The ones that make up a community. Competition had gotten us scared to the point of resisting wealth redistribution, and insecurity had convinced us to support leaders who will defend our current and comfortable status quo.

How can there be a global community (socialist or otherwise) when each time a revolution is won, its leaders seem to forget about the people whom they fought for?

Furthermore, it must be recognized that this material accumulation we are witnessing have been achieved at the price of great pain and injustice (slave-trading, economic protectionism, illegal occupation, etc). And no matter how far back we trace, its implications are still carried around genetically, socially and culturally by the exploited populations.

So again: how can there be a global, humanitarian community when people are hesitant to be united because there has not been/is not a sincere desire for closure for past hostilities? How can this closure be achieved in the first place, if aside from not owning any accountability, the offenders have not shown/do not show an earnest intent for restitution?

Why is this even important? for the simple reason that for a global community to function, people must be convinced to participate and commit to it, worldwide.

So if we can’t even count on people’s interest to advance the common good under “normal” conditions, within their immediate environment, how could we aim for the same after a great change such as a systemic shift on a global scale?

I guess Marx had too much faith in mankind: he really believed we would evolve to become these compassionate, critical and “learned” race, who would not tolerate inequality and social injustices. But the truth is that we are only replicating past mistakes. Worse, those mistakes haven’t really been solved in the first place, they were just well-hidden from the ever-insensitized public.

Did he consider ceteris paribus with regards to the society’s disengagement to a capitalist system? He clearly didn’t expect the rise of the numbed middle-class, lured into consumption, competition and accumulation. Numbed to the point of believing that they too, are rich and belong with the elite; sedated to being oblivious towards their surroundings, let alone their neighbor’s suffering.

In effect

Marx’s prediction is not yet coming true. But will it ever come true? Some people, in their own little ways are individually exerting an effort to break away from the current systemic order. Some countries seem to be keen to experiment with the idea of wealth redistribution as the base for progress. It just might work. Who knows?

 

Fragility, naïveté…

This post analyzes the motivation of the play Muñeca de Porcelana (China Doll). It might contain spoilers. You have been warned.

Last Saturday, I watched the Spanish adaptation of David Mamet’s “China Doll”. My friend and I kept guessing why the playwright chose that title, but even at the end, we weren’t able to wrap our heads around the idea.

About the play

Muñeca de Porcelana isn’t just another conspiracy theory-based story. It shows one side of a filthy, golden coin- the price of fame, fortune and power, if you wish. Accordingly, it invites the viewers to guess, assume, suspect and mistrust what’s being said right in front of their very noses.

As dialogues get more intense, thinking becomes the only possible option, because at that point, viewers realize that they have somehow become an accomplice of something horrible, and they need an explanation. So they start rubbing their neurons together, to see if a filament of some sort would light up.

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Image courtesy of: https://madridesteatro.com

The scene starts with a pompous display of wealth and power, where the big boss- entrusted into the hands of the sublime José Sacristán– barks at his loyal assistant because the latter was handing him the day’s newspaper, when he didn’t really ask for it in the first place. The role of the devoted secretary is strongly portrayed by Javier Godino, the perfect complement to the seniority and experience of his counterpart.

What motivated the play?

The piece clearly insinuates that power is concentrated among an elite few; where having money is not enough to get in the “club”.  Membership depends on the family tree and perhaps any ancient personal favor from one clan to another (I doubt if there was one member of that club whose ancestry couldn’t be traced to a Mayflower passenger). Very distinctly, it also shows that even in places that boast of being bastions of democracy, it is still the rich and the influential who hold the key to the machinery of the society.

Oh, but being rich and influential are but tickets to join the club. To remain in it is another hurdle. Exhaustive training is needed if one is to thrive, and a crafty mind with zero moral sense is crucial to triumph. And so that, according to Godino, is the origin of the title, “China doll”. It refers to the fragility of the triumphant based on the fact that he is nothing but a product; victorious, yet always and forever conditioned by the existence of incriminating evidence against him. A chess piece inside the board he is trying to conquer.

The way I see it, the play’s motivation is to open people’s eyes to that filthy side of the golden coin, as mentioned earlier. I’m not sure how society behaved when Mamet launched this opus, but in this generation, people only tend to look at the brightness of an item, not minding the dirty rag that polished it clean.

In an interview, Godino said he had an impression that viewers seem to evade what Mamet is trying to demonstrate, because it causes distress. He alluded to the naïveté to which spectators hold on, as a way to fight the awkwardness. (They’re just missing the point, then. But hey, their money, their choice.)

The ending, though, didn’t distress me. It was just as one would expect people to act given the situation and their current condition.

Et cetera…

At the end of the day, we’re all porcelain dolls: fragile in our naïveté. They don’t say “knowledge is power” for nothing.

A tale as old as time…*

“As long as there is any property, and while money is the standard of all other things, I cannot think that a nation can be governed either justly or happily; not justly, because the best things will fall to the share of the worst men; nor happily, because all things will be divided among a few, the rest being left to be absolutely miserable.”

“It was evidently quite obvious to a powerful intellect like his that the one essential condition for a healthy society was equal distribution of goods – which I suspect is impossible under capitalism. For, when everyone’s entitled to get as much for himself as he can, all available property, however much there is of it, is bound to fall into the hands of a small minority, which means that everyone else is poor.”

Can you guess who penned these words?

Adam Smith?

David Ricardo?

Karl Marx?

Rose Luxemburg?

Noam Chomsky?

NO.

It was Saint Thomas More, in the 16th century.

Think about it.

 

*Title borrowed from the “Beauty and the Beast” theme

 

 

Hidden-nomics (5): the unlisted, immeasurable, unfathomable value of the environment

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Image courtesy of: https://josemariasison.org

Dear Reader,

The poem I shared was written by Jose María Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines. (I think it later turned into a song) I hope you would overlook his political inclination and appreciate how beautifully and realistically he depicted the struggle of our natural environment through the forest.

The issue here goes beyond the hidden (read: unmeasured/unmeasurable/subjective) value of the environment. It’s the fact that most of people don’t even take the time to stop and wonder what natural resources mean to their existence.

Without clean air, they would be breathing toxins that would make them sick, rendering them perhaps sterile and sickly in the future.

Rising seas would eventually diminish land area, increase housing prices and affect agriculture, industry and services (imagine how the tourism sector would fare!) among others.

Wide-spread droughts would expand desertification and turn fertile soil into waste territory- useless for human, animal and plant alike.

Are more examples needed?

In Sison’s poem, the forest could have perfectly been substituted by the sea, river, plateau, mountain, meadow, ricefield, and so on. He would’ve talked about water nymphs, trolls and Bigfoot. He would’ve invoked fishermen, woodcutters and farmers as brave warriors protecting their homes against villains. He could’ve even talked about you, defending your own house from shameless vandals who would try to ransack it, empty it, and destroy it, leaving you homeless and bereaved of resources.

So why is it that some people still can’t relate?

The first time I’ve been made aware of the environmental problem was when I was 10. Since then, I haven’t stopped reading about forecasts, as well as materials about immediate and longer-term responses to the detected problems. I remembered being so impressed with what I read that I started then and there to voluntarily clean the beach near where I lived, reduce my fresh water consumption and recycle as much as I could. I would also scold people in my school whenever I saw them throwing trash on the ground. I took everything very seriously.

I remember handing stickers to my classmates and telling them about the things I learned, the dolphins and whales that are becoming endangered, the dodo bird that got extinct because of game hunters… some of my peers believed me, some just considered me a geek. Nevertheless, I know some of them took note and became more aware of their actions towards their surroundings.

23 years have passed since then, more than 2 decades since that first Greenpeace pamphlet I read explaining the locust plague. The same types of campaigns are still being carried out, but the effect is not the same. I ask myself what the problem could be (don’t you?). After all, the information was fact-based; data seemed solid and the campaigners didn’t scrimp in using alarming vocabulary.

Then it dawned to me: the constant bombardment of intense information, based on massive data has lost its effect. Perhaps in the ’70s, that kind of messaging was able to shock passersby. But in this millenia, people just look, read and go on with their lives, appearing to be desensitized.

How to reverse this? Go beyond speaking to the people individually: beat messages of empowerment and directly thank the citizens for their little daily efforts. Make them realize that when many small actions are summed with the rest of what others do, the outcomes become a great, big help to the environment! 

It is of no surprise that people feel a great weight on their shoulders, pressuring them, forcing them to save the sea turtle, the baobab or the elephants- elements that probably seem so far and unfamiliar to them. The fact is that when it comes to discussions on environmental issues, the initial reaction would be enthusiasm, then anger, followed by a common call for action. Afterwards, bewilderment will rise into their eyes when they start to hear about the tons of water they could save a day, the thousands of species disappearing each hour, or the volume of greenhouse gases they could help prevent from being emitted.

So why not, instead of asking them to DO, also thank them for what they’re currently SACRIFICING to contribute to the cause?

We should all gear towards the turning point. We should resist their despair. We should retaliate their common cry, “There’s no way we can help because a million others would be doing the opposite” with, “You’re already doing your best. Congratulations! Thank you! Keep it up! And when you feel ready to do more, go ahead and do it!”.

Let politicans do what they do best: politics. Let lobbyers influence decision-makers that their agenda is far more important than anyone else’s. Let the activists raise their voices in protest. Let the researchers continue their work on just how fast we are nearing to doomsday.

In the meantime, you, me, us, we can simply be more aware of our actions towards the environment. I’m not even talking about the Amazon rainforest or the Arctic. I’m talking about our immediate environment: how do we consume? what do we consume? what do we do with our waste? do we defend our immediate environment when harassed? do we tolerate vandalism?

It really boils down to what lives we want to lead, and what world we would like to leave behind for our children, or our neighbor’s children, if you don’t plan on having your own. The point is, we should start factoring in the environment when making decisions. Even if it just means saving on our monthly water and electric bill.

It couldn’t be too hard. Human nature has a great level of plasticity, in the sense that it is equipped to adjust according to the circumstances. We just have to will it. We just have to want it.

And as usual, dear reader, I will end this one by encouraging you:

Think about it.

 

 

Of thieves, value and the bitcoin

On the eve of the Epiphany (Feast of 3 Kings), our house got robbed. Thankfully, not many things were stolen, only some jewelries. The loss of my meaningful trinkets upset me a lot (not to mention the fact that my sense of safety and security were both shaken up). After all, they weren’t only pretty, shiny things- they also held great sentimental value as most of them were gifts. Of course, for the thieves, the only value those jewels have is their monetary value.

For centuries now, men have assigned value on different objects ranging from salt to gold. Those same objects were even used as a means for payment because of the value attached to them. Consensually, society has given value on objects that would otherwise be just “things”. That is why the crooks who broke into our house were tempted to steal my jewelries: to make the most of the accumulated value held by the precious metals and stones.

I suppose that their end game would be to exchange those knicknacks for money, another “value holder”- commonly accepted in exchange for goods and services, and also useful to amass value (although its value could potentially decrease in time, while the value of jewelries could go up).

All of these got me thinking how much the things we hold valuable have changed now. It’s no longer news that digitalisation has allowed for the birth of new tenders and payment methods. Currently, it has become possible for many people to purchase, settle debts and save money without having to use real cash (through credit or debit cards, mobile transactions, e-money or different investment vehicles). Why is that? well, just as is the case with money, all these new means of payment work out because of a consensus. Aside from the convened value they hold, an important part of it also depends upon the public’s willingness to support the value agreed.

The same goes with the biggest frenzy at the moment: the bitcoin. I’ve been trying my best to express my thoughts about it, but I found an article online so I simply decided to translate it and share it with you, dear reader. Please stay tuned for Colorfulifesite’s opinion on this subject.

Note about the article’s author: The original article was written by economist Daniel Villegas of the Mexican National Autonomous University (UNAM) for Dinero En Imagen online news. Mr Villegas was kind enough to give me permission to translate this simple, straight-to-the-point and insightful article so non-Spanish speakers could get a glimpse of his illuminating ideas.

Gracias D. Villegas, ha sido un verdadero placer aprender de su artículo.

I bought bitcoin and I realized why it could be the start of a great bubble

By: DANIEL VILLEGAS

EDITOR. Economist at the UNAM with exprience in macroeconomic indicators.

 

Mexico City – The bitcoin euphoria has reached suspicious heights.

Nobody imagined that at the start of the year, this cryptocurrency’s value would rise up to 1,695% in 2017. Indeed, when it was created, it started with a value of 908 which hiked up to 17,600 US dollars.

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Image courtesy of: http://www.dineroeimagen.com

Public opinion has also escalated regarding this digital currency. Even the Bank of Mexico, the country’s Ministry of Finance and the National Banking and Securities Commission have said their piece about it (arguing that it is not a legal tender in the country).

(Investopedia defines legal tender as “any official medium of payment recognized by law that can be used to extinguish a public or private debt, or meet a financial obligation.”)

In a joint press release, members of the Mexican financial authorities warned that the virutal assets are used as a device to store and interchange electronic information, without any legal support from any of them or from the government.

Despite this, many Mexicans still take their chances on the bitcoin, without minding that its soaring price is sustained on a fragile backing: the belief that everybody else thinks it has value. A common factor among the biggest financial crises in the past.

This presents a great problem since Mexican bitcoin enthusiasts could be living in an informational bubble that fogs their reality.

Why? because people purchase bitcoins with the hope of eventually using it to spend on goods and services they regularly acquire, without having to covert it to Mexican pesos.

The problem

We tried to discover just how acknowledged this cryptocurrency is; that is to say, how much do people know or not know about this type of “digital asset”.

Some would be ready to reply, “of course they (vendors) won’t accept it, it’s better to change it to pesos”, to which we should then respond that one of the purposes of the bitcoin is to serve as a (direct) means of payment (eg: one can possess 3g of gold but most probably no shop would accept it to pay for a purchase).

The experiment was disappointing: we talked to nearly 15 business establishments- most of them located in a shopping center- to inquire whether they would accept my bitcoin as payment. The answer was always a firm NO.

Some didn’t even have the slightest idea about the bitcoin, something that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

According to the National Survey for Financial Inclusion 2015, only 44% of the adult population are “banked” and only 9.5% of them rely on mobile banking services.

Add to this the fact that 92% of the respondents revealed thay they prefer other types of payment such as credit cards or digital transactions.

This is but a small proof of why it could be difficult for the bitcoin to be accepted as a regular means of payment in Mexico.

So then, if it won’t work as a payment method -and most probably it won’t do so for a long time-, why are people risking their money investing on the bitcoin?

Perhaps we could turn to one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, John Maynard Keynes.

In one of his most cited passages, he proposed an experiment:

“A contest… where the participants would have to select 6 of the most beautiful faces among hundreds of pictures.

The winner will be the person whose choice approximately matches the average preference of the rest of participants.

This way, each contestant would have to choose NOT those who they consider more beautiful, but those whom he thinks will please the rest.”

How would this apply to the bitcoin? Keynes used this make-believe contest to explain the behavior of investors and the weakness attributed to these types of markets.

This weakness refers to the gradual increase of people who invest in businesses they don’t really know much about. (So proportionally, there are more and more people putting their money in enterprises they are ignorant of. Remember the most recent financial crisis triggered by junk bonds?)

Additionally, he explains that a “conventional valuation” (ie: agreed estimated value) established as a result of the “mass psychology” of many ignorant people is prone to violent alterations due to strong changes in opinion, as a consequence of factors not highly related to the probable returns (of the investment).

(That is to say: the evolution of the bitcoin’s value is more susceptible to public opinion, than to the changes in demand -because supply is already capped- or the arrival of other cryptocurrencies.)

This is the most worrying part: the belief that the bitcoin could make people rich could end at any given time, and this could easily mean an abandonment of the investment and a substantial crash in its price.

Simply put, the question as to “how far would the bitcoin’s price go?” is at this moment, more for psychologists than for financiers.

(End of article)

***

To be continued…

“The purpose of studying economics is not to acquire a set of ready-made answers to economic questions, but to learn how to avoid being deceived by economists.”- Joan Robinson

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Image courtesy of: http://www.eumed.net

A viable interpretation of Robinson’s quote is being able to filter what is BS and what is not BS. So many economists and wannabes would risk making a fool out of themselves just to defend their absurd agenda.

Absurd agenda 1: painting a pretty picture of pitiful politics

1.A

When Duterte was newly elected in the Philippines, there was a lot of frenzy over the very positive movements in the local stock market. Many people, especially his supporters, were ecstatic to hear this news. They didn’t waste any time sharing this all over social media. They really wanted to prove a point- that the change would bring economic prosperity.

Me and my colleagues, meanwhile, eyed all of that with suspicion. While none of us was dilligent enough to build a counter argument, we DID construct a sort-of guide to do so.

We started by pointing out that stock market indices are just that- indicators of that particular and specific market. It doesn’t say whether the gains would be reinvested, who would benefit from them… we can only be a little bit sure of who received them. What it does, is to simply say that a number of selected enterprises from different sectors are doing well in attracting investors from all around the world.

People can draw all types of conclusions they want, but the truth is, there is no evidence that stock market movements have affected development indicators* like poverty levels, enrollment rates, mortality rates, investment in infrastructure or quality of life. In our conclusions, we admitted that for the upper echelons of the society, the high indicators meant more sound and healthy economics for them, as they are stakeholders of that elite market.

As a side note, we observed something funny: most of this president’s supporters are comprised of poor to middle-class citizens with no ownership of any stock whatsoever. Yet, they were very celebratory of the rising stock market indices. Oh, the pathetic, deceived souls…

1.B

In an interview, Nicolas Maduro proudly announced that unlike in the 70’s, the current dictatorship in Venezuela does not have anything to do with the United States. He added that as a socialist country, the government is actually formed by Venezuelans. It has no contamination from evil capitalists, doesn’t risk being indebted to anybody… just hungry citizens, a huge black market of all sorts and human rights violations left and right, top to bottom, side by side, front and back.

Of course there are also the hordes of Venezuelans fleeing to Europe and the US (for those who were able to) with their assets and families, swearing never to return until democracy is fully reestablished. It’s creating, as we speak, a massive brain and investment drain in the country where talented and highly educated people escape for some pasture- which doesn’t have to be green as long as there’s something to graze on!

If not for the oil, every economic aspect of this deplorable country would be naught.

Absurd agenda 2: justifying the unjustifiable global inequality

Let me share a scene I witnessed in one of my college classes. I was seated with my then-best friend and this dialogue ocurred between her and a former Economic History professor:

Teacher: (noticing a book about Che Guevarra on our table) So, Ernesto Guevarra, huh?

Friend: Yes. It’s good to have varied sources of information.

T: Yes, sure. Whatever. But you do know that even if we free those Indonesian kids working in a Reebok factory, they won’t be cruising around Harvard in a Jaguar, right? You know they’d probably be worse off, right?

F: Sure, but we want them free NOT so they could cruise around in Jaguars or Bentleys. We want them freed so they could choose for themselves what they want to be and how they want to get there.

T: Oh, the youth! Anyway, class, today’s lesson…

My friend and I looked at each other and made faces. 

Economic prosperity, regardless of its magnitude, is inconceivable without the full exercise of basic human rights.

Absurd agenda 3: insistently promoting a lifestyle that really only benefits the few- and none of them is you

Think of the last thing you purchased, may it be a product or a service. Then, think how you could have continued to live your life without it. Try really hard. If you come to the conclusion that you could have gone through the day or the week without it, then you have just made the rich richer. And you, dear reader, are several monetary units poorer.

Now, the other side of the coin would allow us to analyze thus: look at the advertising material around. How many of the items proposed are truly vital for modern-day living? for me, the choices would include an insurance policy, the most competitively-priced natural gas package, the public safety reminders and maybe even adult diapers, among the few. The rest? very questionable.

We are forcefully being introduced to a kind of life whose prerequisite is for us to spend our time and energy to work a lot, earn a lot and buy a lot. To sacrifice our health and time with people we love and the things we like doing. It would seem as if society is pushing citizens to harvest the fruits of their efforts through spending and consuming.

This is not surprising. After all, private consumption has been the strongest driver of the OECD’s economies at one time or another. Taking this variable a notch higher could undoubtedly lift declining economic indices.

But just like what was mentioned in this article, it would be senseless to refuse or even condemn private consumption. It would however, be more fruitful to analyze our purpose for spending. This could help us exchange our hard-earned “moolah” on things that honestly make us happy, productive, humane, alive or whatever it is we want to feel, not what the ads or the influencers want us to feel…

If, at this point, your cost-benefit analysis comes out favorable, then I am happy for you. But if you’re in doubt, then I am also happy for that realization.

-The End-

 

*Please, please, please, PLEASE read this solid article from the fantastic Mahar Mangahas:  http://opinion.inquirer.net/55487/do-stock-prices-affect-the-poor

Hidden-nomics (4): Cleopatra

So many legends and anecdotes have enveloped the historical person that is Queen Cleopatra, and I think that what fascinates most of us are the ones that refer to her great beauty and charm– qualities that were able to get the better of not one but TWO mighty conquerors, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.

Just how beautiful was this woman? Her adversaries have referred to the leader as a genuine femme fatale who used seduction as a means of getting her way. This derogatory title, coupled with the Hollywood movies that cast beautiful women to portray her, made it very easy to make people believe that she was indeed goddess-like in appearance.

However, recent evidence shows that she was not as physically attractive as people thought. Images of the late queen imprinted on coins or reliefs show a woman with a prominent nose and a protruding chin. While one could argue that beauty standards might have changed overtime and Cleopatra could have been truly considered beauteous back then, is physical appearance enough to seduce two of the smartest, most strategizing and cunning men of her time?

Some of the more “practical-minded” readers would say to themselves that sexual prowess could’ve been the key. But bear in mind that she was with Julius Ceasar for four years and with Mark Antony for a decade… sexual satisfaction alone wouldn’t have sustained such long-lasting relationships. (Ask around, if you must!)

So, for the sake of fun, imagine for a minute or two that the ancient ruler was more plain-looking than what we have been told… What then could she possibly have possessed to catch the interest of these two powerful men? to make great warriors bend their knees before her?

Could it be the same thing that made her the leader that we know she was?  the thing that made her gain so many enemies who tried to destroy her reputation by calling her of a sl*t?

She must have been a vessel filled with something truly valuable, but at the same time intangible! While that would be what historians and aficionados call “charm”, we economists label as “human capital”. In Cleopatra’s case, a magnificent and high-yielding one.

The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Report defines it as:

the skills and capacities that reside in people and that are put to productive use.  This resource must be invested in and leveraged efficiently in order for it to generate returns.

First of all, when it comes to the initial investment, think about it: as a princess, her health was in the hands of the best doctors, she was well-fed, fiercely protected from the smallest mosquito to other lurking dangers (be it natural or man-made), she was exquisitely clothed and guarded from cold or heat, she was sheltered in palaces and this humble servant would dare bet that she was loved and spoiled by the people who surrounded her. Thus, the physical wellbeing she gained from these attentions have made her strong, less sickly, and have allowed her brain to develop well enough to absorb the many lessons she was taught.

As one would expect, her formation and training was certainly top-level as she was well-educated in maths and sciences. She was also well-versed in politics, spoke several languages and had access to the works of the greatest thinkers, so most probably she was also well-read. All of these experiences in turn must have worked their way into her mind, encouraging her creativity.

Accordingly, when it comes to the returns on these investments,  BBC History mentions that “she was a highly intelligent woman and an astute politician, who brought prosperity and peace to a country that was bankrupt and split by civil war.” These are impressive returns for a thriving society!

Lastly, as human capital is also comprised of personality attributes, it must be mentioned that many Egyptologists agree on her having been a witty woman with a good sense of humor. Add to that the strong personality of anybody belonging to her social and economic class and you have the perfect ingredients for a woman who could easily disarm you after 2 minutes of meeting her. I rest my case.

Cleopatra might have or might not have looked like Angelina Jolie, but as looks are subjective (aside from the fact that they fade), we could be sure that she offered more than just a pretty face.

As for being a man-eating, seducing and devious tramp? nothing but venomous words from someone envious. Perhaps a man.