Magazine article The Spectator

Drink an Economist's Glasses

Magazine article The Spectator

Drink an Economist's Glasses

Article excerpt

My friend Mitch F eierstein is a jolly, cheerful, life - enhancing fellow. He is emphatically not one of those economists whose purse - lipped response to any new phenomenon is 'no good will come of this' and who have predicted six of the past two recessions. But he is a profound pessimist.

I n a book he published last year, Planet Ponzi, he devotes page after relentless page to the troubles of the world economy. He depicts the West as a ship without engine or rudder, adrift on a sea of bad debt, worse paper and wholly unrealistic expectations.

I t is even gloomier than the voyage of the Ancient Mariner. He at least found redemption.

There may be only one way out.

Perhaps a global 'bad bank' could corral all the valueless paper and gradually write it away, without producing hyperinflation and destroying the few surviving moral underpinnings of the international financial system. Perhaps.

I n the short run, like the Russian grand duke, Mitch believes that between the revolution and the firing squad, there is always time for a bottle of champagne.

I n a dog Latin paraphrase, e pessimus vinum. Mitch has invested in Tuscan vineyards, around Borgo la Casaccia.

Vinous Tuscany resembles Burgundy, in that the arts and crafts of viticulture have been practised there for millennia. Ancient churches are often numinous, as if the stones were infused with centuries of prayer.

Ancient vineyards have a similar quality, as if the earth and the vines are also infused, with the graces of long civilisation.

Tuscan hill villages share in all that. There is a delicious sense that the pace of life has accommodated itself to the seasons of the grape. You go into one, intending to transact some business with the avvocato. He is not in his office, so you decide to call on the dottore. He is not there either, so suspicion turns into certainty. …

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