The Wisdom of Disaster

Maybe they do know what they're doing in Washington...


All this time, I thought, all this time! It's so simple, and they can't understand. How can they be so masked and taped blind, there in Washington? I'm working on biplane engines in the Arizona desert, I don't get reports except what anybody can read in headlines through newsrack windows—I know what's going on in the economy, I know what's going to happen in this country, and they just fumple around there and build card-houses from dollar bills that are crumbling, falling, last-winter leaves. The only thing stable in world trade today is gold, but in Washington they sell our gold away. Last-winter dollar leaves, worth-little dead things, they print more of to make worth less.

Me and the other mechanics and mechanelles, workfolk and playfolk and businessfolk and will-o'-wisp America, it's crystal certain to us they're destroying the nation we called the United States and they don't know what they're doing.

But Thursday last, greasing a rocker-box on a five-cylinder Kinner engine, I was stunned to stars, not even thinking about inflation or the wrack of the country, just slapping grease on rocker arms, when I got this telepathic…I'll bet your dime-that-used-to-be-a-dollar it is listed Extreme Crit Top Secret Single-Copy President's Safe Only…you know what? They are destroying the economy of the United States, all right, but they know exactly what they're doing! They've known it all along, since Lyndon Johnson's time; and before much longer you and I are going to hallow their living memories and plant their names in flowers and pat with love our spaceship planet because the crisis is gone and we're going to fly forever.

Shelves of books explain why we're heading for the biggest depression in the history of the world, and it's past arguing: throw money around the way our government has thrown it, even before Vietnam, and you dance with destruction—throw it the way they did in the war and since, and you are openly begging to be destroyed. No government inflates unless somehow it wants to crush itself to powder under the wheel of history.

The date that will last, I think, will be the date that President Nixon closed the gold window, made the dollar officially worth only rainbow words in international trade. Billions will celebrate that day, mark me, and Mr. Nixon will be seen at last as our dear-beloved saint of peace.

I am not gone mad on hot rocker-grease. Let me write the scene that will happen, all in a paragraph, and then you may snip that paragraph, press it under coffee-table glass to read a year from now in delighted wonder.

We are right quick going to have our world's greatest depression, stock market down to 200 Dow-Jones, unenlightened folk jumping out of windows and so on…it will look bad for three or four days. End of four days, the Japanese and the Swiss buy up all the American banks. A bank can no more hang CLOSED FOREVER on its front door than Sumitomo and Credit Suisse appear with friendly smile and impossible generous offer, cash. The banks get saved. End of five days, the Germans are buying our automobile factories, the Poles and Chinese our heavy-industry plants, British and French the aircraft companies, Russians the electronics and communications, Arabs the oil fields, Southeast Asians the farms and casinos…goes on like that. The Dow-Jones is swept up in flash-flood money, and everybody else across the world owns America.

Arms race? Missiles? Neutron bombs? Threats of superwars? Nope. Junked. Useless. You think the Russians and the Chinese and the Vietnamese are going to bomb their own glamour-stocks? They going to shoot neutrons all over their own Iowa cornfields, gamma-ray their California riceland, the million-acre properties they've just spent billions to possess? They going to roll down from the sky to attack their own tourists at Disney World, burn the Politburo's Long Island summer-cottages?

Not, as we mechanics say, very likely. Week after that, we take all the money they've invested to own us and we go buy our summer houses on the Black Sea, and finally comes the day we can't recall what China was like before Colonel Sanders raised that first modest awning in Peking.

The money the world doesn't spend on bombers, we spend on airlines; our missile-billions we spend on space-cities instead, and we got so many adventures to build we can't walk for the clutter of help-wanted signs, and we're answering ads for hands needed at the Earth Colony south of Syrtis Major, Mars. Not the American Colony, mind; not the Russian Colony; not the Chinese—the Earth Colony.

All this time…Those aren't blind clods in Washington. Somebody farsighted had to take the step that the United States is taking now; one brave superpower had to take a deep breath and deliberately wreck its economy in order that all the others could buy in through DEWlines and iron curtains and nation-boundaries that would have had us gnashing at each other till the world blew up. Hurray for us, our elected Congresses, our presidents! God bless you, Richard Nixon!

Richard Bach is the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, A Gift of Wings, and Illusions.