The Knitting Fund

“Not all Germans are bad,” mused Elek Urbán, one-time foreign minister of the Human and Animal Kingdom of Hungary. He and his son László were having a drink and a smoke in the Golden Bustard Beerhouse with Nat Eb.

“You do get the odd bad egg. Like that execrable Kommandant Wiedeking who led the Battle of Automobile Manufactures which set back the cause of ecological harmony by five years[1]. And of course the reptilian anthracophages which ran the power sector there.

“But look at your friend Doppelganger-Fisch,” he said turning to Nat Eb. “By sheer serendipity he discovered the knitting needle[2]. To think of the paradigm-shift financial innovation it led to!”

He was referring to the Knitting Fund.

“The Knitting Fund,” Urbán explained, “was launched when it became clear that emissions trading would not be the panacea many had hoped. Emissions trading quickly eliminated the most egregious cases of greenhouse gas emissions – from fertiliser plants and chip factories to leaky landfill sites. But once it hit the brick wall of lifestyle it tripped up over its own feet.

“The trouble is that emission trading became such a successful business, that it triggered tremendous waves of economic growth around the world. Everyone from Cambodian farmers to Wall Street speculators had more and more cash to spend. And more and more cash meant more and more economic growth. And try as they might, economic growth meant emissions. They just stuck at a level – every new emissions reductions project pushed them down a smidgen, every new private jet (50% ecokerosene™) cranked them up again.

“We were hamsters in a wheel. We could not break out of the economic growth cycle. The right to consume was the treasured prize of success, and each new symbol of success caused ever more emissions of CO2. Since the measure of success was the ability to differentiate oneself from the rest, as others caught us up, we were forced to chase higher and higher peaks. And success was democratised across billions of people, emissions ballooned, however clean our tech was. Moreover, we were completely hoodwinked by greedy politicians who used the growth mantra as their passport to wealth.” Urbán paused for breath.

“The Knitting Fund was the first real breakthrough to help us out of this cycle.

“It happened like this. In the first decade of this century, following Doppelganger-Fisch’s discovery, knitting became quite popular among Hollywood stars.”

Hollywood?” asked Urbán junior.

“In what was known as America before the second great flood and that whole episode of Gore’s Ark. They produced a kind of electronical theatre there. From Hollywood to Wall Street was a stone’s throw in those days. A small group of wealthy Hungarian émigré financiers, who realised that economic growth could not go on for ever, began to make payments to people to just take it easy and sit at home and knit for themselves. There were no credits involved. No measuring or verification. It was all done on trust and word of mouth. And the sheer power of persuasion. It is said that they spent a fortune on advertising media.

“The Fund became more and more successful. Demand for its product grew. From knitting to gardening. From gardening to bicycling. From bicycling to … yes … home cooking. Can you believe it? In those days people had forgotten the simple pleasure of cooking at home.

“In the end, the Fund was so successful that people stopped demanding payments from it. They were so much happier knitting and cooking and gardening and thoughtfully watching the seasons pass and reading and writing and mending things, that they waived their monthly payments. What, after all would they spend the money on?”

“But Dad, that sounds like a fairy tale. It can’t really be true. How did the Fund make money, just paying people to live quietly?”

“There is indeed much academic debate about this … It is said that they made complex leveraged bets on wool futures, employment indices, fuel consumption, sales of gardening equipment and bicycle inner tubes, and so forth. But, to be honest, no-one really knows. Perhaps they never made any money at all. Remember, they started out very rich.”

“But Doppelganger-Fisch was Swiss, not German,” said Eb returning to the fray.

“Which proves my point,” replied Urbán, ever the diplomat.

[1] See “The dangers of emission standards”, The Bustard, 31st January 2007

[2] See “Greentech corner”, The Bustard, The Bustard, 19th May 2007

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