Story 3a - Here Begins a New World.
"France killed its giant Super Phoenix fast breeder reactor, did you know that?" she asked.
She said this sadly as if someone of her own family had died. In a sense this was true.
"The Phoenix had been the most advanced industrial breeder reactor facility in the world, and by far the largest," she added.
"Couldn't you go back into teaching?" I asked her. "I mean, someone with your experience...."
"Teach, whom?" she interrupted me. "Who wants to take courses in advanced nuclear physics when the world's nuclear industry is being shut down, bit by bit? Whom would I teach, Pete? Should I even encourage people to enter this field when the only development in nuclear physics that is still going on, is for nuclear weapons?"
She said that there was nothing moving on the entire front of advanced scientific research which she had devoted her life to. Out of sheer desperation she applied for a desk job at a brokerage firm. She said she couldn't stand it there for more than a month.
I replied that I thought the brokerage business had been paying excellent salaries.
"Pete, they paid more than the university had paid. Money wasn't the problem in this case," she added. "The whole business stank. I couldn't stand that. Still, it was an eye opener, I must admit that much."
"An eye opener, Erica?"
"Well, a sort of."
She told me that every time she flew into Chicago she would come across a literature table of the LaRouche organization at the O'Hare Airport. She would find posters displayed that warned of the impending world-financial collapse. She said that their fight had started twenty years ago, and that she had laughed at them, then. She told me that they were still warning people the last time she came through Chicago, only then, she wasn't laughing anymore. She explained that she finally figured out why they had been right all along, because they had seen and experienced what she was finally forced to recognize herself while she was working at the brokerage firm.
"People kept buying the same stuff over and over at constantly higher prices. It was sad see this. It was also tragically comical, because the people simply couldn't recognize what they were doing." she said. She told me that she would illustrate what she saw.
She asked me to imagine that I had bought a thousand dollars worth of shares of some manufacturing enterprise in 1965. She began to write things down onto the coffee shop napkin, to illustrate as though she was still teaching at the university.
Then she asked me to consider that since 1965 the productive physical economy had collapsed at a rate of 2-5% per year, which adds up to 50% since that time to the point
she entered the brokerage business. She said that this regression should have been reflected in an equal regression in the value of the stocks. My thousand dollar portfolio should then have depreciated to the corresponding value of five-hundred dollars. She said bluntly that this never happened.
"People couldn't see the reality before their eyes," she said. "The financial markets were totally decoupled from the physical reality. The stock prices were driven up by speculation to the point that my $500 portfolio
could have been sold for $20,000 or more, while the real value was still only $500 and was constantly declining along with the productive physical economy."
She told me that she had wondered how long it might take until a child would ask: daddy, why doesn't the Emperor wear no clothes? Daddy, why do you pay $20,000 for something that is worth only $500?