Of Starveback Loops, Economic Disaster Explained In Gumbian Rhyme, And FitOldDog’s Lemonade Stands


Gumby enjoying great coffee at Johnny's in Carrboro

Gumby enjoying great coffee at Johnny’s in Carrboro

Question from FitOldDog to Gumby:

“Is our economy, like every biological system, at the mercy of the underlying feedback (starveback) loops, or can we create something better, that possesses a modicum of stability, with these overdeveloped neocortices of ours?”

Response from Gumby (aka Andrew) to FitOldDog:

Everything's Broke The Economic Plunder & Blunder That Put Us All Under

This delightful little illustrated book of rhyme provides a clear explanation of the recent economic debacle, and why we are struggling to make it, and it is in a form that anyone can enjoy and comprehend.

“Supercharged short-term decision-making by consumers and investors are driving us towards enormous, centralized institutions. These same decision-makers then wonder why their wages aren’t growing and their communities have no character.

Corporations are generally in the business of internalizing profit and externalizing cost. Pollution is one example of costs corporations don’t pay for, and lost “social capital” at the local level is another.

If corporations could be made to pay for the costs they impose on our communities, that might limit them to the roles we want them to play, and allow a healthy ecosystem of local businesses to flourish.”

Hi folks,

Triathlete bumper sticker

Triathlete bumper sticker spotted in Chapel Hill NC USA of which FitOldDog approves.

It’s only too easy to throw one’s arms up in horror at the injustice in the world, but an even better approach is to try to do something. The beauty of my lemonade stand #1, our little grocery store, coffee shop and neighborhood hangout, Chez Ollie, is that you get to actually meet your neighbors. For instance, I was in there the other day and was introduced to Gumby (aka Andrew), and for some reason we got around to discussing Economics. Gumby hadn’t thrown up his hands in horror, he’d done something about it by writing an insightful little book on the recent economic setbacks that we have been dealing with, what I like to call the ‘Mortgage Backed Securities Insanity.’ I’ve seen some of those mortgages, they really are crazy (100% loan, only interest payment, inadequate or zero income checks, and so forth – what were they thinking? A quick sleazy buck!). So I bought Gumby’s little book and read it from cover to cover in one sitting.

Page 40 of Gumby's Book

Page 40 of Gumby’s Book, ‘Everything’s Broke.’ Click image for full screen view.

Gumby’s succinct, rhyming, and beautifully illustrated book on the recent economic crisis is digestible and insightful for people from 10 to 100 – when did you last read a book on economics from cover to cover in one sitting AND enjoy it?

This book leads finally towards the Occupy Movement, and it complements an idea I’ve had for a while, the encouragement of ‘retired people’ with large 401k accounts to take a small percentage of their portfolio out of the hands of brokers and into the hands and minds of local entrepreneurs, business people, artists and so forth to build community locally. The beauty of this solution is that you will actually get to see the results of your investments first-hand, as I do at Johnny’s, where my real benefit is to interact directly with great people, like Gumby. I talked about this idea on a previous post about putting Americans back to work.

Page 41 of Gumby's book 'Everything's Broke'

Page 41 of Gumby’s book ‘Everything’s Broke. Click image for full screen view.

My lemonade stand #2, Old Dogs in Training LLC, is online in the form of products I market from my blogsite, Athlete with Stent. Here I am taking what I learned and gained from ‘big industry’ to help develop a system of safe exercise for better health to assist people with health challenges, such as mine (abdominal aortic aneurysm), to stay fit and have a great life. In Gumby’s little book, the ‘Lemonade Stand Guy’ goes to the wall, being destroyed by big business, the very people who provided me with the resources that I am using today.

The Biosphere from WikiPedia

The Biosphere from WikiPedia – click figure for link to narrative.

The real trick will be to find the key variables in the complex network of our economy that can be used to throttle the ‘predator-prey’ equations (millions of them, all interacting) in such a way that the foxes (or cats) don’t become so fat that they eat all the rabbits (or mice), and then the foxes (or cats) die too. It’s up to us humans to find a way, and in my opinion only network thinking will lead to a solution (if there is one?). Remember, we are what we are, aggressive primates whose genes and memes survived through a ruthless system of eat or be eaten – that beautiful Biosphere.

Matt and his giant portable shredder

Would you invest in Matt and his giant shredder, which is into recycling, but will it last as cybraries and Nooks take over? Matt was friendly and happy to be on my blog. I hope that he is thinking about where this business might be going long-term.

Here are some of my proposed solutions, having noticed during my lifetime that communism and fascism don’t work too well.

  1. Each of us work locally to create jobs in our community (Gumby’s book encourages local efforts, too) by thinking about where we are investing our time and money, and to whom we might be outsourcing our decision-making, and whether we really trust them – I don’t.
  2. Each of us try to think globally, in an attempt to find an ethical way (what a can of worms that word can be) to reduce the number of humans to a workable number, and develop Nirvana for the remainder  (not likely).
  3. Move from myth to reality, talk to each other, and try to work out what the hell to do – this will take some time.
  4. Focus our attention of outer space, because the human race, like all biological systems, is either growing or shrinking, however, science fiction tells us that that will only lead to an even bigger predator-prey system.
  5. Understand the human network and all of its links to the Biosphere (all living organisms) and Chemosphere (the rocks and stuff), find the key regulators (e.g. we all go barefoot or never eat dairy products or whatever), mathematically model what tweaking them might do, find the good ones, tweak them, hold our breath and hope for the best.
  6. Protest, but to whom and about what, as ‘they’ don’t know what to do, or care in most cases, anymore than we do.

    The Rainbow and the Worm, The Physics of Organisms

    The Rainbow and the Worm, The Physics of Organisms, a great little book about dancing in sunshine fighting entropy which provided me with an important insight into Biology – energy can be stored usefully and in a big way as ordered structure (that’s what I remember, anyway, after reading it years ago).

  7. Dance in the sunshine, fighting entropy as best you can for as long as you can.


For now I’ve chosen options #1 and #7, as they seem like the most fun.

Thanks for a great little book, Gumby. It should be a ‘must read’ in communication courses, I think, because the few economics books I tackled were boring and pompous.

OH! YES! Don’t forget to stay in shape! So what has this got to do with safe exercise for better health and the issue of health challenges, including aortic aneurysms? Everything! We are each part of the network, my friends, and a good athlete is ethically sound, aware of the impact of his/her sport on those around them, and living a balanced, constructive life with an eye to the whole system, which means both the Biosphere and the Chemosphere, upon which we all depend.

I guess Gumby got me to thinking, so I went on a bit!

-k @FitOldDog



  1. Love to read that book. Send a copy.
    I, however, have read many economics texts straight through at one sitting.
    Economics is important, too important to be left to economists.
    Sadly, we do not have any obvious Adam Smith’s in our generation that I have found to date.
    The problem with economic predators is the size of their teeth and their taste for blood. When threatened or facing starvation they are real nasty.
    The think globally lobby are okay but they do sermonise so. In fact they sermonise to the point that they turn most folk off and many folk against them.
    For example, if you question global warming there is no debate just labelling. You find yourself labelled a Global Warming DENIER. Nasty way to avoid real debate and real progress that. Makes those labelled out to be a sort of kamp komandant and thus labelled they can be ignored at best or beaten up or worse.
    This whole area of economic crises is enormous and important, important for our grandchildren.
    Speaking of grandchildren, I am off to Auistralia tomorrow to visit my frist granddaughter (we have two greansons) so economic debate can wait.
    Send they book I will pay for it.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.