Retrenchment Ditty

Economic history poems/songs interest me. Less for their poetic charm and more for their contemporary relevance. Apart from the areas of love and hate (where poems do a good job of expressing emotion), I think they serve as a great medium for communicating history…especially economic and financial folly.

Here’s a 1929 song by the then popular geisha-style singer, Fumikichi-san. The song reflected the then state of the Japanese economy which teetered on the brink of implosion brought on by a period of increasing debt, deflation, declining returns on capital and a balance of payment crisis. The words ring true for many economies today. The big lesson from history is that while circumstances and regimes change over time, there’s an element of temporal neutrality to man-made economic problems.

Greece, US, UK et al, are you listening?

“Retrenchment Ditty”

Even the blooming flower must close,
isn’t it so?
Now it’s time to close the open purse
that’s right, absolutely.

It’s the time, it’s the season,
all together, hand in hand. Yes!
let’s retrench, let’s retrench.

You don’t have to worry about other
people’s money, isn’t it so?
But the borrowed five billion (present day: this is several billion)
must be repaid by all together
that’s right, absolutely.

Tie on your headband,
gird up your sleeves, isn’t it so?
Drive away the god of poverty and recession
that is cursing Japan (present day: several countries serve as effective replacements)
that’s right, absolutely.

You give up your salt, I’ll give up my tea
isn’t it so?
Lifting the gold embargo (present day: replace the ‘gold embargo’ with ‘euro’)
that’s right, absolutely.
until the joyful lifting of the embargo.

Source: Mark Metzler, Lever of Empire


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