NEGOTIATE UNTIL I RETURN
I still remember that when, years ago, I read the Holy Gospel from time to time, the imperative sentence of the Master to his administrators especially caught my eye: ”Negotiate until I return.» Or the same thing: do not fall asleep in common passivity; work intelligently and without absurd haste; make the most of your material and immaterial talents; get a move on; make the most of what you have and what you have received; put everything, with honesty, to the service of the best; give and you will receive.
An important economist of our 20th century, Shackle, who made significant contributions to the theory of decision and to the concept of uncertainty, explained this with these words: “The economic is that which refers to business. This answer, generously interpreted, really covers everything. We should understand that the expression «business» includes the housewife planning her domestic budget trying to obtain the most from any given expense; he who earns his living looking for the particular type of employment in which his aptitudes will be more valuable for the community and therefore better remunerated; the businessman, in the most common and restricted sense who tries to invent or discover and produce, in as cheap a form as possible, something that pleases and satisfies the public so that it gives him utility; and even the government that, regrettably as some of us think, has been assuming more and more consumer as well as managerial functions.»
I also remember the Master’s severe ticking off for he who it occurred to avariciously bury the talent in the earth without putting it in a super bank account of the time to at least receive the corresponding interest. For that reason I have never understood certain attitudes of clergymen for centuries regarding the helpfulness of trade, business and interest rates. The School of Salamanca had to put things in order until, definitively, Bhöm Bawerk clarified things in his book Capital and Interest.
These reflections are written soon after my father’s death the past December 20th. They are of use as a posthumous homage to one of so many thousands, millions, of citizens that, with their daily work and without advertising pomp and ceremony, have been the authentic anonymous main characters of the progressive economic and political transition in Spain over the last 35 years. I do not know what would happen to our generation if it were to lose the vigorous disposition of work well done and the venturesome and mutually binding spirit of our parents.
He springs to my mind: his non-speculative managerial spirit; his loyalty in contracts: the handshake was not necessary, his word was enough. I remember his countable rigour that tried to reflect in practice that which is so easy and difficult which is the faithful and wise image; his precision in concrete details: he wanted everything balanced down to the last cent and was conscious that a mismatch of a peseta could represent an error of millions that were compensated to debit and credit. He knew how to listen: he meditated and reflected on what he heard and, days later without wasting time, he made the decision that he considered correct. He was not afraid of risk but did not try to achieve the impossible. Quality and solvency concerned him, for that reason he always repaid and expected more than normal; he made many mistakes like all of us, but he knew how to lose with certain dominion. If he asked a question or requested some information, and the speaker began the sentence with an «I believe that», the cutting answer was immediate: “I believe is useless to me”, it was necessary to be sure. Although he worked in the market growing sector, especially in the trade of oranges and clementines, I am sure his managerial exemplariness would have produced the same effect with any other product or service.
He negotiated well. The Master has returned and I suppose that he will have congratulated my father on his administration. Together with a life filled with bitter grievances he had given him hundred for one already here below. Now he will also have given him Life where there is no longer economy because time and future disappears, where there is no longer shortage but fullness of eternal present. Nor is it a bad business. He will also continue living here in his children and in their works.
The only thing I have left to do is thank everyone beforehand that, amid the habitual upset, haphazardly makes a simple oration for him. Any unknown place of these godforsaken spots that he has stopped passing through is good to direct a personal wink towards the sublime; or towards the depths of our being.
JJ Franch Meneu