We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Monday, November 24. 2014
Sunday, November 23. 2014
You all know this already, but I just wanted to jot it down -
In the US, government has grown in importance as it has grown in power, in firepower, and in money. There was a time when nobody really cared about the federal government because it had no impact on daily life.
The Civil War, the Progressive Era of Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt, etc. changed all that. Government changed the culture. Over 100 years, government trained the masses to think "government should do something" whenever life presents them with obstacles, challenges, heartaches, bad luck, and expenses.
To win votes and to enjoy power, government decided to turn citizens into neo-serfs and to cement the impulse to turn to government instead of to God, to their own ingenuity, to family, to neighbor, etc. This infantilises people, weakens them, takes away their dignity.
Nowadays, everybody has his laundry list what government should do for them in their own interest. It is like a list for Santa. I want governments to do less and less.
Santa, keep your toys.
Thursday, November 6. 2014
How to Lie With Statistics was the first book I was required to read when I was studying for my Master's in Economics. The book wasn't designed to show us how to lie, but to make a point. It's easy to lie with statistics. 100% of the time. 60% of the time, lying works all the time. It's all about positioning. Al Franken cut his teeth by showing how Republicans lied using tricky graphing techniques, then started using his own special brand of lying to continue to hoodwink his constituents.
The book was really designed to get students to think about context. When I present data, I never present just data, I present context. It's not enough to say that Man-Made Global Warming correlates with the reduction in pirate activity. We all know correlation is not causation, the context of why the lack of piracy is causing Global Warming is critical.
I recently posted about why interest rates won't rise. Part of that discussion continued on in the comments section, regarding inflation and savings. Normally, interest rates are slightly higher than inflation (positive real interest rates), and typically fall below the rate of inflation when the economy is in a rut (negative real interest rates, when people spend more than they save, driving up inflation but eventually causing interest rates to rise in order to attract savings). Yet we have not seen a general rise in inflation or interest rates in the last few years. There are many reasons for this, and those reasons are helping to keep real interest rates negative and low. If we knew the truth, we'd probably see more consumers behave differently, and it's likely the Fed couldn't continue engaging its policy of printing more money. But hiding inflation is exceedingly easy to do. Especially if you utilize hedonic adjustments, which is one of many methods used to delude the populace.
Hedonic adjustments can be justifiable. For example, if a regular banana costs $1, but a banana that keeps you full all day and meets your minimum daily health needs is only $5, it would appear the 'cost' of a banana is 400% higher than it should be, if you want to live. However, if it takes 10 regular bananas to match what you can get from 1 $5 banana, then you've actually realized a 50% decrease in price! Hedonics DO make sense,when in the realm of productivity gains for the consumer.
However, as the linked article from Zero Hedge points out, you can use 'enjoyment quality' to make a 400% increase actually appear to be a 7.1% decrease. You get no real additional value out of a 42 inch plasma TV that you didn't get from a 27 inch LCD. But the government can quantify and justify that the price you paid was actually LESS for the big screen plasma, even if it wasn't. Voila! You've saved money by spending more! Looking at the list of areas where hedonic adjustments are applied show a variety of useless of price decreases, simply so the government can imply regularly that you are spending less than you really are. It helps our politicians maintain "the money illusion." This benefits them, allowing them to engage Keynes' famous quote, “Lenin (the founder of the former communist Soviet Union) was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose”.
So yes, technically our inflation rate has been far higher than you realize, and the Fed has been making your savings worth less and less each year. No, it probably won't end well, so enjoy it while you can, and remember to try and find the contextual support for any government data. There usually isn't any.
Tuesday, November 4. 2014
It's not uncommon to hear Fed officials and politicians deny that we are monetizing debt. Technically, we are not. We issue debt, the debt gets purchased, and the Fed (which is essentially a private institution, though it's really a quasi-governmental institution) buys it back. Normally government debt is held by the public, which is why economic analysis of the old "crowding out" problem was so prevalent.
By keeping interest rates low, and repurchasing debt, the appearance of private ownership is maintained, but it is a roundabout method of monetizing debt. Allowing rates to rise to any meaningful degree will have severe negative impacts, in the short term. Since we are in a politically driven economy, this cannot be allowed to occur, so interest rates must remain artificially low.
Of course, the long term ramifications of monetizing debt are inflation (followed by deflation) and severe misallocation of economic resources. In other words, bankruptcies, unemployment and a financial morass. Not to mention the end of an expectation of comfortable retirement (how can you retire on a fixed income if interest rates are below 1%?).
Don't expect interest rates to move up any time soon, and don't expect any reporting of realistic inflation. Just vote for the guy/gal who will shovel the most tax money toward you.
Sunday, November 2. 2014
Saturday, October 25. 2014
Thursday, October 23. 2014
Does Everybody Want Freedom? Most do, even those who appear to enjoy slavery.
My experience in life has taught me that many or most people would accept some form of feudalism in exchange for safety and security for themselves and their families. Serfdom, if you will.
Caught as most of us are between a job and the government, it's all still basically feudal is it not? Not what the American founders had in mind.
Tuesday, October 21. 2014
America's founders never promised us a rose garden. Quite the opposite. They offered, to the world, a novel and very difficult life breathing the air of freedom and independence from government and any other powers.
Adventurous people from all over the world have been attracted to the ideas of dangerous freedom, opportunity, risk, insecurity, and self-reliance.
Those things bring out the best in people.
You all know all of this. In my view, if you want anything from the federal government other than legal justice and protection from invading powers, you lack the vibrant American spirit and perhaps might prefer to live elsewhere, where a more feudal state plays a more parental, controlling role. It's a big world out there and the American idea is not/was not for everybody.
American people do not have delimited rights. American governments have delimited powers. That was the idea and the ideal, anyway.
Freedom or rights for stuff rather than from stuff? It sickens my soul. Quit helping us, please. Our ancestors did not come here for help other than help from God and maybe from our neighbor if we had one. They struggled and endured freedom, and so should we all. "Gimme" is not American: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Gimmedat:
Wednesday, October 15. 2014
Sunday, October 12. 2014
Statistically probably close, but a lot of unmarried people are likely either not interested, or are not desirable "marriage material." And sex material and marriage material are not the same things. Duh. Ref: Human History 101.
Here's some poverty data.
Poverty stats in the US do not take into account governmental or charitable benefits, both of which are huge and widely available to those who want them. The semi-voluntary poor, of course (eg grad students, recent grads, Maine Guides, new immigrants, beginning entrepreneurs, people who chose their own lifestyles to pursue happiness, hippies, starving artists, ski bums, people who choose the dole as a life style, etc) are not isolated from the stats so the stats seem meaningless to me. (Not to mention the pitiful people who work the system, game the system, etc. for a few extra bucks from the workingman's pocket.)
Few would refuse a gift of wealth obtained honorably, but I do not think pursuit of wealth is a major driver in American life, or in human life in general. Fortunately, and to the benefit of the rest of us, wealth is a driver for some highly talented people with commercial abilities (eg Derek Jeter, John D. Rockefeller, Jeff Bezos, Henry Ford, Steven Spielberg, Bob Dylan, JP Morgan, George Washington, Warren Buffet, etc etc etc).
29 Uncomfortable Myths About Soaring Poverty In America:
"Poverty" is a political concept. Many people want free goodies if they are available, but sacrifice a bit of their precious human dignity in the process. As SDA always asks, "Why is there always a wide-screen TV?"
A real working man has every reason for pride in his work, regardless of wealth. Not sure what Bob was thinking with this weary but hopeful lullabye. Probably some part of himself. Try to ignore the images.
Friday, October 10. 2014
Wednesday, October 1. 2014
The author, Eduardo Porto, makes the claim "Elected governments are certainly imperfect. But to address our most intractable ills, they are the better tool." I wonder if this is something he'd have written if Bush were in the White House? Doubtful. More importantly, it's worth noting 'government as a tool to fix ills' is a common Progressive claim. It's also one which is completely misguided since it relies on having 'the right people' in office. If the wrong person or people are in charge, Progressives (and Conservatives) who believe government is a 'good' claim "government is broken" or "the wrong people are in charge." The first claim is most likely true regardless of who is in office. But if these claims are true, does government suddenly get fixed when the 'right' people are in charge? Certainly not!
If your system of righting perceived ills requires having 'the right people in charge', you have devised an awful system of governance. It's unlikely the right people can ever be in charge.
What really galls is his belief that an imperfect elected government is the best resource for fixing any perceived ills. Porto seems to have no problem with the 'right' politicians getting wealthy as long as they strike a stance which he support - opposition to businessmen getting wealthy because they provide consumers with beneficial products. It's easy to ignore that, for the last 6 years, with people I'm sure he considers 'right' being in place, Porto's perceived societal ills caused by business have gotten worse. After 6 years of His Wonderfulness being in charge, this journalist is still writing diatribes about how awful things are, or how awful they are becoming. Why has he not stopped to consider the complete and utter uselessness of our Empty-Suit-In-Chief? The 'fix' he voted for has failed him miserably, and he is miserable because he knows it, so he's complaining that the 'fix' was improperly applied. In fact, it was applied properly and it's just plain unworkable. Government is an ineffective method of generating social change, regardless of the 'right people'.
Continue reading "Capitalists are Socially Aware"
Sunday, September 28. 2014
Friday, September 26. 2014
I am more from the William F. Buckley Jr school:
The regulation-maniacs assume, of course, that we common folk have no sense, no information, and few morals, and constantly need their guidance, rules, and laws. Most of them, I suspect, have minimal contact with us regular folks.
How foolish and depraved are people anyway? We are told that we are an irrational tangle of biases, to be nudged any which way. Does this claim stand to reason?
It's an interesting article. I have always figured that humans are partly and sometimes rational and practical, often emotional, frequently uninformed or misinformed, etc. etc. I feel the same way about the regulators who seem to me to be irrationally obsessed with the idea of controlling others to try to make the world fit their fantasies. I'm sure Psychiatry has a term for that tendency. After all those who like to regulate are heir to the same human foibles and temptations as everybody else. Just more grandiose in their self-esteem and less humble and self-doubting.
Sunstein seems, currently, to be preoccupied by digital regulation.
I wish people like him would worry more about their own lives, and leave me alone.
Saturday, September 6. 2014
Thursday, August 14. 2014
Sunday, August 10. 2014
Comment on the above from Williamson (who is on a roll these days): The Man Who Wouldn’t Be King -Rand Paul becomes an object of liberal curiosity.
Sunday, July 27. 2014
They liked JFK, probably because he was Catholic (in name, anyway). They still refuse to hear anything about what decadent, manipulative and predatory sleazes that family consists of. Glamour. Rich. Sexy. Low-lifes. Catholic. Dem Party.
Friday, July 25. 2014
The American founders knew that government needed a short leash. So much for that plan.
This essay by Williamson is almost too good to post on a summer Friday afternoon: Property and Peace - The irreplaceable basis for a prosperous and decent society is property. One quote:
Tuesday, July 22. 2014
Sunday, July 20. 2014
Friday, July 18. 2014
Some good history and some good thinking about the modern (and ancient) administrative state with its extra-legal powers. I have no doubt that the founders hoped to prevent a Versailles-like giant central bureaucracy, but they failed at that. Why? They wrote all they could to prevent it.
Very enjoyable interview with law Prof. Philip Hamburger. I know you probably hate podcasts as much as I do, but this is a goodie which will make you think.
The USA Progressives borrowed our public school structures, and developed our central governmental administration, from the Prussian models. As Hamburger says, "as American as Bismarck."
"There is always a 'necessity' for increasing government administrative power."
Friday, July 11. 2014
Tuesday, July 8. 2014
I mostly agree, and tend to feel that the Fed should not exist, but investment bubbles have always existed. Isaac Newton lost his entire fortune in a stock bubble, foolishly. Human nature. Hope, greed, fear, etc.
This interview with David Stockman is enlightening: David Stockman Interview: Rise Of The Warfare State, Monetary Central Planning And The Myths Of New Deal Recovery
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