Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Is this Peak George Will?

So, this column makes me feel a little bit like I'm stuck in an absurdist sketch.

GW: When some people are living hand to mouth, we all do better.

VS: Well, except those living hand-to-mouth.

GW: But they get a raise when they shop at Walmart!

VS: With food stamps, that they hand over to employees who also qualify for food stamps.

GW: Low wages lower prices for all consumers.

VS: But wages obviously can go so low that one can't buy anything at all, no matter how cheap.

GW: Wealthy people know best how to spend their money wisely.

VS: Well, sure--they have more practice at it! But low-paid employees are stuck making hard choices about food and rent and the light bill, and have to sometimes do stupid things because life. Wealthy people have more money, so less of their choices look stupid.

GW: I found someone who said understanding economics is easy.

VS: Then explain to me why Republicans try to balance budgets with tax cuts, and why stagnating wages should result in consumer confidence, you olefin-fiber-domed smarmy blaggard!

GW: I rest my case.

VS: MY case never ends.



Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, I imagine George Will's feelings will be hurt, but I'm sure he'll get over it.

The question is not how you and I feel about it; the question is whether Milton Friedman is right, or John Kenneth Galbraith is right. What we want are economic policies that are best for individuals and society. We need to have as much taxation as is necessary to fund legitimate requirements of government, including the Pentagon and an adequate safety net.

On this I'm sure we would agree. The question is how much, if any, government should supply after our moral obligation for assistance has been concluded. If taxation continues beyond a point, then lifeblood is sucked from the private sector into the government sector, and the host organism begins to diminish and die. For example, when Social Security started, a system I like, dozens of citizens funded the retirement for one recipient. Now it's down to something like 2 or 3 people funding my retirement. I am no longer working, but you are getting up every morning to pay for my exciting lifestyle. You need to have enough taxes, but not too much, and this has been demonstrated.

I mention that my return to lodge responsibilities has cut into my free time. And I now have to give the lodge brother a vacation who took over while I was preoccupied with physical therapy. I'm sure that you are aware that before certain rituals there are requirements of chastity and fasting. What you may not know is that today non-work related computer activities and television are also restricted. The rules of conduct preceding various rituals in the past were formulated before the computer era and the TV era, but now that we have those available, everyone has to back away. This has proved to be a very good policy.

Incidentally, we had an interesting conversation going a while back that I was not able to get back to. So I simply want to say that the counter-initiation is not the apocalypse. The counter-initiation is one of the requirements that has to take place before the Kali Yuga can wind down to its apocalyptic scenario. Then, of course, everything starts over again with the Satya Yuga, a virtual experience of paradise compared to the yuga we are presently in. In Semitic religions this is addressed with metaphors of the lion lying down with the lamb, and times of milk and honey.

There is nothing that anyone can do to stop these events by trying to improve society or to make government work differently: not that those are bad things. The manvantara is our fate; the responsibility lies with the Ruach Elohim. I realize that this raises more questions than it answers. But just as the ordering of the celestial galaxies far beyond the Milky Way is out of our hands, so are the great cosmic cycles that govern destiny.

If there is any good news about this, it is that it's possible for humans to escape the cycles by enlightenment. As Buddha called us to do, we attempt to live joyfully among the sorrows of the world. And try to turn away from materialism. And by encouraging rather than diminishing a sense of the Sacred.

mikey said...

And this is a powerful demonstration of the problems created by mythology in the public square. I think this is a bunch of silly gibberish. You don't care what I think, and you shouldn't. You can form your beliefs just as I can, and neither of us will come to be convinced that we are 'wrong'.

The problem arises when someone holds a specific set of mythological beliefs that guide his or her actions while simultaneously holding a policymaking position. If that person believed "There is nothing that anyone can do to stop these events by trying to improve society or to make government work differently", that would not be a good thing for that person's community.

Mythology becomes harmful when coupled with power - economic, political, military. Then, even if the beliefs themselves are not forced upon the community a la theocracy, the decisions that affect the community are informed and influenced to a large degree by the mythological doctrines.

Vixen Strangely said...

The weirdest interest I have is economics as a poet--it's what messed up Ezra Pound, after all. I think the argument is Friedman vs Galbraith, but Hayek vs Keynes, with the funny old thing being, they are both right.

(Rendered in a style I am liable to understand: )

Economics isn't for idealists or ideologues, and it isn't simple. It's the actual core of real politics. The simplest rendering of "politics" is "who gets what". It would great with me if we got our flow reversed, and really listened to Hayek in the boom and Keynes in the bust. What Hayek has to say about bubbles and recklessness, and the idea that austerity and prudence is necessary so as not to lose the value of capital is just wise.

Keynes' POV isn't even that particularly liberal--it amounts to: The bigger the player the stronger the game. But the problem with that in a massively deregulated economy is that corporate players grow big enough to create imbalance.

In fact, one could even consider Hayek the real "liberal" in the sense that he considered government regulation an unnecessary brake upon the right of the employer to discriminate--about which, see my latest re: Indiana. He has a point about the individual's right to do that which he or she finds to be the most profitable--the business risk is always whether that person's judgment is proved out by their business reconciliation. Sometimes their experiment bellies up.

For me, regardless of the era one lives in, it seems like one's ethics has to be centered in the assumption that life will go on, if not for myself, than for anyone who comes after me. I realize I am finite (and not, in other ways) but that activities I engage in will live on after I am gone. It's why conservation means a lot to me, and anti-nuclear proliferation, and shooting down unnecessary wars, and other things I think are contra-indicative to life.

While not all counter-initiations lead to thoughts of Apocalypse, enough of them do that I question any ethos that has an "end of history" sort of logo. For my part, I'm not looking forward to any reward in heaven I didn't sculpt with my two hands down here.

Sometimes I wonder if more Baby Boomers should have been quiverfullers, so that my generation (due to retire about twenty-odd years from now) had a better a) ability to fund the previous generation's retirement on the bullshit wages we earn and b) enjoyed a significant enough representation to inject our less-idealistic and more negative and probably more accurate POV onto the public dialogue (excusing of course all GOP contenders for political office in re: their foreign policy from my fantasy, of course).

I hold with Mikey that it is better to have no mythological basis for economics, foreign policy, or much of anything else in politics. The more things hew to cause and effect, the more predictable the results, I think. Lives are at stake with ecomonic policy. There is little room for even well-intentioned error.

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, you know, a million years ago I actually lived in San Francisco on the corner of California and Hyde. What a great town – North Beach, Ghirardelli Square (where I saw The Fantastics), Chinatown. Our friend Mikey has a great philosophy that obviously works well for him; at the same time, I don't think the world is ready to get rid of the arts, humanities, and religion quite yet. It's interesting that Ayn Rand used to use the word 'mystic' rather than mythology to describe virtually every component of spiritual life that ever existed. (Although Nathaniel Brandon later said that he was quite sure that Ayn had never read a book on mysticism in her life.)

I'm glad you brought up Hayek, and I think the differing views you point out between Hayek and Keynes is more apt (although I would have said Keynes and Ludwig von Mises).

My view is that all of our suppositions are about to be overturned. Cars changed the world when we weren't looking; air travel changed the world; TV and the Internet changed the world. (I am only half joking when I tell people that John Holmes and Linda Lovelace did more to change social interactions in the West than hundreds of politicians)

The other day I read that in 20 years half of the jobs presently done by humans will be done by robots. And there is concern about the domination that robots will exhibit in 50 years, because humans think slowly and have difficulty coming to decisions, etc., etc. I don't know about all that, but I do believe that human jobs will be displaced massively by robotics.

So how do you construct an economic system out of that? How do you encourage people to try and become educated to fill some financial category when robots already do it? How do you encourage the idea that a productive life is one in which you develop a career you give yourself to?

You know, a lot of people don't realize that agri-idustry in France has already replaced humans with machines, even the harvest of grapes. And they use primarily nuclear energy for their energy needs.

Japan seems in the forefront of phasing in robots. They now have robot waiters, robot caregivers in nursing homes; and the creators of these robots even have human robots that they slyly inform us can be adapted for sexual purposes. Brave new world.

So I am not sure that any of our old economic theories, whether right, left, or in the middle, really covers a world in which humans are not part of the productive sector.

Now on the other hand the birth rates around the world are falling with no sign of picking up. (There is an article suggesting that there is going to be a baby boom 9 months from now because of 50 Shades of Grey. How romantic...) Some people, alarmingly, suggest that US our birth rates are declining while that of Islamic fundamentalists is increasing. Not true. In fact in the Middle East their birth rate is declining right along with the rest of the world.

It seems to me that robotics will be the big game changer after the Internet. (And we are told that all privacy disappears if you do anything with social media. What an improvement.)

They say that the sun has about enough hydrogen to last another 5 billion years. I assume that things are going to be sputtering out and getting awful cold after the next 4 billion. After that even the universe is supposed to run out of operating energy at some point. So the fact is the aeonian scope of the manvantara is actually more hopeful and conceivably more predictive than many would have suspected. No wonder Wernher von Braun quoted the Vedas.

I am with both you and Mikey, that I don't think that mythology should be mixed with economic theory. However, in the disciplines of ontology, teleology, and metaphysics we are dealing with requirements on thinking that are not limited to references to the strictly material universe.