Monday, February 28, 2011

Keynes's General Theory Ch. 6

Keynes famously argues that recessions are caused by an excess of saving. His solution is to increase consumption. This is not correct, but one can understand why most people might think this to be true. It seems intuitively correct -- as all folk economics do. Yet, I think that even those who think this would separate investments from savings, and consider investments a vital part of economic growth. People need investments to start up new companies. However, Keynes argues in chapter 6 of The General Theory that

Income = value of output = consumption + investment.
Saving = income - consumption.
Therefore saving = investment. (63)
Clearly there is a problem with Keynes's calculus. Certainly one cannot invest what one has not saved, but what one has saved is not necessarily invested. So the final equation isn't necessarily true, even if it can be true. It's possible to just sit on one's money and not invest it.

Keynes in fact goes on to repeat that "in the aggregate the excess of income over consumption, which we call saving, cannot differ from the addition to capital equipment which we call investment" (64). Well, of course it can. For the business owner, who Keynes is talking about here, it makes sense to have savings in case of emergency. Perhaps in the end all the savings really do end up as investments in the company. Over time. But that does not mean that savings is really and at all times the same as investment. If the mathematical logic is good, as it certainly is, then there is a problem with the premises.

Perhaps I am failing to see something in chapter 6, but when Keynes argues that

During any period of time an entrepreneur will have sold finished output to consumers or to other entrepreneurs for a certain sum which we will designate as A. He will also have spend a certain sum, designated by A1, on purchasing finished output from other entrepreneurs. And he will end up with a capital equipment, which term includes both his stocks of unfinished good or working capital and his stocks of finished goods, having a value G (52)
It seems that he is arguing A = income from sales, and A1 = purchases, and G = capital (made homogeneous). Then he argues that Income = A + G - A1, which may simply mean something like final income or profits. But he then goes on to say that aggregate consumption (C) = SUM(A - A1), and I = SUM(A1-U), where -U is the entrepreneur's investment in equipment "exclusive of what he buys from other entrepreneurs" (54-55). I'm certainly unsure of what such an investment could possibly be. Whatever an entrepreneur invests is necessarily either wages or purchases. If so, then Income = Purchases + Wages(?). Income may go toward such things, but do they need to? What about profits?

But note above Keynes defines income as consumption + investment. So I = A - A1 + A1 - U, or I = A - U. Thus A - U = A1 - U and A = A1. So sales = purchases. If sales equals purchase, there is no savings. If Savings = A1 - U - (A - A1), then Savings = Investments - Sales. So if Saving = Investment, Sales must = 0. And if sales = purchases, purchases = 0. If A = 0, and A1 = 0 then C = 0 - 0, or C = 0.

Clearly something has gone horribly awry. I don't discount the possibility that it's my reasoning and calculations.

In any case, if saving is the same as investment, and people saving causes recessions, then Keynes seems to make the strange argument that investing causes recessions.

Finally, one thing I can say for certain is that Keynes is wrong when he argues that price equilibirum must be reached for a sale to take place. If such an equilibirum does occur, it necessarily must be reached by actual buyers and sellers interacting -- meaning people are buying at prices outside the equiibrium price prior to and causing the convergence of prices to the equilibrium. But I reject price equilibrium as a reality anyway, so he's doubly wrong as far as I'm concerned. People do make purchases without prices being at equilibrium, because prices are always fluctuating and differ from place to place. Entrepreneurs make money by finding such disequilibria and attempting to bring prices into equilibrium, but the second that happens, it goes out of equilibrium from the actions of people buying and selling.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why Government Stimulus Packages Cannot Work

I have been thinking more recently on why Keynesian stimulus policies do not and can not work. Specifically, for some reason, I have returned to my thinking here on how startups are the source of job creation.

The idea behind stimulus is that government spending in the economy will put people back to work in the companies that already exist. The government money is necessarily going to those companies which already exist. Those companies are supposed to increase production and, thus, find a need to hire more employees. This seems logical on the surface. However, if we understand the typical history of production in a firm or industrial sector, we will see how and why this is mistaken.

When a company first starts up, based on a new product idea or a new way of doing things, such production is necessarily labor-intensive. There is a period during which one has to discover the best way of doing things. Rarely is it the first way you find. Over time, new ways of doing things are discovered, ways of cutting costs without harming quality are discovered, etc., and fewer and fewer people are needed to produce more and more. More automation is introduced, etc. Thus, as an industry grows, the growth rate of employment is not going to go up at the same rate as it did in the early years of production. In fully mature industries, we in fact see a gradual decrease in the number of workers necessary to do produce those goods. An industry, like agriculture, may even go from almost everyone working in the industry to almost no one working in them as mechanization comes to dominate.

Thus, it is when companies are in their infancy that they need large numbers of workers. Start-ups hire the most people. But stimulus package money does not go to startups. It goes to well-established industries. Those industries can increase production without increasing employment because so much of what they do is automated. Run the machines faster, or buy new ones, and you are making more. Thus, the money does not in fact stimulate the economy. If anything, it results in an increase in production in already-established industries, creating a new bubble in those industries -- and/or driving up prices in them. Whatever it is that government is spending the money on will begin to have higher prices. Thus will we see inflation, but not improved employment. That's the only result of stimulus packages -- as we have seen with the unchanging unemployment rate and the increase in food prices.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hef's Bunnies -- A Satiric Play in One Act

I've decided to try something. Over at there is an anti-intellectual property philosophy that I'm a bit back and forth on. So I've decided to give their idea a try, so to speak.

I am going to post here my play "Hef's Bunnies" in its entirety. Anyone who wants to perform the play has my permission to do so. I will request, but not require, a commission on any performance. If my play makes someone money, paying me a commission seems the decent thing to do. If my doesn't make money, I don't want to add to anyone's troubles. So here's my play. I hope at the very least it will entertain someone. It's a satire. Please spread the word. As an experiment, this can hardly work if nobody produces it!

A Comedy in One Act

Scene: A sandy island – one of the Florida Keys, where the Hefner Rabbits live. Ranger Rick and Ranger Peter appear, carrying cat traps.

Ranger Rick: So tell me why we’re out here catching cats
On this small island.

Ranger Peter: No one told you why?
We’re here to save Hef’s bunnies. All these cats
Out here are eating this endangered species
Of rabbit. Hefner was the one who funded
The research leading to us finding them.

Ranger Rick: I never thought I’d be out catching pussies
For Playboy when I took the job.

Ranger Peter: These cats
Are cunning so we have to take care setting
The traps. I’ll put mine here, you put yours there
Behind that bush. We need to spread them out.
Don’t thrust it in like that – you’ll set it off.

Ranger Rick: I’ll try to be more gentle. This a good

Ranger Peter: Make it so they can get in.
You have to make an easy entrance, Rick.

Ranger Rick: I’ll try to hold it stable with this stick.
What will we do with all of these trapped cats?

Ranger Peter: Humane Society will take them then.
Who cares? They’re only feral cats, you know.

At that moment, a group of animal rights activists, led by Karl, Kitty, and Adolph, arrive.

Karl: It’s we who care! Unhand those traps.

Ranger Rick: Unhand?
This is no comedy by Shakespeare. Who
Are you to tell us what to do? We know
Our jobs.

Kitty: I’ll tell you who we are, young man:
American’s Need Animals League. That
Is who we are.

Ranger Rick: You’re ANAL?

Kitty: Certainly.
I’m proudly ANAL.

Activists: As are all of us!

Adolph: And I will only date an ANAL girl.

Ranger Peter: How very principled. Now tell us, please
What does this have to do with us? We’re here
Protecting animals.

Karl: And yet we see
You trapping cats. That’s what we came to stop.

Ranger Peter: How did they even learn that we were here?

Ranger Rick: They’re eating all the rabbits up. They have
To go if we’re to save the Hefner Rabbit.

Kitty: The cats who live here have a right to live
Wherever they may choose. We humans have
No right to tell a cat or dog where it
Should live. They should be free to choose their home.

Ranger Peter: I reckon next they all should get the right
To vote.

Ranger Rick: And then we’ll let them marry.

Kitty: Yes!
It’s good to see you understand exactly
What we are fighting for.

Ranger Rick turns to Ranger Peter

Ranger Rick: Do you suppose
That she is really all that dumb or is
She only blind?

Ranger Peter: I’ll flip a coin. Hey, wait!
That’s federal property. You put that down!

Ranger Peter runs over to where an animal rights activist is picking up a trap. Ranger Peter grabs one end of the trap while the activist holds on to the other end. They tug back and forth with it.

Activist: I will not ever put it down. I will
Not do as you two say. I will not now
Or any day.

Ranger Peter: Put down this trap or I’ll
Arrest you. Put it down or else I will . . .

Ranger Peter lets go of the trap and the activist falls back and over the hill (off stage left). We hear the activist yelling as he falls. Everyone looks over to where he disappeared.

Activist: Oh, ah, ee, ooh, oh, ah, ee, ooh, unh, ow.

Ranger Peter: Now no one else had better touch a trap.

Karl: Or what? Or else you’ll throw us down the hill?

Ranger Rick: Now, no one threw . . .

Kitty: Oh, help us! Help us! Murder!
These rangers want to kill us all. The cats
Were just the first. You see, when people do
Not value animals, they also do
Not value human life. You’re murderers
You awful, awful brutes!

The activist who fell down the hill speaks from off stage left.

Activist: I’m quite all right.
It’s only sand.

Another animal rights activist grabs a trap.

Ranger Peter: I said to put those down.

Ranger Rick: You ANALs are a real pain in the ass.
Why don’t you let us get to work? We do
Not want to hurt a single kitty.

Kitty: Threats!
He threatened me! You know he did. D’you hear?

Adolph: Oh Kitty! Yes, I did. I will protect
You from these hateful brutes, these . . . human beings!

Ranger Peter looks at Ranger Rick.

Ranger Peter: Do you suppose they know they’re human beings

Ranger Rick just shakes his head.

Karl: Animals are good and just and stay
Within the limits of the natures they
Were born with. Humans push and push and try
To go beyond the limits nature set.
It’s hubris that we fight against, the kind
That puts us up above the animals
As gods and rulers over them. We act
As though we ought to do with them whatever
We want to do with them, like they’re our slaves.

Kitty: The animals are in the same slave ship
As blacks were in the South – if blacks could be
Released and freed, then animals should be
Released from all the shackles we have made
For them in field or house, as food or pets.

Ranger Peter: These animals are slaves? They’re cats, you know.
The plan is once we catch them all that they
Will get a brand new home where they can live.

Kitty: We won’t let them become some person’s slave.

Ranger Peter: They’re cats. No cat has been enslaved to date.

Another animal rights activist grabs a trap.

Ranger Rick: If one more person grabs a trap we will
Be forced to call the cops on you. Now stop.

Adolph: My fellow human animals let’s not
Collect the traps. To do our job we must
Remain, but first let us retreat and I
Will tell you what we’ll do to stop these men.

All the ANALs leave the stage. The two rangers stand around in silence for a few seconds, surprised they are alone.

Ranger Rick: Do you suppose they’re really gone? Or will
They come right back just like they said they would?

Ranger Peter: Who cares right now? Let’s try to put the traps
In place again so we can finish up.
We’ll take care of those ANAL assholes later.

Ranger Rick and Ranger Peter set out more traps in silence. They should continue in silence until the audience begins to laugh nervously. Then Ranger Rick looks up, confused.

Ranger Rick: There’s something wrong.

Ranger Peter: There’s something wrong? Like what?

Ranger Rick: It’s quiet. Far too quiet. Don’t you think?
What happened to the animal rights group?

Ranger Peter: I do not know and do not care.

Ranger Rick: They said
They’d be right back. That doesn’t worry you.

Ranger Peter stops and thinks a few seconds.

Ranger Peter: You’d better go and see what’s happening.

Ranger Rick walks offstage in the direction the animal rights activists took, but returns immediately, dumbfounded. He gestures confusedly.

Ranger Peter: Well, that was quick. What did you see?

Ranger Rick: It seems
They brought along some cat suits, thinking they
Would protest wearing them. But now, it seems,
They got a bit distracted.

Ranger Peter: How is that?

Ranger Rick: I think that when they put the cat suits on
They got turned on and now they’re fucking in
The cat suits over there, behind the dune.

Ranger Peter: Now that’s a sight I do not wish to see.

Ranger Rick: They can’t quite bring themselves to fuck a cat
And so they fuck as furries. Catty people.

Ranger Peter: If cats had any clue, they’d thank their god –
Or run off screaming from the island now.

Ranger Rick: With cats, they’d thank themselves. Just like the ANALs,
They think that none’s above their lofty minds.
You can’t believe in God if you believe
That none could be as great as you are now.

Ranger Peter: It sounds to me as though the animal
Rights group is right that they are both the same
If cats are thinking as you say they are.

Ranger Rick: They think they’re gods, but everyone’s the same.

Ranger Peter: And go about without a bit of shame.

The animal rights activists reappear onstage, wearing cat suits, some men and women wiping their mouths with their enpawed hands.

Ranger Peter: Oh here I see the pussies come.

Ranger Rick: Again?

Ranger Peter: And prodded by the same old pricks.

Ranger Rick: Again?

Activists: That’s right, we all have come again! And we
Have brought the T.V. news. The cameras will
Be coming soon to show the world what we
Are doing on this island. Everything
Will be exposed.

Ranger Rick: Oh really? Can they show
It on the news?

Activists: And if the news is not
Enough we’ll bring on Peter Singer, he
Who champions the animals, and he’ll
Bring PETA to the cause.

Ranger Peter: I thought that peters
Were brought to bear already on these pussies.

Ranger Rick: They seem obsessed with Peters. Guess you’re not
Enough for them. They want more Peters present.

Kitty: Barbarians! You cannot hear. It’s PETA.

Ranger Peter: It’s pita? Like the pocket bread? I see.

Ranger Rick: They like to stuff themselves like pita bread,
And each one’s filled with white ziziki sauce.

Activists: The T.V. cameras will be brought to bear,
And then we’ll see how much you really care.

Ranger Rick: I can’t believe that we’re harassed by these:
A group of peter-singers dressed as pussies.

A group of T.V. news people arrive with cameras. They are led by Dick Jockman. When they arrive, the animal rights activists group together and gesture about, clearly planning their media strategy.

Dick: Let’s set the cameras up right over here.
I don’t want to obscure a camera’s shot.

Ranger Peter: Excuse me, but you cannot set them up
Right there. That is protected habitat.

Dick: Protected habitat? For what? What’s here?

Ranger Peter: You don’t know why you’re here?

Dick: I cultivate
My ignorance with care so there’s no danger
That I will bias my report. I do
Not know a thing and I am proud of it.

Ranger Rick: And yet I know you went to school . . .

Dick: Of course.
A football scholarship to major in
Communications. I avoided sports
Reporting for the reason that I knew
Too much about the area to do
The kind of job that I’d been taught to do.

Ranger Rick: A regular Lou Dobbs of reporting
On the environment, I see. How splendid.

Ranger Peter: But still, you cannot set that there. The rabbits
Have got to have a place to eat and you
Are trampling on their food. Now move it all.

Dick: For rabbits? All of this for rabbits? What
About the cats? I heard that there were cats.

The animal rights group join the rangers and the news media.

Ranger Rick: So let me summarize the plot so far:
We’re here to save Hef’s bunnies. All these cats
Out here are eating this endangered species
Of rabbit. Hefner was the one who funded
The research leading to us finding them.
We set these traps to catch the cats to get
Them off the island. All these feral cats
Just seem to do is breed like rabbits here.
And then these people in the cat suits came –
They’re the Americans Need Animals
League, ANAL, and they’re here to keep the cats
Untrapped and let the rabbits go extinct.

Adolph: We are not here to let the rabbits go
Extinct. Just leave the cats alone. Just leave
The cats alone and we will all go home.

Ranger Peter: You idiots! The rabbits are in danger
Because the cats are here. We leave them and
The rabbits go extinct.

Dick looks at the closest cameraman.

Dick: You getting this?

Ranger Peter: And move the fucking cameras off the dune!

Dick: Let’s move the cameras, boys. Another place
Will work as well.

Kitty: Oh no! the rangers have
The newsmen doing what they say. We are
The ones who brought them here. They’re here to make
Our case.

Karl: Don’t worry Kitty, they are here
And now that they are here they’ll make our case
By showing us out here for all the world
To see.

Ranger Rick: Oh, I agree. Yes, I agree.
Let every person out there see what you
Are all about. Let . . . hey, man, what’s your name?

Dick: I’m Dick Jockman of Channel Four.

Ranger Rick: Let Dick
Hear all the nonsense straight and clear from off
You pussies’ lips to show how fucked you are.

Kitty: Our views are mainstream views, you know. The people
Support protecting animals.

Crewman: We’re all
Set up and ready.

Dick: Good. Let’s get this shot.
Good evening. This is Dick Jockman reporting.
The fur is flying on the Florida keys.
An animal rights activist group known
As the Americans Need Animals
League came today to protest capturing
The feral cats who live out on the island.
The rangers working here are saying that
It’s something that they simply have to do.

Dick turns to Ranger Rick and holds the microphone to his mouth.

Ranger Rick: We only want to do our jobs out here.
We’re here to save Hef’s rabbits. All these cats
Out here are eating this endangered species
Of rabbit. They are called Hef’s rabbits after
Hugh Hefner – he’s the one who funded all
The research leading us to find them here.
We set these traps to catch the cats to get
Them off the island. All these feral cats
Just seem to do is breed like crazy here.
And then these people wearing cat suits came –
To try to keep the cats untrapped; I guess
Because they want to see the rabbits go

Adolph pushes Ranger Rick away. Ranger Peter holds Ranger Rick back from physically responding.

Adolph: Just leave the cats alone. We do
Not want to see the rabbits go extinct.
We only want these corporate shills to leave
The cats alone.

Ranger Rick: We’re corporate shills? I thought
We worked for government – they sign my checks.

Dick: So tell me: why the cat suits?

Adolph: We are wearing
The cat suits so that we can make it clear
That we are one with all these cats’ dark plight,
Ongoing struggle, and their fight for freedom.

Kitty: We will not let these awful men turn these
Poor cats into the slaves of men. All cats,
All dogs, all animals must be set free
To live their lives however they may please.

Dick: And you consider these, your views, to be
Mainstream? With all the people who own pets?

Karl: It’s not that many people do not need
To be enlightened on the finer details.
The point is that the people deeply side
With us in wanting cats like these protected.

Ranger Rick: And what about the rabbits here? We’re out
Here doing this because the rabbits need
Protection from the feral cats. The cats
Are eating all the rabbits to extinction.

Kitty: It’s lies! It’s lies! He’s telling lies.

Dick: Then tell
Me what you think’s the truth.

Kitty: Our truth is that
The cats would never kill the rabbits off.
The cats and rabbits live in harmony
Together on the island and it’s people
Like these, these agents of the government,
Who want to go disturb the harmony.

Ranger Peter: Okay. Now look. I’ve had enough of this.
If everyone but Rick and I don’t get
Off of this island soon . . .

Kitty: You’ll what? You’ll try
To kill us all again?

Dick: Excuse me? What
Was that again?

Ranger Rick: Oh, earlier a man
Fell down a dune without a single scratch.

Adolph: I tell you, he was pushed.

Ranger Peter: He wasn’t pushed.
I’m calling the police if you don’t leave.

At that moment another group marches onstage, the Environmentalist group. The leader, Al, is clearly in his late fifties to early sixties.

Environs: The rabbits must be saved! The rabbits must
Be saved! The rabbits must be saved! Today!

Al: The rabbits must be saved! We’re here to help.

Dick: It seems we’ve just been joined by people who
Support the rangers’ job. Good afternoon.
I’m Dick Jockman of Channel Four News. Who
Are you and what has brought you here?

Al: The name
Is Al and this is Bobby Junior – but
We call him B.J. Eunice here’s his wife.
And all the rest, these people who we lead?
The Pure Environment for National
And International Security
Environmental group.

Ranger Rick: The PENIS group?

Ranger Peter: Well, PENIS, this is ANAL. I would think
You’d get along.

Al: Well, not today. We’re here
Because the rabbits must be saved. We humans
Have done enough to harm these rabbits’ home.
We have to make things right and bring things back
To how they were before man came out here
To ruin everything.

Dick: So tell us more
About your group. I know the people viewing
The news tonight would like to learn about
You. Tell us all about you, what you do.

Al: Well, I’m the one responsible for much
That you enjoy, for I invented such
Things as the internet, the cell phone, and
The iPod. If it weren’t for me, you would
Not have the iPhone, either. Thanks to me . . .

Dick: Do you expect us to believe that you
Invented all those things? I don’t believe . . .

Al: Invented? No, I never said a thing
Like that. I’m on the Apple board, you see . . .

Dick: I really asked about your group, not you.

Al: The Pure Environment for National
And International Security
Environmental group was formed to fight
To save the planet earth from humans. Plague
And cancer’s what we are. That’s why we do
Not eat our fellow animals and why
Both B.J. here and I and every man
Who joins the group all have vasectomies.

Ranger Peter looks at Ranger Rick.

Ranger Peter: Is Eunice pregnant or just fat? I can
Not tell.

Ranger Rick: A bit of both it seems to me.

Dick: How long have you been in the group?

Al: I started
The group two years ago with B.J. and
His wife. We didn’t think the other groups
Went far enough to save the earth from us.

Adolph: Now hold on just a minute here. We brought
The news out here to cover us. And now
You wannabes are taking them from us.

Al: How dare you call us wannabes!

Adolph: Well tell
Me if you still drink milk, eat cheese, or even
Eat eggs?

Al: We’re vegetarians, not vegans.

Adolph: You’re fakers, wannabes, if you’re not vegans.

Al: Until the human race is gone the fact
Is that the domination of goats, cows,
And chickens will continue – but we do
Not have to kill them too.

Adolph: I have to say
That your position makes no sense.

Kitty: That’s why
That woman over there is fat, a vegan . . .

Eunice: Don’t call me fat you skinny bitch. You look
Like death will come to get you soon. No man
Would find a bitch like you attractive – well,
Unless he’s into little boys or girls.

Adolph: I never touched them. There’s no proof I did.

Kitty puts her arm around Adolph to comfort him.

Kitty: There’s no one here accusing you, my dear.

Ranger Rick: It sounds like there should be someone to me.

Ranger Peter: Can you believe the help that we’ve received?

Ranger Rick strains his neck to look far off.

Ranger Rick: Are those the Hummers that these people came
In? See them over there?

Ranger Peter: The animal
Rights activists were giving hummers while
All these environmentalists were coming
In Hummers of their own. Does that make sense?

Al: We have to get around, and there’s a lot
Of us, and this was off the road.

Ranger Rick walks over to see where the Hummers are parked.

Ranger Rick: Oh for
The love of God! You idiots drove over
The rabbits’ breeding areas. We’ll have
To fix them now and plant the plants that you
Tore up. Just look at all the tracks. Oh God!

Al: Well, how were we supposed to know that’s where
The rabbits choose to breed?

Ranger Rick: You say that you
Are here for the environment, but you
Don’t know a single thing about what you
Are trying to protect. I see around
Me hypocrites, just actors who pretend
To care but drive in Hummers, fly in planes
You chartered for yourselves, and live in houses
Ten times the size of anyone’s, with air
Conditioning on all the time so cold
You see your breath. But then you turn around
And tell the middle class and poor that they
Must sacrifice their cars and turn the air
Conditioning to warm, while driving out
Their jobs. And then you come out here and kill
The very thing you claim to want to save.
You saw the cameras here and drove, without
A single other care, to make sure that
The cameras would be here for you to show
How much that you all care. It’s all a lie –
I don’t know why a single person listens
To anything you have to say. You must
See something in it for you. Hypocrites.
You say that you men had vasectomies,
But Al is clearly sixty and that girl,
The wife of B.J. there, is clearly pregnant.

B.J. looks at Eunice with surprise. All the members of each group looks offended, and Dick shakes his head.

Dick: There’s no way we can use all that. I think
He went on far too long. From now on is
It possible for everyone to speak
In soundbites only? That would be the best.

Al: How dare you call us hypocrites!

Karl: I know
You, Al. Your three kids all have kids themselves.

Dick: We have to keep the viewers watching us.

B. J.: Is what he said about you true, my dear?

Dick: Americans won’t listen to long speeches.

Eunice: I wondered when you’d notice that my belly
Was growing. Did you really think that I
Was getting fat? It’s Adolph’s, by the way.

Ranger Rick: Is it just me or do these two groups seem
To know each other?

Ranger Peter: You’re really quick, Rick.

Kitty: You lying bitch! I can’t believe that you’d
Accuse my Adolph – he would never mount
A massive mount like you.

Eunice: He likes to fuck
A woman too sometimes, and not just you,
His way to be both straight and gay.

Everyone steps back and away from Kitty and Eunice, not wanting to get involved. This leaves Kitty and Eunice alone in the middle of the stage. B. J. and Adolph stand halfway between their respective women and the crowd.

B.J.: I can’t
Believe you got my wife knocked up. I’ll kill
You both, you traitors to the earth. Sweet Gaia
Will punish both of you for this.

Eunice turns around to face B.J.

Eunice: And that
Is why I slept with him – you love the earth,
Your mother earth, far more than you love me.

Adolph: You’re like an Oedipus to Gaia, Bob.

Kitty turns around to face Adolph.

Kitty: You knocked her up? You really did? I can’t
Believe that you would fuck a hill like that.

Eunice snaps around to face Kitty.

Eunice: You swizzle stick.

Kitty snaps around to face Eunice.

Kitty: Fat tub of lard.

Eunice: Why would
A skeleton turn on a man? He’d have
To be a necrophiliac to want
To lie on top of you.

Kitty: How would he know
Which fold on you was where his dick should go?

Eunice: Are you mistaken for a dildo with
That shape of yours?

Kitty: Or were you rolled in flour?

Eunice: Now look, you dream of pedophiles, bag
Of bones who looks like some old eunuch dressed
In drag . . .

Kitty: You walrus, hippo, manatee.

Al steps out and gets between the women.

Al: Is this what we came out here for? Let’s not
Forget the reason why we came out here.

Dick steps forward behind Al, very close beside Eunice.

Dick: I didn’t come to film a fight – at least,
Not cat fights anyway.

Eunice: You wouldn’t see
A fight – I’d break that skinny bitch in two.

Eunice turns to walk away, but runs into Dick. She loses her balance, and falls on top of Kitty.

Kitty: Get off of me you monstrous cow. I think
You broke my arm.

Eunice: Now how could I have broke
Your arm?

Kitty: You broke my arm you elephant.
I have a case of osteoporosis.

Eunice: You’re only twenty-six.

Kitty: Get off of me.

Eunice rolls off of Kitty to get onto her hands and knees to get up, taking care with her baby.

Kitty: Ow! Ouch! You idiot, you broke my hip.

Eunice: Just getting off of you? No wonder Adolph
Decided to come sleep with me – he was
Afraid of killing you if he got up
On top of you.

Kitty: Would someone help me up?

Adolph comes over to her.

Kitty: Not you, you jackass, fucking such a horse.

Karl walks over to her and gently picks her up.

Karl: I’ll take you to the van and call for help.
An ambulance will be here soon. I’ll take
Good care of you.

Eunice: I guess he must be turned
On by young children if he’s into her.

B.J. grabs Eunice by the shoulder and turns her toward him.

B.J.: I can’t believe he got you pregnant. Why
Would you allow yourself to get knocked up?

Ranger Peter: It seems he’s more concerned that she’s knocked up
Than with the fact that someone else had gotten
Her pregnant.

Ranger Rick: Wrong priorities. These people
Have all the wrong priorities. Just look
At what has happened to the island here

Al starts waving his hands above his head in frustration.

Al: Will anyone please pay attention
To me? I came out all this way to say
That we are here to help protect the rabbits.
The rangers are just here to help. We have
To save the rabbits from the cats and that’s
Why ANAL must be stopped.

Dick: So PENIS came
To stop the ANALs?

Al: Dick, that’s why B.J.
And I have come out here today – to stop
The ANAL group – and PENIS clearly is
The only one positioned to stop them.

B.J.: I think it’s clear to everyone by now
That ANAL, leadership and all, the leaders
Especially, it seems, are traitors to
The earth and should be treated like they’re traitors.

Environs: They’re traitors, traitors, every one! We’ll kick
Them out, yes every one!

Al: You know, I wish
That every PENIS had a B.J. It
Would make each PENIS spring to life and spread
Its seed across the face of mother earth.

Dick: Is that the goal?

Al: By penetrating all
The world through every government, we hope
To soon infect the world with our ideas.
Perhaps one day I’ll win an Oscar or
A Nobel Prize for what I’ve done today.

Ranger Rick: A Nobel Prize? He’s quite delusional.

Ranger Peter: They’ve given it to idiots who never
Did anything for peace, like Jimmy Carter
And Yasir Arafat, so why not give
One out to idiots like him?

Al: Oh, yes!
A Nobel Prize. And then the world will see
That everything that I believe is true.

Dick: Why do you think that humans are so bad
We have to get vasectomies?

Al: Because
Of the consensus of the eminent
Who said we must if we will save the earth.
If there is a consensus, we know we
Have truth on our side.

Dick: A consensus made
Of whom?

Al: Of all these people that I brought.

Ranger Rick: But this is a consensus only of
The people who agree with you. If they
Already think that it is true, it’s self-
Fulfilling. Further, truth is hardly up
For a vote.

Al: Of course it is. We’re democratic,
You know. We vote on what is true, which makes
It so.

Ranger Rick: Of course, for truthfulness will only make
You less than popular. I guess we all
Should just agree.

Al: Now that’s the spirit! Good!

Ranger Peter: He’s never heard of irony.

Ranger Rick: You know
That Einstein, Galileo, Darwin, and
Copernicus were all found to be right
Despite the world consensus, right?

Al: That may
Be true, but we all feel we should be right,
And that’s what matters most to us right now.

Adolph: Now wait a minute, Dick, it’s we who called
To get you out to hear our case, and now
You’re talking to our rival group. What gives?

Dick: The news will follow anywhere the story
Will lead us. PENIS is the story now,
As much as ANAL was. Now don’t butt in,
We’ll get to you again as soon as we
Have finished hearing what Al has to say.

Al: I didn’t mean to gore your ox.

Adolph: Like hell
You didn’t. That is why you’re here, you jerk.

Al: You’re right. Without you here, these men could do
Their jobs and we’d not have to be out here.

Ranger Rick: Destroying what you came to save. I wish
You dicks and assholes would go home and let
Us simply do our jobs. We’re only here
To pull some weeds. That’s all we’re here to do.

Adolph: Well, we’re not leaving ‘til you stop this crime
And leave the cats in peace.

Activists: You leave the cats
Alone! You leave the cats alone! You leave
The cats alone! You leave the cats alone!
You leave the cats alone!

Al: And we’re not leaving
Until the ANAL group is gone so you
Can do your jobs in peace and bring this land
Back to the state that it once was before
The cats we wrongly brought endangered all
The rabbits here. We want you here to bring
The island back into its pristine state.

Eunice: The ANAL group must go.

B.J.: If Adolph were
As ANAL as he says he is, then you
Would not be pregnant by him now.

Eunice: Would you
Get over it already? What is done
Is done. You never noticed I was pregnant
Until that ranger told us all, so it
Should be a piece of cake for you to do
The same when she is born.

Adolph: The baby is
A girl?

B.J.: Why should you care? She isn’t yours.

Adolph: She is.

B.J.: You won’t be raising her. She’s mine.

Al: We’re getting off of message here. The cats
And rabbits are the only things that we
Are here to talk about.

Adolph: They are not things.
The animals are people too. You just
Don’t get it, do you? They’re our equals too.

B.J.: You fucked a man who dresses like a cat?

Eunice: At least he isn’t shooting blanks.

B.J.: His chamber
Was clearly loaded from the looks of things.

Ranger Rick: I’d say is aim was straight and true.

Ranger Peter: He hit
The mark without a doubt, for we can view
The evidence – it’s there for all to see.

Dick: There’s something I’ve been wondering. You call
Yourselves the Pure Environmental Group
For National and International
Security. And what I want to know . . .

Al: The Pure Environment for National
And International Security.

Dick: I’m sorry. Why Security?

Al: Well, we
Are trying to secure the world from us,
From human influence. Because, you see,
The human species is a plague, corrupt,
A virus and a cancer spreading on
The earth. We have to recognize this fact.

Ranger Rick: You know, I’ve had enough of this. We have
To get these people out of here. The rabbits
Won’t have a home if we can’t do our jobs
And clean up all the mess they’ve made out here.

Ranger Peter: We need a miracle to rid ourselves
Of all these idiots who joined us here.

At that moment, there’s the sound of a plane. Everyone looks up.

Eunice: Who’s parachuting from the sky? Do I
See what I think I see? I can’t believe . . .

Three women, naked except for the machine guns they carry, come running onstage.

Bella: Enough of all of this! We will not let
A single hair of Hefner’s rabbits come
To harm. You all must go to let these men
Get back to work to save these bunnies’ lives.

Dick: And who are you?

Diana: We’re Hefner’s Playboy Bunnies.

Gretchen: He sent us to protect the rabbits here
From all these selfish idiots who came
To use the situation here to make
Themselves a name so they can get themselves
Some demagogic power. Shame on you!

The Animal Rights Activist and Environmentalist groups start singing (to the tune of the hymn Pentacostal Power).

Both Groups: Oh, send the old-time power, the demagogic power!
The floodgates of power, on us throw open wide!
Oh, send the old-time power, the demagogic power!
That the naïve be converted and our leaders glorified!

A fourth Playboy Bunny leads several other Bunnies onstage. All are nude except for the machine guns they are carrying.

Muffie: I brought the rest. I’m sorry we are late.

Gretchen: You’re right on time.

Dick: I don’t know how we’ll show
All this. But let me get the interview.
So tell me, ladies, all your names. The public
Will want to know.

Bella: Just call me Bella.

Diana: I’m

Ranger Peter: Guess that means we will not have
To hunt around to find a moon tonight.

Ranger Rick: Yep. Bull’s-eye.

Gretchen: Gretchen is my name.

Muffie: And I
Am Muffie Cockswallow.

Dick: You’re kidding me.

Muffie: Now why would I be kidding you? It’s far,
Far better than the name my parents gave
To me. I changed it.

Dick: Tell me why you changed
Your name, and what you changed it from.

Muffie: You see,
I used to have the worst name in the world.

Dick: What was your name before? How bad was it?

Muffie: Malverna Cockswallow.

Dick: You must be kidding.
I don’t blame you at all for changing it.

Muffie: I think that Muffie Cockswallow’s a much,
Much better name. Now wouldn’t you agree?

Ranger Peter: A better name for Penthouse than for Playboy.

Ranger Rick: Well, do you?

Muffie: Do I what?

Ranger Rick: Um, live up to
Your name?

Muffie: You men! Your minds are always in
The gutter. Focus on the fact that we
Are here to help you out in any way
We can – although it’s true, in fact I do.

Adolph: Now hold on here, we won’t be run away
From here by you or anybody else.

The Playboy Bunnies surround Adolph, pointing their guns at him.

Bella: I think it’s time for you to leave.

Adolph: Do you
Expect that I’ll believe you’ll shoot me on
T.V.? I don’t think so. And I would bet
You’re probably just shooting blanks.

Ranger Rick: Well, that
Would make them more like B.J. over there.

Eunice: You know, I’m getting very hungry now.

Kitty (offstage): No wonder you’re as hefty as a cow!

B.J.: No wonder since you have to eat for two.

Diana: Would someone get this pregnant woman out
Of here? She looks like she could give birth soon.
I’d rather not birth any babies here.

Ranger Rick: And here I thought that was her specialty.

Bella: Enough of all this chaos. We are here
To bring some order to this insane place.
Now someone tell us everything so far
That’s happened here before we all arrived.

As Ranger Rick’s speech progresses, Gretchen and Muffie begin flirting with each other. By the end of the speech, they are making out. Everyone but the Bunnies are visibly bored and impatient with the reiteration.

Ranger Rick: We came out here to do our jobs to try
To save Hef’s rabbits from these cats. The cats
Out here are eating this endangered species
Of rabbit which, you know, are named Hef’s Rabbits.
We set these traps to catch the cats to get
Them off the island. All these feral cats
Just seem to do is breed like mad out here.
And then these people wearing cat suits came –
Americans Need Animals League, ANAL –
To try to keep the cats untrapped for reasons
Which only seem to make some sense to them.
Then Dick and his whole T.V. crew showed up.
The Pure Environment for National
And International Security
Environmental group, or PENIS, then
Came out to protest ANAL’s presence here.
And then you came out here yourselves, and now
The stage is full. The only cats we’ve seen
So far today are them, the ANALs in
The cat suits, and the only bunnies seen
So far have dropped out of the sky – that’s you.

When Ranger Rick finished, Eunice, who has been staring at Gretchen and Muffie the whole time, bursts out in anger.

Eunice: I can’t believe the two of you. You two
Have managed to turn this into some sick
Male fantasy. What’s going on? We have
A bunch of naked women prancing all
About and now you two are making out.

Gretchen and Muffie grab their guns and point them at Eunice, who runs off screaming and hides behind Adolph. They first look satisfied, then Gretchen strokes her chin thoughtfully.

Gretchen: You know, I think she has a point. What are
We doing here?

Muffie: Well, I am doing what
I like.

Gretchen: You’re right. I am a lesbian.

Muffie: Me too.

Gretchen: So I don’t see why we should fail
To be who we are just because what we
Would like to do is some male fantasy.

Ranger Peter: Hear, hear!

Ranger Rick: You lesbians should stand up for
Your rights. Continue what you two were doing.

Gretchen: Why should I care what men may think about –
Of if they even think at all?

Muffie: I do
Not know or even care. I never think
Of things like that. I never, ever do.

Gretchen: Now wait, you said you lived up to your name.

Muffie: Well, yeah, I do. My name is Muffie. Duh!

Gretchen: You sure are pretty, Muffie.

Muffie: Thank you! You
Are too.

They smile at each other, grab each other by the hand, and walk off stage holding hands.

Bella: Okay, enough. Enough of this.
Be gone. Be gone, the lot of you. The rangers
Should be the only ones to even be
Here. Everybody else should go away.

Dick: The public has a right to know. So long
As there’s a story here, we shall not go

Adolph: We came to make sure that these cats
Would not be harmed. And even if we leave
Today, we will invade this island once
Again. We must not let this holocaust
Continue on this island.

Al: I have come
To stop Adolph and every ANAL here.

B.J.: I’d say that Adolph’s done enough. The earth . . .

Al angrily turns on B.J.

Al: Okay, B.J., I’ve had enough! You’re such
A wimp and whiny bitch! The earth, the earth!
Well, fuck the earth! You have a wife who fucked
Each PENIS after our vasectomies –
Yes, every man, and all day long. It’s not
Just he who got her pregnant. What a wimp!

B.J.: Did you say fuck the earth?

Al: I didn’t mean . . .

B.J rushes Al and they tumble to the ground, and wrestle and fight there for a while. While they fight, Adolph approaches Eunice. Others gather around the fighting pair. There’s a futile struggle to separate them.

Adolph: The test has proven I’m the father, then?

Eunice: The truth is that you are – at least, of one
Of them.

Adolph: Of one of them? What do you mean?

Eunice: I’m pregnant with a set of triplets. One
Was all I thought B.J. could handle knowing
About today. But it is three; they’re three
By three.

Adolph: Three fathers? Is that even . . . ? No.

Eunice: Apparently fertility pills do
Not mix with orgies well. So you and Karl . . .

Adolph: And Karl? Oh, wait ‘til Kitty hears about
What Karl has done. Stay here. I’ll be right back.

Adolph turns and runs off stage toward where Karl took Kitty.

Eunice: No, Adolph, wait! He doesn’t know about . . .
Oh, hell, I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Al and B.J. get tired of fighting and roll off of each other, breathing hard. Kitty yells from offstage.

Kitty: Oh for the love of God you horny dicks!

Bella: I think it’s time that you all left this place.

Adolph runs back onstage with Karl in tow.

Adolph: Oh, Eunice! Eunice! We have come to say
That we are thrilled to be the fathers of
Your children. We both want to marry you.

Ranger Rick: Oh well, you know these things do tend to end
In marriages.

Ranger Peter: And that they go from bad
To good. From chaos into blessed order.

B.J.: You cannot marry her. She is my wife,
You know. And . . . hold it, what was that you said?

Adolph: It seems that Eunice carries three within
Her womb, and that three fathers fathered them.

Karl: And Adolph’s father one, I’m two, and three . . . ?

Everyone looks at Eunice. There are a few seconds of silence.

Eunice: Now does it really matter who it is?

Everyone: Yes!

Eunice: Even if the person is not here?

The following, by the animal rights activists, the environmentalists, and the Playboy Bunnies is said simultaneously.

Activists: Well, no. I mean, if he’s not here, then what’s
The point? Well, I don’t care, if he’s not here.

Environs: I mean, if he’s not here, then what’s the point?
Well, I don’t care, if he’s not here. Well, no.

Bunnies: Well, I don’t care, if he’s not here. Well, no.
I mean, if he’s not here, then what’s the point?

Karl: So tell us, will you marry us? Just leave
B.J. and live with us.

Eunice: Can I drink milk?
Can I eat cheese? I would not be a vegan.

B.J.: Are you about to leave me then? My love.

Adolph: You can drink milk!

Karl: You can eat cheese!

Together: Our love!

Eunice: My babies need their fathers. I want them
To have a normal life – the children need
Their fathers. I’m old fashioned that-a-way.

Ranger Peter: And with the other man I guess they’ll have
Some sort of a ménage-a-quatre as
A home.

Ranger Rick: It’s nice to see that family values
Are coming back.

Adolph: Then it is settled. You,
My dear, will live with us. Now come so we
Can set up house. We have a lot of things
To do. We have to get a bigger place
For everyone – a giant bedroom for
Us four, a giant nursery for these three.

Adolph pats Eunice on the belly as he puts his arm over her shoulder. Karl puts his arm around her waist and puts his other hand on her belly.

Karl: The two of us will sell our houses so
That we can buy a brand new home. Oh, what
A happy family we will be!

The three walk offstage together.

Diana: It seems
The ANAL leadership is gone. The rest
Must get your asses out of here. And do
Not make me have to tell you twice. Now go!

The animal rights activists look around, looking lost. From offstage comes Kitty’s voice.

Kitty: Well, I’m not gone and I say that we stay!

An ambulance siren.

Ranger Rick: Oh, never mind about her, then. It sounds
Like they’re about to wrap up that loose end.

The animal rights activists all shrug and walk offstage.

Ranger Peter: Well, so long to that ANAL bunch.

Ranger Rick: Yeah, what
A great pain in the ass they were. Good riddance.

Bella: And now it seems to me the story’s gone.

Dick: So long as PENIS still remains, and you
Are here to keep the ANALs out of here,
Then I think that a story’s here. We stay.

Diana: Then we are left without a choice. We will
Fulfill our duty here. So Bunnies, go
And do whatever you must do to them.

All the Playboy Bunnies except Bella and Diana drop their guns and walk over to the news crew, including Dick Jockman, and start seducing them. The men follow the women offstage, bringing their equipment with them. One Bunny collects the guns and follows them.

Bella: And now it’s time for PENIS to go home.

Al: Congratulations everyone! It looks
To me like we have won! But now it seems
We shot our wad, so let’s go home. We did
What we set out to do and we should all
Be satisfied.

B.J.: However, everyone
Must know that anywhere an ANAL person
Shows up that PENIS will be there to put
On pressure, slipping in when least expected
To make sure what’s right is done, come what may.

Diana: Just get the hell away from here. You’ve done
Enough. These rangers have more work to do
Because of you and everyone who came.
The media is gone, and now you must
Go too. This island cannot take much more
Of PENIS’ help. When you forget that man-
And womankind are part of nature this
Is what we get: complete destruction of
Our nature – disregard for living things.
We should not see ourselves as plagues, or worse,
As those who should exploit without regard
For life or earth. Between the two are these,
The rangers here, and gardeners like them.
For that is how we all will save the earth:
We garden what we own, removing weeds
And making sure the plants and animals
We have are cared for on our lands. So do
Please go away and let these men go back
To work to weed this garden of these cats.

Al: I said we’re going. Can’t you take a ‘yes’
And ‘we agree’ for answers? Now we’ll go
And let these rangers get to work. That’s all
We really came here for. So let us go.

Al gestures for everyone to follow him. He leads his environmentalist group offstage.

Ranger Rick: I guess his ego wouldn’t let him go
Unless he took full credit for the show.

Ranger Peter turns to Bella and Diana.

Ranger Peter: I guess it’s just the four of us. So now
What do you plan to do?

Bella: Well, we were told
To stay with you until the job is done.

Diana: So now it’s time for you to get to work.

Bella and Diana each walk to the front corners of the stage and stand at guard with machine guns ready. Ranger Rick and Ranger Peter look at each other, shrug, and get back to work.

Ranger Peter: Now, don’t forget that all these feral cats
Are cunning so we have to take care setting
The traps. I’ll put mine here, you put yours there
Behind that bush. We need to spread them out.
Don’t thrust it in like that – you’ll set it off.

Ranger Rick: I’ll try to be more gentle. This a good

Ranger Peter: Make it so they can get in.
You have to make an easy entrance, Rick.

Ranger Rick: I’ll try to hold it stable with this stick.

Close Curtain

As applause dies down, Ranger Rick steps out from behind the curtain.

Ranger Rick: Those ANALs were such silly assholes. Don’t
They know that Hefner’s bunnies only made
Us see more pussies everywhere? Who cares
If there are none here on this island now
That we have done our jobs? I’ll let you argue
Amongst yourselves about if we should see
Them out as often as we see them now –
Such things are hardly my concern today.
Now go –we hope that you enjoyed the play.

Rick turns and disappears behind the curtain.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Inception and Philosophy

William Irwin and David Kyle Johnson have an interesting piece in Psychology Today on the philosophy of the film Inception. In it they talk about the philosophical issue of reality vs. dreams, or a life of endless pleasure and control. This may not seem to be an important philosophical issue, but, as they point out that though people may not be able to plug into something like Nozick's Experience Machine,

People create pretend worlds on a smaller scale all the time. When presented with the reasons they are wrong, people ignore the evidence continuing to believe what they want to believe: in the pretend realities that make them happy. Religious beliefs, political beliefs, beliefs about the quality of their relationships, beliefs about their own intelligence. Only when we realize how important knowledge is, can we free ourselves from such self-deception.
Our ideologies are too often localized dream states, where we can safely ignore reality. This is fine on the individual level, but when people try to realize those dreams, too often they result in nightmares for everyone else.

They observe that Plato argued in his allegory of the cave that the majority of humanity live in a dream state, while it is the philosopher who learns what reality is. In the same work, The Republic, Plato argues too that the arts and literature are copies of copies and thus twice removed from reality. Nietzsche argues rather that the arts tell the truth because they admit to being lies. They are dreams we can enter into -- a safe play space in which we can learn about the nature of reality precisely because we are under no illusions about whether we are in a dream state. May the arts be a Nozick Experience Machine?

Another thought: actors are always enacting the dreams of others. This is what they do on the stage and in front of the camera. This may explain too their tendency to take up dream ideologies. (Anyone who thinks Castro, Hugo Chavez, or Che Guevara should be admired or emulated most definitely have a dream ideology.) Embodying the dreams of others, they end up never leaving the dream world for reality.

This may seem strange for an artist to say, but I prefer reality. Why, then, delve into the dream world? Why create art, with the intention that others enter into the same dream world? Because art tells the truth of reality in the general form of a dream-lie. If we isolate the dream world into its own sacred space, if we use the proper rituals to enter into that world, then the dream world is an important one for helping us to better understand reality. But only if we remember to leave.

Keynes's General Theory Ch 5

I finally read a chapter by Keynes that actually makes sense. In Ch. 5 Keynes argues that changing expectations affect employment. Indeed. The examples he gives are of particular firms' owners' expectations changing with changing conditions over time. Indeed, it is important to take time into consideration -- something neoclassical economics still manages to avoid. It makes sense that changing expectations by firms' owners will affect employment decisions by those firms. How, though, is this related to the idea of aggregate employment? A given firm's owner has to adjust his expectations based on the changing market, and this necessarily affect employment at his firm. He has to hire a few more or lay some people off. This is obvious enough. We have a wide variety of firms engaging in these kinds of calculations, resulting in subtle changes in (un)employment over time and space. Good enough microeconomics, but, again, what relation does this have with aggregate (un)employment? It doesn't have to have any, as far as I can tell.

Consider the following. We have an economy at "full employment" -- let us say for argument's sake that it is an unemployment rate between 4-5%. There is thus a full employment equilibrium at 4% and at 5% unemployment. This constitutes those who are between jobs, temproarily laid off, etc. The real unemployment rate of course actually fluctuates between the two. Between these two equilibria is a far-from-equilibrium state (a far-from-equilibrium state does not mean there are radical swings from, say 4% to 90% unemployment, but rather that the system cannot settle down on either of two equilibria, such as 4% or 5%, and thus fluctuates between the two). Each and every firm making its own decisions regarding expectations results in a wide variety of judgments of needed employment to produce their particular products. If a particular job requires particular training, it may take longer to get new workers -- and equally, if such a company lays people off, those people may need to be retrained to do other things -- both of which result in delays and, thus, temporarily higher unemployment (than, say, the low of 4%). All of which are disequilibrating. The heterogeneity of labor thus has a significant effect on (un)employment, keeping the system in a far-from-equilibrium state. The good news, though, is that systems with such states are the most creative and generative. Surely we want a creative, generative labor market. Equilibrium is something we want to avoid, as that means stagnation and a lack of growth.

In other words, if we avoid Keynes' notion of aggregates, there is something worth thinking about -- at least, in chapter 5.

The Eugenicist Foundations of Progressivism

Does the fact that the original intentions behind a set of policies mean that the results of those policies will end or have ended? Thomas C. Leonard has an interesting article titled Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era in which he lays out the origins of the minimum wage and the welfare state as part of a progressivist eugenics program. The idea was that the minimum wage would do exactly what it does -- increase unemployment among minorities -- and, as a result, have a eugenec effect. Welfare was intended to sort of sweep up all those who were displaced by the minimum wage. Even child labor laws were put in place in order to perofrm a eugenic service, preventing the "unworthy poor" form bettering themselves by having their children work to help support the family. As it turns out, the ideas of "worthy poor" vs. "unworthy poor" is a progressivist idea. It is ironic, then, that many pro-market people get accused of such nonsense, as classical liberals have historically, consistently argued precisely against such definitions.

The eugenics program was in the end discredited not by Nazism, but by the science of genetics itself. Complex mental traits are not heritable in a simple Mendelian pattern. As this became plain, the eugenics program fell apart. Complexity disproved eugenics. What we are left with are the social and economic programs whose purpose was eugenecist in nature. Naturally, other arguments have arisen to justify, after the fact, the continuation of those policies. One hopes that complexity science again proves to even the staunchest believer the fallacy of progressivist ideas. The sooner, the better.

Monday, February 21, 2011

If You Just Reverse Keynes, Do You Get a Theory of a Real Economy?

Keynes argued that recessions occured because people held money (for no apparent reason and, strangely, all together at once) rather than spent it. Of course, this gets things backwards:

He who believes that the prices of the good in which he takes an interest will rise, buys more of them than he would have bought in the absence of this belief; accordingly he restricts his cash holding. He who believes that prices will drop, restricts his purchases and thus enlarges his cash holding. As long as such speculative anticipations are limited to some commodities, they do not bring about a general tendency toward changes in cash holding. But it is different if people believe that they are on the eve of big cash-induced changes in purchasing power. When they expect that the money prices of all goods will rise or fall, they expand or restrict their purchases. These attitudes strengthen and accelerate the expected tendencies considerably. This goes on until the point is reached beyond which no further changes in the purchasing power of money are expected. Only then does this inclination to buy or sell stop and do people begin again to increase or to decrease their cash holdings. (Mises, Human Action, 426-7)
In other words, it is the general decrease in prices -- deflation -- which causes people to hold onto their money as they wait for ever-better deals rather than, as Keynes claimed, people holding onto their money en masse that results in deflation and, thus, recession. His approach blinds people to the fact that there is something else which triggered the price decrease. And no, it's not anything like "external shocks" like the oft-blamed "oil shock". In American recessions, at least, oil prices often drop toward the beginning of the officially-recognized recession -- but the pattern is not entirely clear. Further, we should not be surprised if oil prices dropped during a recession. Or that oil prices should go up during an economic bubble -- especially considering how much economic activity requires transportation. Again, the Keynesians reverse cause and effect.

The real causes of recessions are described by Austrian Business Cycle Theory. Keynesianism describes nothing. At best, it tries to treat the symptoms -- and often does so in such a way as to make the patient sicker.

So why do people fall for Keynes?

A retailer or innkeeper can easily fall prey to the illusion that all that is needed to make him and his colleagues more prosperous is more spending on the part of the public. In his yees the main thing is to impel people to spend more. But it is amazing that this belief could be presented to the world as a new social philosophy. Lord Keynes and his disciples make the lack of the propensity to consume responsible for what they deem unsatisfactory in economic conditions. What is needed, in their eyes, to make men more prosperous is not an increase in production, but an increase in spending. In order to make it possible for people to spend more, an "expansionist" policy is recommended.

This doctrine is as old as it is bad. (Mises, Human Action, 432)
More, it again gets things backwards. Further, inflationary policies end up driving the next round of bubble-misallocation-recession that is the real cause of economic downturns. So Keynes not only gets things backwards, but his recommended cure causes the disease. And that's really getting things backwards. I'm sure Mises would be horrifed to learn that such nonsense is still believed after all this time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mises Institutue on the Middle East Educaton Bubble

The Mises Institute has an article covering much of the same ground, but also including Tunisia, as my Egyptian education bubble article. And it links my article. Seems like my idea is catching on!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day to My Wife

There's none whom I have ever known
To bring me daily happiness
My love for you has only grown
When I look on your loveliness

I never feel I have the time
To spend all that I want with you
And twenty-four is still a crime
Of hours on second-feathers flew

In all the past days I've enjoyed
In loving you my silver sun
My life is best cause I employed
My powers to make sure you're my one

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Darwin's Birthday

Today is Darwin's birthday. The great man had an enormous effect on our understanding of the world. We are still grappling with the implications of his ideas. Only now we are coming around to understanding how correct were his insights into morality. Only now are we beginning to truly understand the connection of his ideas to social order, economics in particular (not surprising, considering how indebted Darwin was to the ideas of many economists). Only now are we seeing the full fruition of his ideas in evolutionary psychology and literary Darwinism. My interest in all of these fields is thus perhaps no coincidence. My world view is so fundamentally formed by evolutionary theory that it demands expression in a variety of fields. We are on the cusp of realizing Darwin's true vision in the world, in our sciences, in our understanding. It is an exciting time.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Libertarian Left

Sheldon Richman has an article in The American Conservative titled Libertarian Left. In it Richman argues for the historical connection between classical liberalism and historical leftism -- at least, French liberalism and leftism, which sided against the royalists (the right, who sat on the right side of the assembly). On many social issues, the relationship between the left and classical liberalism should be obvious, but on economic issues, the connection is less clear. If look at the right as primarily mercantilist in its economics, then the anti-business sentiments of both the left and classical liberals can be seen to have similar roots. The difference, then is that classical liberals are anti-business, but pro-market, while the left are anti-business, anti-market.

Why, then, do we see the contemporary left more likely to associate itself with pro-business, anti-market types? This is the position of the modern day Democratic party, and is the very definition of fascist economics (fascism as an economic system, not a social system). The progressives have historically been anti-business, anti-market -- but also have a nasty history most modern day progressives would like to forget. It was only because of the even nastier actions of National Socialists that many of the social positions of the socialists and progressives were abandoned. Suddenly anti-Semitism and eugenics didn't seem so "progressive." Thus on social issues, the left actually took a turn toward classical liberalism -- and started calling itself liberalism as well. Nevertheless, we still see some remnants of progressiveist eugenics in the location of ~75% of Planned Parenthood clinics in Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods, while the overall distribution of abortion clinics is much more proportional to population. Why the difference? Well, PLanned Parenthood's founder, Margret Sanger, was an avowed eugenicist, who wished to target not just certain ethnic minorities, but also the poor in general (see Eugenics and Euthanasia in the linked article).

So why the association of classical liberals with conservatives in the U.S.? Well, for one, there is the issue of economics. Contemporary American conservatives at least give lip-service to supporting free markets, even if, in fact, they are mostly pro-business. One could classify them as pro-business, pro-market, if this isn't an entirely contradictory position to hold (to the extent that you support established businesses, it tends to be at the expense of the market and of new businesses). And those conservatives who are the most economically literate also tend to support more classical liberal social positions. Hayek's support for evolution within tradition also allows for a certain bridge to be made between traditionalist conservatives and classical liberals (Burkean conservatism and Larry Arnhart's Darwinian Conservatism are similar bridges). It is also possible to personally support "traditional values" and politically support classical liberal policies. More, if we consider the U.S. to have been founded in the classical liberal tradition, then to be a true conservative in the U.S. is to be a classical liberal. Naturally, this is not always -- or even primarily -- the case. Starting with the civil war within the Democratic party during the civil rights movement, the right within the Democratic party left, and then joined the Republican party due to Nixon's Southern strategy and Reagan's social conservatism (which wrapped up bringing the Southern right -- which was truly right in the sense of being essentially royalists). While the typical Southern Democrat was anti-market in economics, the abandonment by the Demcorats of the very social issues taken up by the Republicans resulted in the South going Republican. For the Southern Democrats, social issues were more important than economic ones, so they put up with the pro-market beliefs of Reagan (though they were more comfortable with the anti-market ideology of Nixon). The result is that the Republicans became more right-wing in ideology.

Of course, the parties are no indication of ideology. The Republicans, for example, went from abolitionist to progressivist to Keynesian to supply-side/social conservative to pragmatic to whatever it is trying to become now. The Democrats have been loosely populist from Andrew Jackson on, with globalist tendencies, a turn toward facist economics with FDR, the development of full-blown welfare statism and an embracing of civil rights and liberal social ideology starting in the 1960's, which ended with Clinton's pragmatism, and finally to Obama's Keynesian pro-union, pro-business, anti-market ideology. Each party contains elements of each of these ideologies. So one should not necessarily associate a political party with a particular ideology, even if the GOP is loosely right-conservative and the DNC is loosely progressive-welfare statist. All things considered, then, it is the libertarians, the classical liberals, who fill the left-libertarian gap (notwithstanding a handful of libertarians who wanted to win elected office in the GOP).

All of these things get mixed up in political discussions in the U.S. If one criticizes the Democrats or progressives, one is accused of being a right-winger. If one criticizes Republicans or the right -- or some foreign policy issue -- one is accused of being a leftist. It may be that one is neither. It may be that one abhors the ideologies of the right, the socialist left, the progressives, the fascists, the Keynesians, the populists, the welfare statists, and the social conservatives, and the past and/or present racism and xenophobia of members of any and all of these parties. The last I heard, that would make one a classical liberal.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The General Theory, Ch. 4

In Ch. 4 of The General Theory, Keynes argues that treating all labor as homogeneous is not a problem because

in so far as different grades and kinds of labour and salaried assistance enjoy a more or less fixed relative remuneration, the quantity of employment can be sufficiently defined for our purpose by taking an hour's employment of ordinary labour as our unity and weighting an hour's employment of special labour in proportion to its remuneration; i.e. an hour of special labour remunerated at double ordinary rates will count as two units. (41)
This is how he's making the labor of a CEO and the labor of a McDonalds clerk equivalent.

Let us do some ecology like Keynes does economics. Let us say that we are doing to study mammals. How would we make mammals homogeneous? Well, the easiest way, I suppose, would be to measure them all by volume. We would consider the volume of the smallest mammal -- a kind of shrew -- as a single unit, and the volume of a mammal ten times its size to be ten units. We would then add the volume units of all the mammals together. This would give us an aggragate mammal unit, which we could compare on a year-by-year basis to understand the relative health of the ecosystem. If we see a stability in units, or even an increase, we can assume that mammalian ecology, at least, is healthy. I would not be in the least bit surprised if we learned that the number of units of mammals has in fact increased over the last century or two. The conclusion one would reach, then, is that mammalian ecology has improved over the last century or two.

But of course, this is absurd. If we disaggregate the data, we find that numerous mammalian species have gone extinct over the past century or two. Others have reduced in numbers to become endangered or threatened. The increase in volume can be attributed, then, to the vast increase in population in humans, cows, pigs, sheep, rats, and others closely tied to human beings over this same time period. We see a decrease in wild biodiversity at the same time as we see an increase in the number of humans and domesticated species. All of these facts are hidden when we consider mammals as homogeneous. The result is an absurd conclusion regarding the state of the ecosystem. In fact, when we measured by mammalian volume units, we came to the opposite conclusion about the health of the ecosystem as we did with the disaggregated data.

The fact that this approach can result in the opposite conclusion one would reach with disaggregated data that reflects reality more accurately should make one highly suspcious of it. Well, because it is suitable "as material for the differential calculus" (40), I suppose. The result? The ability to come up with a precise quantitative answer. Never mind that the answer probably doesn't match reality.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The General Theory, Ch. 3, Section III

I have argued that Keynesianism is essentially folk economics. Paul H. Rubin observes that, "Folk economics is the intuitive economics of untrained persons." With this definition, met me revise my position on Keynes' economics. Keynesianism is not folk economics per se -- rather, it supports folk economics as legitimate. We see this when Keynes's primary argument against "Ricardo's doctrine that it was impossible for effective demand to be deficient" (The General Theory, 32) is that "it reached conclusions quite different from what the ordinary uninstructed person would expect" (32-3).

His next argument against it is pure scientism. He argues that it fails in its "purposes of scientific prediction" (33), but this assumes that economic theory can be used to make successful scientific predictions -- that the economy is in any way predictable. Thus, he makes the mistake of thinking that the economy is comparable to physics rather than one of the more complex sciences, like biology or ecology -- both of which are simpler than an economy, but are at least complex systems whose future states one is incapable of predicting. So there is also a fundamental flaw in Keynes's understanding of the nature of the economy -- which cannot but lead to other errors. You cannot reach right conclusions from false premises.

Whether or not one can criticize Ricardo's theory, neither of these arguments are either logically or scientifically valid arguments against it.

The only thing to be recommended in this section is his statement that one should try to understand how a given economy actually works rather than focusing on how it should. But even here I would only half-recommend it, as one should not only try to understand how this or that particular economy works (which can result in historicism, or a rejection of normative economics and economic theory) -- one should also understand how an economy ought to work. That way, one can recognize how and why things are going wrong in the economy, and make recommendations to fix things correctly. Otherwise, you are just putting patches on the problem and not treating the underlying cause. When you are sick, you don't want your doctor to tell you that we need to understand how the diseased organ is actually working rather than how it ought to work. You'd better hope he can do both.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Welfare State and Crony Capitalism

All monopolies and cartels (which act as monopolies, gaining monopoly prices) were and are created by government. But why would governments favor monopolies and cartels (other than for the bribes -- political contributions, etc. -- they get from potential monopolists to create monopoloy-creating rules)?

The advocates of government interference with business ascribe to the "State" the power to benefit certain groups within the framework of the market by a mere fiat. In fact, this power is the government's power to foster monopolistic combines. The monopoly gains are the funds out of which the "social gains" are financed. As far as these monopoly gains do not suffice, the various measures of interventionism immediately paralize the operation of the market; mass unemployment, depression, and capital consumption appear. This explains the eagerness of all contemporary governments to foster monopoly in all those sectors of the market which are in some way or other connected with export trade. -- Mises, Human Action, 236
And now you know why those in government -- left or right, Republican or Democrat -- are crony capitalists favoring monopoly-creating regulations. The monopoly prices that can be charged can also be taxed without causing too many economic problems (aside from those created by monopoly). But if that doesn't provide enough money, the welfare state will end up crashing the economy. Whatever power corporations have over anyone, it is given to them by our government, who wants them to have monopoly power in order to support their social programs designed to get them re-elected. If you want to break up the monopolies, you have to get rid of the welfare state; if you want the welfare state, you support the creation of monopoly. Those who are anti-monopoly and pro-welfare state want contradictory things.

Yeah, But . . .

I am sick of the "yeah, but" non-argument. This occurs whenever you criticize someone who is a member of a particular person's group. If you point out racist comments made by some progressive/leftist, you may be sure that some progressive/leftist will come around and say, "yeah, but" and list a variety of offenders on the right. Naturally, this is not just a phenomenon of the left. I mention them only because I have had that argument raised several times by some progressives I know. But people in all groups do it all the time in regards to members of their group. They will immediately respond by pointing out the shortcomings of some other group. If the criticism of a member of their group is acknowledged at all, it is then quickly buried under an avalanche of "yeah, but's".

Is it really too much to ask for someone to just outright condemn bad behavior or attitudes by a member of their group? Or is this just one of the expected side effects of collectivist thinking? Truly social thinking does not defend bad behavior or attitudes of those in their society. Quite the contrary. Those things are seen as undermining of society. However, they can act as binding in a collectivist grouping. Collectivism isn't social. It is fundamentally anti-social. It is exclusive of other groups. Those who think this way will automatically defend those in their groups. This group-think is what underlies all forms of collectivist thinking, from racism at the most primitive to socialism at the most advanced. Both are exclusive of those they oppose, and consider deviations to be signs of mental illness, since they cannot think "rationally," which is to say, exactly as the group thinks. The result is that collectivist thinking results in a variety of unethical behaviors on the part of the members of the groups in question. Yet it is all justified to protect the group. And that is where the "yeah, but's" all come from -- from the attitude that one has to protect the group at all cost.