Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reader Advice Wanted

I thought I would seek some advice from my readers. Here is the situation:

I have been busy trying to set up the Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture ( ) this year, and I just received 501(c)(3) status, meaning we are now able to solicit funds and really get the EIFC started. The Emerson Institute is a free market think tank focused on supporting the arts and humanities. I see it as a privately-funded organization within the arts and humanities spontaneous order whose purpose is to support those artists who understand the world as a hierarchy of self-organizing systems, of which the free market economic system is a naturally-occurring member. We already have a journal (see website), whose website is going to get a renovation soon. To get this thing well-funded so we can get started transforming the culture in a positive manner, it will take up much of my time. This will essentially be a full-time job.

I live in the Texas 32nd Congressional district, and Pete Sessions (R) is our Congressman. I consider his vote against the bailout, then for it when some money came his political way, to be a prime example of the kind of corruption we desperately need to fight against. And it shows his incredible ignorance of economics. Now he is coming up with the lame excuse that he really didn't want to vote for it, but he had to. Nobody ever "has" to vote for something they are honestly against. These sorts of things show the kind of man -- and the ideology of the man -- Pete Sessions is. For these reasons, I have been considering running against Pete Sessions in the GOP primary. However, this too will be a full-time job. I want to be fair to my supporters.

And speaking of being fair to my supporters, if I should run -- I have also been applying for academic positions across the country. If I should get one of those jobs, I will have to move out of the district. Since we are talking about academic jobs, there's not a high probability of my getting hired, especially since I am applying for primarily English positions and my Ph.D. is in the humanities and my work deals with scientific approaches to understanding literature (when I'm not presenting conference papers on spontaneous orders, that is). Scientific approaches to understanding literature are not exactly popular (let alone my politics) in English departments. So there is a very high level of uncertainty.

So, it comes down to this: with the information provided, does it seem reasonable for me to run in the primary against Pete Sessions (please ignore any considerations of my ability to actually defeat Pete Sessions)? Any and all advice is welcome.

Friday, November 28, 2008

501(c)(3) Achieved!

Good news! The Emerson Institute is now a 501(c)(3). That's right, we're a nonprofit. That means we can now collect money and get to work on supporting pro-market artists and scholars!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Congress Violated the Constitution WIth Bailout

"the Constitution does not repose in the Congress the power to bail out individuals or private industry: Bailouts violate the Equal Protection doctrine because the Congress can’t fairly pick and choose who to bail out and who to let expire; they violate the General Welfare Clause because they benefit only a small group and not the general public; they violate the Due Process Clause because they interfere with contracts already entered into; and they turn the public treasury into a public trough. Worse still, Congress lacks the power to let someone else decide how to spend the peoples’ money."

Further: "the Congress delegated to the Secretary of the Treasury some of the power the Constitution has delegated to the Congress: The power to decide when, how, for whose benefit, and in what amounts taxpayer dollars should be spent.

This delegation of power to the secretary directly violates a basic principle of constitutional law: Delegated powers cannot be delegated away. The Constitution delegates to the Congress the power to write all federal laws specifically related to spending, to the president the power to enforce those laws (and he must spend as the Congress ordains), and to the courts the power to interpret the laws (and they usually stay away from issues of spending). The Congress can no more delegate to the secretary of the treasury the power to decide how to spend billions than the president could delegate to the Congress his power to appoint the secretary." -- Judge Andrew Napolitano

Read the whole thing. But since when did our government allow the Constitution to stand in the way of doing what it does? Other than the military and the post office, the Constitution actually doesn't allow our government to do much of anything. Everyone who voted for the bailout have thus violated their oaths and should be required to step down.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Now, whoever put the piano in the woods for the police to find are brilliant artists -- whether they intended to be or not. Actually, what they did was turn a police photographer into an artist. I love that they even titled the piece. "Liberace"

On Pragmatism

I've given a little thought to the idea of pragmatism. If we say someone is "pragmatic," we mean that they support "what works." Well, one would hope that everyone is a pragmatist, then. But is that what a pragmatist really is? It seems to me that those we call pragmatists in politics are only interested in finding out "what works" to get them elected. Any politician who was actually interested in what works would be a supporter of the market system and would oppose almost all government involvement and interference in that system. I also doubt there would be much support for the current laws, the way we deal with criminals, regulations, prohibitions, social policies, the welfare state, etc. from a true pragmatist. A true pragmatist supports what works because a true pragmatist believes in reality. Political pragmatists are not true pragmatists, but are rather mere politicians, looking to find what works to get them elected and reelected.

Loose Lending Sinks Economies

Bank lending practices have returned to the more sensible way they were prior to Clinton's intervention. As a result, everyone is saying that credit has "frozen," making getting a loan "nearly impossible." Nonsense. More difficult, yes. But not impossible. More rationally available, yes. But hardly frozen. But because loans are nowhere near as easy to get as they were in the situation which caused this crisis, the Treasury Dept. has announced that they are moving to free up credit, to make it easier to get -- again. Loose credit is what put us in this situation. Doesn't that moron Paulson get that? Easily available credit is a political, not an economic, issue. that should tell you all you need to know about why Paulson is doing it, and what the consequences will be.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wisdom and Literature

The arts have a future when you actually have a critic argue that the reason why we should study literature is because it is full of wisdom.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Some Things for the GOP to Consider

What is success and what is failure? We do not succeed when we win offices and keep them. We succeed when we can govern well, when government’s a gently guiding hand and not a foot that presses down on us, as government has certainly become, and threatens worse things still. Let’s put things in perspective. We say Franklin Roosevelt was a socialist when he presided over such a small and unobtrusive government which only made up six percent of GDP, and then we turn around, proclaim ourselves to be supporters of free markets with a government which uses forty percent of our GDP. A government Republicans presided over. Where’s the smaller government Republicans have promised us? Republicans took over Congress and the Presidency and turned into Democrats. The government was ours, and so we took the money and the power, never looking back. We won the Congress on the promises of Gingrich that we would shrink government, be different from the Democrats. We lost the Congress when, with Dennis Hastert, we became like Democrats, and spent like Democrats, and grew the government like Democrats. The public looked at us and looked at them, decided we were both the same, and went with them because at least they spoke the truth about the way they’d spend and grow the government. And then we chose a man to run for President whose ideology was that of what has failed us with both Bushes, Hastert, Dole, and Nixon. These are leaders who supported economic theories which have failed and failed again, especially the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes. His theories gave us terrible economies, inflation, and high deficits – stagflation in the seventies we blamed on Carter, who deserved the blame for stupidly continuing with policies which failed with Ford and Nixon. Reagan, after all, first ran against Ford, then he ran against the failing policies of Carter. Reagan’s policies succeeded, so we then rewarded them by voting in a man who brought us back to Nixon’s policies. We made the right decision once again with Gingrich, but then blindly chose to grasp to power without understanding how we got it. Market policies are what have worked. Throw out your Keynes and read your Hayek, Mises, Friedman, Adam Smith. Believe in markets, not big businesses. Support a system that has proven every time to work, when tried. Reject ideas that failed us. Republicans must stand for more than merely cutting taxes. We must have a full, coherent message if we want to win. And more, we must believe the things we say, which means that we must do the things we say we’ll do. If we believe in smaller government, then we must cut the budget – not just cut the growth we’ve built into our budgets. Zero-baseline budgeting is but a start. We have to then begin to cut, beginning with the subsidies which only help our donors and those engaging in bad business practices. And speaking of supporting failing business practices, the ones who voted not to spend the seven hundred billion dollars on the bailout voted to support reality in economics. Let the failures fail so better people can move in. But those who voted first against it and then voted for it when some money came their way exposed themselves for what they are: corrupt. Such people have to go. But only if we want a vibrant party. Such a party stands on principle and for reality. We win when we don’t try to win by being pragmatists. We won whenever we have stood for principles, for what is right, for liberty. We’ll win again if we can offer more than tax cuts as a way to separate ourselves from Democrats. But in the meantime, government just builds and builds in size. We should support a sunset law for every law we pass – if any law’s worth having, it’s worth voting for again each decade. Thus we can get rid of laws that we no longer need. Now, John McCain was right to stand against the use of earmarks, but we must go further. If a bill’s work voting for, then it should stand alone. No packaging of bills – let each stand on its merit. These are real, effective ways to stop the growth of government. We need coherent economic, international, and social policies which both address the world in its complexity, but which are easy for the general public to then understand. If you cannot explain whatever laws you want to pass, then you don’t understand them, either, and you have no business passing them. And, finally, we have to ask ourselves just why we want to win. If it is just so we have power, then we don’t deserve it and won’t get it. If, however, we want power so we can bring liberty to individuals once again, if we want power so our markets can be free so average people have real opportunities to have success, if we want power so America is once again a beacon to the world of what is best and possible and true, then we will win and, more, we will deserve to win.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Troy Camplin for Congress

So, I am considering running against Pete Sessions here in the Texas 32nd District in the GOP primary. I figure it is the least he deserves for voting for the $700 billion bailout -- but only after a bit of money was thrown his way in the "bailout." Anyone who voted for it the first time was merely wrong and ignorant of economics. But those who voted against it the first time, then voted for it the second time once some money was thrown their way (or, more accurately, the district's way, so they could get reelected more easily, regardless of whether the bailout was a good idea or not) shows them to be basically corrupt. Aren't we tired of having politicians? Don't we deserve statesmen?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Person With All the Power Accuses Underling of Sexual Harassment

Now, I'm the first one to say that 13 year olds are little jerks -- I half-jokingly say they need to be locked up and beaten daily, in fact -- but when an adult woman who is a social worker and, thus, has authority and power over a 13 year old boy intends to bring "sexual harassment" charges against him because she felt he hugged her "inappropriately," then there is something seriously wrong. Here's how this should have been handled:

"Excuse me, but that hug wasn't appropriate."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, . . ." and then she should have told him.

Instead, the woman has set out to create a criminal record for this child.

Why? My guess is that, in this case, it's a clear abuse of power and authority. It does not help that morons like Nicole Littler from MOCSA, the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault , says of sexual harassment, "Hugging someone can be sexual harassment, but it also depends on who it is and how they feel about the situation."

In other words, if I offer to give someone a hug, and they accept, and afterwards they decide they didn't like the hug, I've committed sexual harassment?!? This is perversity. And it's a perversity designed to eliminate any and all social bonds, which are reinforced by touching. This sort of thing is less "sexual harassment" and more "how dare you be a social mammal!"

My God, orthodox, fundamentalist, fanatical religious groups are more tolerant of people touching each other than this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

SEC, Mark Cuban, and "Insider Trading"

The SEC going after Mark Cuban for insider trading is completely ridiculous. Insider trading laws were designed to prevent people within the company from screwing over the other investors. It's primary use, though, including this use of it, however, is a clear abuse of power. The SEC doesn't go after everybody, but just whoever they pick and choose. The law is such that if you hear anything from anybody who might know something, and you use that information to sell a stock, you are engaged in insider trading — so let’s be honest here, that this is designed so the federal government can go after whomever they want whenever they want. So you can’t use information to make a decision? This is a clear violation of the very basis of the market economy. I hope Cuban does have evidence that he didn’t even violate the unjust law they are trying to enforce. Good for him for standing up against these thugs who call themselves our federal government. David Henderson at EconLog discuss this issue at well, and go over a lot of the economics behind it (and why the law is a dumb one overall).

Walter Williams on the Evil That Is Wealth Redistribution

Walter WIlliams, as usual, has it exactly right regarding the evil that is wealth redistribution. He gives the marvelous example of an old woman who cannot mow her lawn or afford to have it mowed, so the government will either force someone to mow it for her, or to give her $40 to have it mowed. Everyone would identify the first one as slavery, but nobody seems to think the second one, even though the person had to work to make that $40, and now that work is forcibly given to another human being. And it is forcibly given. Try not to pay your taxes, and see what happens. For a government to be ethical, it must get money in ways other than through the use of force. If anybody has to go to jail over the government not getting their money, the way they are getting it is unethical, pure and simple. When non-government entities engage in these kinds of activities, we call them organized crime and engaging in protection rackets, etc. But just because the gang calls themselves your government, you think what they do is moral?

In the meantime, Jonah Goldberg points out that Obama's solution to an economic situation being made worse and worse by the uncertainty created by Paulson is . . . to create more uncertainty! He says he's going to engage in bold experimentation, which is a signal to the markets that "you never know just what I'll do!" It is an admission by Obama that he doesn't have a clue what he's doing, that he doesn't in fact understand the economy at all. Great. News we could have used a month ago.

John Stossel also points out that Paulson's every ignorant action weakens the economy. Seriously, if Paulson were a M.D., he would have been put in prison by now for negligence and malpractice. And Obama is now telling the hospital that just hired him that he's at least as incompetent as Paulson. Great.

In the end, for an economy to grow and be strong at all, it has to have steady, standard rules. It needs the stability of rule of law, knowing the rules won't be changed from day to day, week to week, or even month to month. What is happening and being promised is not rule of law, but rule of men, and the ever-shifting policies that comes with it. Rule by men rather than law was one of the very things our Founding Fathers fought Britain over. Why, then, are we allowing it to happen? And why did we vote back in a COngress that gave this kind of power to a single man?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kleptocrats' Money Used For Art Instead

In a demonstration that they can do something good, the U.N Human Rights Council spend foreign aid money on a ceiling mural. I say it's good because the more money spent on foreign aid, the worse the situation of those who receive the help. "Colorful stalactites" as critics are calling them, are a far better use of the money than if they had used it to line the pockets of kleptocrats, which is what it would have otherwise been used for.

Ethics, Laws, Rules, and Being a Jerk

At the Spontaneous Orders conference I attended Nov. 1-4, Gus diZerega asked a question designed, it seems, to test one's (my, in this case) "libertarian purity": What is the difference between me shining a bright light onto my neighbor's property and painting naked people on my fence so the neighbor can see it? He proposed there was no difference, as light must cross property, regardless, and so tough luck for the neighbor, who must now live with an oppressive neighbor rather than an oppressive government. I propose, however, that there is a marked difference.

If we take the issue of the light itself, there is a difference between the purposeful directing of the light toward the neighbors and the incidental reflection of light from off of a painting. This is perhaps the weakest argument, but it does parallel the distinction Marc Hauser makes in "Moral Minds" regarding what people naturally find ethical or unethical. He observes that people find bad outcomes incidental to a decision to not be unethical, but do find bad outcomes built into the decision to be unethical. It seems a light I direct into the neighbor's yard to be of the latter kind, while a painting whose reflected light enters a property to be of the former kind.

But the issue with the painting is itself incidental to the light involved. True, we need light to see it at all, but the point is the images. The issue with the images involves the neighbors taking offense. But here we see that the person who painted the images is not responsible for the reactions of the neighbors. It is the neighbors who take offense, so they are the ones responsible for their own reactions. There is nothing inherently, objectively offensive about an image -- offense is always subjective. The directed light, however, can have an objective consequence in its disruption of circadian rhythms. The neighbors' plants can be negatively affected, let alone the neighbors themselves, whose sleep could be disrupted, whose eyes could be damaged by the intensity of the light, etc. The neighbor could, of course, take measures against the light, but such measures cost the neighbor. If I run into another car, I have to pay for repairs because the person now has to buy things they did not have to buy absent my actions. Again, the painting costs the neighbor nothing, as they can avoid looking at it by simply averting their eyes.

Both behaviors may make me a jerk -- meaning I am acting in an antisocial manner -- but the real issue here is which of these should require a law. For my money, laws should be involved only when some kind of objective harm is involved for the secondary party, and if the law can be applied equally for everybody. Disrupting one's circadian rhythms certainly qualifies for the first. Doing something at which someone may or may not take offense does not. The latter examples is purely subjective -- it is "harmful" because the secondary party chooses for it to be "harmful" to them. That is certainly not the fault of the primary party. However, if I want to be a member of a certain society, then I should try to abide by that society's rules. But law is one thing, rules are another -- and being a jerk shouldn't necessarily be illegal.

GM Board Supports Useless Management Team

Last week a General Motors spokesman said, "Nothing has changed relative to the GM board's support for the GM management team during this historically difficult economic period for the U.S. auto industry." Perhaps this is why they are a failed company with failed policies which needs to declare bankruptcy. If the board supports a management team that is going to run the company out of money in a few months so that it could not possibly continue to exist afterwards unless it receives $50 billion from the federal government, then the board needs to be fired too. GM is nothing but a failure upon a failure.

Still, I'll be very surprised if the federal government didn't bail them out. If we had the same kind of government in 1900 as we have now, Walmart would be selling buggy whips even now. Well, not selling them, but offering them for sale.

In the meantime, what will those wanting to buy an American-made car do? I don't know. Perhaps they could buy a Kia, made in Birmingham, Alabama. Or a Toyota, made in Kentucky, Indiana, or Texas. They probably even have more American-made parts in them than do GM, Chrysler, or FOrd products anyway. American-owned doesn't mean American-made, and Non-American owned doesn't mean it's not American-made. Welcome to the world economy. If GM fails, that just means a larger market share for companies like Kia and Toyota, who will then have to hire even more American workers to meet the new demand for their products.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whatever It Takes? Doubtful.

President-elect Obama says he's going to do "whatever it takes" to get the economy moving. Fantastic! So he's going to cut taxes, push through a massive deregulation program, reverse the bailout he voted for . . . No, wait, he's going to do the complete opposite of all these. I wish he would do whatever it takes to fix the economy -- but he won't. What he will do is slow the economy even more and stretch out this recession unnecessarily.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

U.S. Auto Makers Are Dinosaurs

I agree with Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama when he says the U.S. auto makers are dinosaurs and should face market realities. In fact, had the federal government said this to them decades ago, we would in fact have a health auto-making sector by now. Instead, we fed and fed and fed the dinosaur until it's legs buckled under its weight. But as in nature, sometimes a species has to die because it is no longer adapted to the environment, and keeping it around only prevents new species and evolutionary innovation from arising. Such is the case with the U.S. auto makers. They haven't had to deal with reality for a long, long time. If our government would stop creating mirages for them, they would have been able to survive. What has happened with the auto industry should be a warning against governments propping up poorly-run companies. We need to stop rewarding failure.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Oldest Temple Found

11,500 years old. That's the age of a temple found in Turkey. It predates domestication and agriculture. Thus, it was set up by tribalist people, hunter-gatherers. This is a group who moved from tribalist into egoist psychology and social structure, which then led to settlement behaviors. It's quite an insight into human psychological and social development and emergence that it is what seems to have led to settlements, and not the other way around. I personally am not surprised, as I have argued elsewhere that the social order emerges out of the psychological order, as the social order is a spontaneous order which develops out of the kinds of entities that make it up. You have to have a high enough percentage of a psychological level to get a new social level.

RNC Chair

If Gingrich is running for RNC chair, I'm for him. If not, I choose Michael Steele over Saul Anuzis, who called for banning Ron Paul from the debates. I'm against anyone who is in favor of excluding voices from the debates. Nor does it help that he singled out Ron Paul, whose ideas were by far the best ones among the GOP lineup. Paul's knowledge of economics is desperately needed in the GOP at large.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More Evidence for the Benefits of Music

A new study suggests that music makes children smarter, particularly in vocabulary. However, the authors claim that "Contrary to previous research, instrumental music training was not associated with heightened spatial skills, phonemic awareness, or mathematical abilities." This does not mean that there is no connection, as a great deal of other research has shown, only that they did not find it in this particular study. They did find a connection to improved verbal abilities, though. A general improvement in cognitive abilities makes a great deal of sense since development of the ability to play a musical instrument helps one understand the world better. "Music involves grasping patterns," and the world is deeply patterned. Further, music is structured much like grammar, and thus it makes sense that it helps with language and reasoning. In fact, "The young musicians' vocabulary scores were 15 percent higher, and non-verbal reasoning scores were 11 percent higher. The longer the child was musically trained, the higher the scores." This is a pretty significant improvement. Makes me glad I have my daughter, Melina, in a music class already. Besides, she loves it. She will definitely be learning how to play a musical instrument when she gets a bit older. In the meantime, I find it remarkable that music isn't a dominant part of all education in the U.S., starting in Kindergarten. If we really wanted students to learn more and become more intelligent, we would implement this kind of information.

Self-Esteem Movement Diagnosed as Unhealthy

Psychologists have finally come around to noting what I noticed for quite a while now: teens think too highly of themselves. I saw it especially in the college classes I taught. Just as bad as thinking too well of themselves, they cannot take criticism at all. And when they get to college, too many administrators and professors also let them slide by. I've been told that the rhetorical, grammatical, and literary expectations common in public elementary school children in the Renaissance is too much for college Freshmen, and is now only expected to be taught at the graduate level. Fortunately, there is a movement in certain religious schools to teach the Trivium (rhetoric, grammar, and logic) and the literary Canon that is very welcome. Unfortunately, they also typically combine it with a "literalist" Biblical science curriculum. Can't we please get some balance somewhere in this country?

Government Redistribution Does Not Make You Generous

In theists or atheists better people? In the U.S., studies have shown theists to be far more generous and happier people than atheists. However, in this review of Society Without God, the reviewer notes that the author says that Danes and Swedes are for the most part atheists, and that they are in fact very generous people. His evidence?

"They have a famously expansive welfare and health care service. They have a strong commitment to social equality. And—even without belief in a God looming over them—they murder and rape one another significantly less frequently than Americans do."

Well, if letting someone rob you without complaint so that they can give your money to others is generosity, then call me against generosity. An extensive welfare and socialized medicine are not indicators of generosity. They are indicators of a government run by people who are not personally generous, but want to force others to be. The net effect is a decrease in actual generosity. To put it another way: you are not morally culpable when you are forced to do something. Nor are you moral if you are forced to do good. Virtue is freely made. Thus, an expansive welfare and health care service is no indication of virtue at all. At best it is a relinquishing of virtue.

I have no idea what is meant here by "social equality," but if it means an egalitarian world view, then it is deeply unjust, as people are not in fact the same, and when we try to treat unequal things equally, we get injustice. "One law for the lion and the lamb is tyranny." _William Blake.

The only point he may have is the statement about murder and rape. However, we must not make the mistake of equating positive correlation with causation. There may be any number of causes of a higher rape and murder rate in the U.S. than in Denmark and Sweden that have nothing to do with religion -- or lack of religion -- per se. Of course, if most Swedes and Danes are at the Egalitarian level, that would also explain well the low levels of murder and rape, which are not commonly found among those with an Egalitarianist psychology in the U.S., either. The presence of a higher percentage of people in the U.S. with an Egoist psychology well into adulthood may go farther in explaining the higher levels of rape and murder, though. I suspect that Authoritative and Classical Liberal psychologies don't exactly rape and murder much, either (and when they do, it's because of a strong, negative Egoist psychology still at work in them), so the fact that pure Egalitarians are also atheists doesn't necessarily support the thesis entirely. There are atheists at all levels.

The rest of the review, though, it quite interesting and thought-provoking. His point about moral communities having a strong locally social component is dead-on, and the quote he gives from Robert Putnam that "voluntary association with other people is integral to a fulfilled and productive existence—it makes us "smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy"" is also an important point. Please note the term "voluntary." When government takes money and property from you through taxation and confiscation, there's nothing voluntary about it. Government thus prevents us from living "a fulfilled and productive existence" and prevents us from becoming "smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy". Government is preventing us from governing well? Yes. And when that happens, it's time for a real change. Governmen

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spontaneous Orders and Bailouts

The free market is a naturally-occurring spontaneous order, a self-organizing system that emerges out of the free exchange of the people in that economy. Outside interference in that system will always result in perverse incentives and unintended consequences. More, it results in a simplification of a complex system. And if you simplify a complex system, you get sickness and death -- consider what happens if you simplify a cell from a complex system to a simple pile of chemicals. More, when government interferes, it is typically trying to import something appropriate to that system into another system. It would be as though the economy were a rain forest and the government were the arctic, and the arctic government decided the rain forest economy needed polar bears. Neither the polar bears nor the rain forest would benefit. Or let's say that someone decided that what rain forests really needed was more cashew trees, so efforts were made to grow more cashews. naturally, that would push out other tree species, and reduce the biodiversity that makes the rain forest healthy. Environmentalists would object that we are trying to force a monoculture on the rain forest, which reduces biodiversity. Yet many of the same people (unfortunately) are more than willing to support policies that have the same effect in the economy. The phrase "too big to fail" is much like complaining that if we let a banana plantation revert back to the rain forest, we will harm the biodiversity of the rain forest itself. This is utter nonsense, which we can see in the ecological examples given, but which too many cannot seem to see with the economy. Perhaps this is because nobody understands that the economy too is a kind of ecosystem, or environment. Until we understand that, though, we will continue to make the mistake of thinking we can do better with our planning than the system itself can do naturally.

Evidence for Life as Self-ORganizing Systems

Exciting news out of Princeton: scientists there have discovered a protein that directs its own evolution using feedback, keeping the system stable. More evidence for biological systems as self-organizing systems.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bailouts and Perverse Incentives

When we bail companies out, all we are doing is rewarding bad decisions. Why make good decisions? If you are big enough and make a bad enough decision, the government will give you money! And where do they get the money? From those responsible enough to have made a profit by making good decisions. So all a bailout is designed to do is punish good decisions and successful choices, while rewarding bad decisions and failures. Only a government could come up with a massive plan of perverse incentives and say it will help the economy. In both the short and the long term, it will do neither. If they wanted to throw money around, they should have let the companies in question all go under and gave each person $2500, so that a family of four would get $10,000. That's a couple mortgage payments right there. Or at least some high-priced items being bought that gets that money in circulation. And I say that with the opinion that that's not a good idea, either, as it results in the U.S. being in even more debt, which is really bad for us long-term. And you end up paying people not working, which acts as an incentive to continue not working.

Bailout for Starbucks

Starbucks announces its profits dropped 97%. This is clearly a world crisis! How will people get their caffeine?!? Starbucks is too big to fail! Bail them out! Quick! Before all coffee vanishes from the world with the terrible condition Starbucks is in! Someone call President Bush! Better, call Barack Obama! Only a great and powerful and all-wise and all-knowing world leader like the President of the United States can save us now!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Right Side of History

Yesterday my brother pointed out something brilliant. He observed that the news media was engaging in a subtle bias by constantly referring to this past Presidential election as "historical." That is, it would be historical if we made the right decision and elected Obama. Only then would it be truly historical. And we all want to be on the right side of history. That, too, was always a Marxist argument: you want to be on the right side of History, don't you? Heaven help anyone who said they didn't.

New Poll

Take my newest poll, at the bottom of the page.

Break, Blow, Burn -- The Outtakes

Camille Paglia does a marvelous job of analyzing what is wrong with modern poetry when she explains why she left out certain poems from her best-selling work of close readings of poems Break, Blow, Burn. This is why I love Paglia. She is such a clear-headed thinker. I don't always agree with her, but I think it would be possible for us to disagree agreeably.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Trust, Economy, and the Arts

What do the arts have to say to us about the current financial crisis? Here are a few thoughts. Excepting the Marxists, who grossly misuse this fact for unethical ends, we often forget that economics is deeply tied to ethics -- the language of both tends to be the same. The author of the linked piece focuses on "trust," and it is "trust" that is indeed what is at stake here. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failed because they proved untrustworthy. The solution? A government we trust even less nationalized them. How will this solve the problem of trust? It won't -- and hasn't. We do need a George Bailey. He understood what economic institutions are really about.

40 Acres

Forty Acres: a poem for Barack Obama from Nobel winner Derek Walcott

Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving —
a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls,
an emblem of impossible prophecy, a crowd
dividing like the furrow which a mule has ploughed,
parting for their president: a field of snow-flecked cotton
forty acres wide, of crows with predictable omens
that the young ploughman ignores for his unforgotten
cotton-haired ancestors, while lined on one branch, is a tense
court of bespectacled owls and, on the field's receding rim —
a gesticulating scarecrow stamping with rage at him.
The small plough continues on this lined page
beyond the moaning ground, the lynching tree, the tornado's
black vengeance,
and the young ploughman feels the change in his veins,
heart, muscles, tendons,
till the land lies open like a flag as dawn's sure
light streaks the field and furrows wait for the sower

From The New York Times Online
November 5, 2008
Not to be a wet blanket, but does anyone notice the irony in the fact that Obama is not a descendent of the people Walcott is talking about in this poem? Also, the poem itself seems a bit rushed. Not the best poem of Walcott's -- one would expect better from a Nobel Prize winner. There are some lovely ideas in the images, though. Too bad they're wasted on the son of a African chief whose family was wealthy enough to send their son to the U.S. t o study. The problem is that this is simply not the appropriate poem for Barack Obama. I'm no fan of his as a politician, but doesn't he deserve to have a poem that is actually about HIM?

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Prediction, Riffing on Biden

A prediction:

Biden is right that Obama will be tested internationally. Several times, I bet. At least once by someone he considers to be an ideological ally. When he goes up against this ideological ally, it will be the conservatives who support him.

Incidentally, Venezuela's Leftist President Hugo Chavez just nationalized their gold mines and turned production over to Russia. Russia has also been talking nuclear "power" with Chavez.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

China Asks US to Support Free Markets?!?

The world has certainly been turned on its head when China is asking the President-elect of the U.S. to please respect the concept of free trade. The continued slide of the stock market post-election is not a good sign, either.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Stocks Plunge 5% Upon Obama Win

The stock market has given its verdict on the election: a 486 point (5.05%) drop. This is the worse drop since FDR was elected (4.51%). Worse, in fact, as we can see. This tells us that those who know the most about the economy have no confidence in Obama, just as the drop in 1932 said the same thing during the Great Depression. And rightly so, as it turned out, with FDR, whose policies extended the Great Depression, as his predecessor's had. It was in fact the implementation of increased governmental intervention in the economy which perpetuated the depression into the Great Depression, and those interventions were eerily similar to things Obama has promised to do. It is a myth that the free market caused the Great Depression, just as it is a myth that FDR did anything to end it -- WWII is what ended it. Equally, it is a myth that the free market had anything at all to do with the latest meltdown. This economy is facing a recession. If Obama can move quickly to get much of what he wants, he will put this weak economy into a depression. The last thing you want to do is take money out of an economy during an economic slowdown. That has a deflationary effect. Less money in an economy slows the economy down. If you take money out of a recessionary economy, you will cause that economy to enter into a depression. Obama has further talked about implementing trade barriers, which were another cause of the Great Depression -- and of our war with Japan. These are not good signs. I hope Obama isn't able to implement much until after the economy starts to get back on its feet. Unfortunately, Bush's last few months of trying to help the economy have made a rapid recovery unlikely. Remember, though, that Obama supported it, so what he's going to inherit is just as much the Obama economy as the Bush one.

My Election Results

If the election had been held on my blog, McCain would have won 30 (40%) votes to Obama's 27 (36%). The Libertarians would also now be a major party with their 13 votes (17%). Heck, even McKinney of the Green Party got 2 votes (3%), and Nader got 1 (1%). What this really shows is that I have a pretty nice mix of readers, about which I'm glad. Wouldn't it be nice if we had this kind of distribution in the real election? I mean, that parties other than the two-party-one-ideology monopoly we have had a real chance. Might even make the Republicans want to differentiate themselves from the Democrats.

Stop Moving Left You Stupid Republicans!

Obama certainly had coattails, but let me suggest another reason Republicans lost seats: if you're going to have someone in office acting like a Democrat, you might as well have a Democrat. The Republican Party needs to take THAT lesson away from this. Probably, instead, they will be convinced that they need to move even more to the left. The Republicans deserve to lose to the Democrats if they are going to act like the Democrats.

Spontaneous Order Conference

I am back from the spontaneous orders conference, and it was great. It was good to be able to talk to people who see the world in a similar fashion. There was the question if -- and feeling that -- what we were doing was the beginning of a paradigm shift. I hope so. If so, it has a long lead-in tail going back before WWII with Bertalanffy, Polanyi, Prigogine, and Hayek. Most at the conference came from a Hayekian tradition, but we had people like me influenced by people like Baertalanffy, Prigogine, Frederick TUrner, J. T. Fraser, Stuart Kauffman, and the chaos theorist, and even a person involved in systems robotics, taking the computer systems approach. Of the 19 people there, I think 4-5 knew Fred Turner personally. He's an underground influence that needs to be brought above ground. I'm going to be revising my paper and submitting it to the journal they are beginning. I will be making links to that journal as it comes up.

As I think through some of these ideas, I'll try to talk about those ideas here. Of course, I will always be talking through the subtle shifts in world view that occur whenever I learn something new.

The Government We Deserve

Apparently the people of John Murtha's district really are as backwards, ignorant and stupid as he repeatedly said they were. How else does one explain his re-election? And Alaska seems to be going to re-elect Ted Stevens Senator despite being convicted of corruption. I mean, my God, what do you have to do to lose re-election in this country? Put bribe money in a freezer and get caught? Hmm. Apparently not.

I still find it bizarre that a political party whose Congress has only 10% approval rating gained many new seats. Seriously, people -- you get the government you deserve in a democracy. I fear we may.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

On Obama's Victory

One. It's sad that Obama's grandmother died before she could see her grandson elected President.

Two. This is a great moment in our history in that we have proven to ourselves that we are not a racist nation. In fact, I better not hear anyone ever say that again. It is a lie, and only racists believe it.

Three. Obama is promising to do everything that lead to the Great Depression at a time when the economy is in a very weak state. The Democratic majority in the Congress will more than happily do everything he wants. Redistribution of wealth destroys it, and he has promised to redistribute wealth. My opposition to Obama is and has always been based on his devastatingly wrong economic beliefs. His economics is like having a belief about the ecosystem that if you only bulldozed the forest, you could save it from deforestation.

Four. Obama has the most hubris of any Presidential candidate I have ever known of. Being hubristic, I doubt he will choose good advisors -- but we will see for sure. More important than the obvious Cabinet will be his real advisors he keeps close to him. Know who they are, and you will know what he's really going to do. The problem with a hubristic person is that eventually they find the true end of the rope. Everyone needs to go out and read all the Greek tragedies and Shakespeare's tragedies. Now. You need to know what we're going to face with him as President.