But Now You Know

The search for truth in human action

Super-Sizing Sour Grapes


What Americans have, even in the midst of an economic depression, is an embarrassment of riches.

When the citizens of other countries complain that Americas eat too much, what they are really saying is “We are jealous of America’s plentiful food”; Despite (or because of) all their redistributive, anti-choice socialist programs, the typical European has less access to food, in diversity or amount, than even the poorest fifth of Americans. Maybe nobody in Europe goes hungry, but they don’t really prosper, either.  (facebook readers beware; the rest of the article is after the picture, don’t ask me why that happens)

It is easy to despise what you cannot get.</b>

A Fox found a bunch of grapes, on a vine over a lofty branch. Turning round with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no success. At last he had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: "I am sure they are sour, anyway." MORAL: It is easy to despise what you cannot get.

And when they say “Americans are too fat”, what they mean is “Americans are more affluent”. Americans don’t need to walk as much, or otherwise engage in as much involuntary physical labor. Even poor Americans have more comfortable homes, more access to cars, more video games and computers, infinitely better television, more leisure, even without the Europeans’ governments forcing them to suffer the pay cut imposed by a mandatory six week vacation every year. 

Of course their response to this being pointed out is “more leisure? More entertainment? More living space? Bah! What kind of horrible way of measuring quality of life! People must be equal, not happy, you dirty materialist!” And yet, of course, everything about socialism is materialistic, an endless class war of envy and hate, worrying about who has more than whom, redistributing wealth, controlling our choices. That is the reason Marxists called it the Materialist Dialectic.

But it turns out that socialism traps people in stagnancy and perpetual shortages, while freedom allows people to have many more things. So, naturally, the actual materialists had to turn around and claim that prosperity is “decadent”, and “greedy”. How it can be more greedy than wanting to redistribute other people’s money for oneself, I don’t know.

Americans have a tendency to be hard workers. They are, statistically, the most productive society on the planet…but people, in general, who have access to more food and more leisure have to learn how to balance that with the need to choose to maintain physical fitness. Even if Americans, as a society, do learn that, the percentage of individuals who do not will still drag down the “average”.

An embarrassment of riches is a wonderful problem to have. “Oh no, too many people want to date me!” “Oh woe, I’ve grown so many tomatoes, I must give them away!” “Pitty me: now that I’ve won the lottery, people keep asking me for money!”

Who would seriously choose a life of more hunger, less choice, and more involuntary struggle over one where they need to choose to struggle a bit to stay in good physical condition?

In tests, lab animals that go somewhat hungry live longer. This probably is true of people as well…but what benefit is the added life, if it’s a result of being forced to do with less? 

We’re better off being faced with the need to control how much to work out, to watch our diet, et cetera, than being lean because we haven’t the chance to be flappy even if we were irresponsible. To be free to choose whether to life short, fat, comfortable lives, or strive for longer, healthier lives.

Some of us will chose wrong…but that isn’t necessarily limited to the ones who choose leisure. 

For some people, the effort may make life less worthwhile. For others, the working to “stay fit” might actually be more fun, as well as healthier. 

Americans are free to choose, whereas the victims of socialism in the rest of the world have what is supposedly best forced upon them “for your own good”, in a one-size-fits-all solution. People are better off being free to determine their own size.

That’s why even the most enlightened, economically and socially homogeneous European country still has more citizens wishing to become Americans, than Americans (despite our larger population) wishing to move to that country.

The price of choice, is the risk of mistakes. Even life-altering ones. But, overall, the benefit far outweighs the cost.

Americans can be proud to have the freedom that allows us the prosperity to choose whether to supersize their meals. The reason the rest of the world complains, ultimately, is that they are deprived of even the option. They have super-sized Sour Grapes.

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December 19, 2008 Posted by | Economy, Family, International, Philosophy, Politics | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Deflation is Bad…for You, Private Property, and Capitalism


Politicians and journalists are worried, right now, about a downward spiral of deflation, of the type that normally comes in an economic depression.

They are pointing to two signs we are having bad deflation…first, the falling price of commodities like oil, and the disappearance of money in this economic failure causing demand to plunge. One of those is actually good, the other is very bad.

When prices go down naturally, because of an increase in efficiency or improvement in technology, it is good for everyone. 

For example:

  • Improved efficiency makes the manufacture of computers cheaper, while more advanced computers make the old versions cost less.
  • Food used to take up most of humanity’s effort, therefore most of  a family’s cost of living, but has declined to third or fourth place as technology and efficiency allowed us to grow more with less.

The decline in oil prices, returning to only double their normal level, will cause a good kind of global price decline, because most prices are effected by the cost of the energy required to create and deliver products and services.

But, again, those specific cost reductions are not deflation.

What Are Real Deflation and Inflation?

When money deflates, people choose to just hold onto it, starving the marketplace and causing a spiral of ever more deflation

When money deflates, people choose to just hold onto it, starving the marketplace and causing a spiral of ever more deflation

In real economic terms, inflation and deflation happen when the ratio of money to economic wealth changes. If the amount of money becomes greater, in comparison to the economy, then you get inflation. Because the most common result of this is for prices to increase, we confuse the terms and call general price increases “inflation”, but actually it’s the change in ratio that is inflation.

The eleven trillion-plus dollars of capital that have purportedly vanished in the past few months represent a huge decline in money supply, causing actual deflation. This failure was caused by the inability of central authority to manage money any better in the US than it could provide shoes and food in the Soviet Union.

Prices Can Increase Without Inflation, Too

Prices can actually increase for other reasons, and that’s not really inflation. For example, when oil increased 600% in price, it drove up the cost of production, without regard for the number of dollars in the economy. This general price increase was NOT inflation.

And when prices decrease for other reasons, it’s not deflation.

Inflation is Harmful

We all know that when the ratio of money to wealth increases, causing inflation, it is bad for the economy, and especially for the poor and middle classes. This is because it usually drives up prices, and the poorer you are, the more of your wealth and well-being is in cash.

Poorer people depend on cash they have in a bank, or other savings. They are paid by employers who give them only a set rate, plus raises for special reasons like increased skill.

Wealthier people tend to have more of their wealth in assets like, stocks and real estate, that will simply increase in price, sheltering them from some of the effect if inflation. They get cost of living increases in salary every year, on top of any other raises.

Deflation is Harmful, too

But the opposite kind of damage occurs if you have deflation, and is compounded by a new problem.

First, deflation artificially drives down prices. To a person with no real assets or investments, this sounds good, because “stuff costs less”.

But it comes at a horrible price.

Deflation punishes investments that can raise people from poverty, both personal investments, and business growth

Deflation punishes investments that can raise people from poverty, both personal investments, and business growth

For example, the decline in prices includes wages. Deflation is universal, with a shortage of money everywhere, so that your income will decline, along with the price you pay for things. What good is cheaper stuff, if you also have less money?

So people with fewer assets and no investments will more or less end up breaking even. But they still lose out in the end, because they become blocked from gaining assets, trapping them in relative poverty.

For example:
 

How Deflation Traps the Poor and Middle Class

Imagine you’re buying a house. Not on a sub-prime loan, but one where your income is perfectly fit for the home you’re getting.

It’s probably a thirty year loan. So you’re going to be stuck paying on the original price of your house, for thirty years, at the original size of house payment.

Now remember that your income (in dollars) is getting smaller every year. That’s deflation.

And the price of your house, too. Each year, its is worth fewer dollars, yet your original debt is the same. And so are your payments.

Within just a few years, you are making far less money, but are stuck with the same size house payment you always had.

While you still have to pay the same percentage of of your paycheck income for food, electricity, and so on, your house payment takes up a higher percentage of that money every year.

Soon, your income has shrunken to the point where you cannot make your house payment at all. Not even if you paid your whole check to the bank every week.

And worse, you can’t simply sell his house to get out of it. The price of your house has also declined every year. Selling it now that the payment is too high won’t even pay off your remaining house debt.

Of course people would quickly learn this, and that they simply cannot buy houses, unless they are so incredibly wealthy that they can save up enough to pay cash. 

But even those wealthy people who can pay cash for a house now face the situation where buying a house is a horrible investment, because the house’s value will decline, in dollars.

It would actually be better to leave the money in a vault, and rent monthly, even for a billionaire, because the money’s value increases, while the house’s price declines. One thousand dollars will be worth more next year, if you simply stick it in your mattress, than one thousand dollars worth of house will be worth in that same year.

In fact, owning land becomes a losing proposition. With even the wealthy better-off renting, who’s going to actually be the landlord?

Deflation Attacks Economic Freedom

In fact, ALL property ownership becomes punished!

With deflation, anything you buy does not just depreciate with use and age, but declines in value every year with prices, compared to if you’d simply kept the money.

Today, you could buy that console game, or car, or collectible, and then sell it on eBay a few years from now and recoup part of the cost. But with deflation, the price you recoup is even farther from if you’d kept the cash in the first place.

Deflation Destroys Capitalism

Deflation punishes investment and property ownership, attacking capitalism at its roots

Deflation punishes investment and property ownership, attacking capitalism at its roots

In fact (and this is where the entire economy implodes from deflation), simply holding on to your money is rewarded versus ANY investment, in a deflationary economy. If you put your money in a big ol’ vault, removing it from the economy entirely, it grows in value every year. But if, instead, you buy stocks, or invest in commodities, then your money is gone, replaced with an asset that becomes worth less every year, in dollar terms.

The growth of every business, in fact, would be undone by the rate of deflation. Now from the company’s standpoint, that is fine, because its expenses decline every year by the same amount.

But from an investor’s standpoint, a company growing at 2% per year during 3% deflation would mean you lose 1% over just stuffing your money in a safe. And yet you also risk, when investing money.

Why bother investing even in a company you think might grow at 5%, when you could have a 100% safe 3% investment in a vault under your mattress? So, really, the company facing deflation is NOT fine, because it discovers that it’s far harder to get investors. In fact, the entrepreneur who would have started that company is 3% punished each year for the effort, making him that much less likely to even bother.

With investors discouraged because of deflation, it becomes harder to create wealth. Capitalism, in fact, becomes almost impossible:

  • An entrepreneur can’t get investors for his new project.
  • There’s less reason to buy stocks, so companies can’t raise capital.
  • You can’t get a loan to start a business, because your company’s income would decline every year, yet the loan payment would stay as large as ever.

With deflation, the very engines of capitalism all die out.

Speculation Defines Capitalism

It is the uncertain investment on the wild new idea that makes capitalism superior to central planning. Anyone can decide to invest in a “sure thing”: if that were good enough, socialism would work, because a government bureaucrat could declare money for the obvious solution. It’s diverse people choosing to risk money on many different wild ideas that lets the best solutions rise to the top.

But that very kind of capital investment, in a deflationary economy, is punished, because you get such a good deal by not investing in anything at all, but holding your money in a vault.

All of this, by the way, is aside from the additional destruction caused by the lack of downward price elasticity on many commodities and time-based investments. That’s much more arcane, but a key source of economic depression, that I’ll get into some other time.

For now, it’s enough to realize that prices being FORCED downward by deflation includes your pay, and the value of any investments you make, so that private property ownership, borrowing, and investing, in fact all capitalism, is crippled under deflation.

December 16, 2008 Posted by | Economy | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Stopping Piracy on the High Seas


Now that a ship of the evil, but highly influential, Saudi tyranny has been hijacked by pirates, suddenly the long-standing problem of piracy in the Indian ocean is headline news. 

Crackpot neocons like Michael Savage, and his imitator Mark Levin, are calling for the US Navy to run around destroying boats and slaughtering people suspected of piracy.

Socialists/Liberals are proposing the normal, faux-pacifist solutions of more international committees and taxpayer funding to bureaucratically consider the problem, and more handouts, and of course trying to force an authoritarian central government on Somalia, sort of a reverse-Iraq, nation-destroying project.

But the real solution is, as usual, not one of more governmental intrusion, but one of more individual liberty and responsibility:

Allow private craft to be armed.

Now, most people probably don’t realize this, but there are complete bans on boats or ships carrying defenses in most nations where you might come to port. These leave craft largely helpless against piracy, even though the ban on defense has no practical benefit.

Imagine how easy it would actually have been for a ship the size of an oil tanker to defend itself, against pirates in a speedboat, armed with rifles and grenades. Especially considering the expenditure that would be justified by the value of its cargo. How good a defense could YOU afford, if you were shipping $100,000,000 worth of oil?

The pirates reportedly captured the supertanker with rifles and grenades, in a speedboat. Imagine of the tanker were legally allowed to defend itself...

The pirates reportedly captured the supertanker with rifles and grenades, in a speedboat. Imagine if the tanker were legally allowed to defend itself...

Allowing/encouraging craft to defend themselves would have the added benefit of making it safer for any craft to NOT defend itself. Even pacifists, who did not arm their boats, would be protected, because any potential pirates could not know whether the boat is armed, or not. So ALL people would be safer, if only SOME would arm themselves well enough to make piracy too dangerous.

This is, of course, the story of Big Brotherment mentality, where the governments constantly arm themselves better, but tell the individuals that arming yourself is bad…and yet fail to protect the disarmed people WITH the government’s massive weaponry.

Meanwhile, of course, criminals arm themselves BETTER, because of the disarmed masses. What is easy to buy on the black market is whatever desirable thing is most wrongfully banned by a government.

Even a small boat could take out an attacker with a single shot…and yet, of course, pirates would not profit if THEY took out victims with a single shot. You don’t make any money from ransom, nor gain any loot, if you sink your target. 

Therefore, if ships were allowed to defend themselves, there would BE no pirates, because it would be far more risky, with modern weaponry, than profitable.

Problem actually solved. 

If, instead, we have government deal with the problem of piracy…well, when’s the last time government actually solved a problem? Actually fixed the thing they claimed to be fighting, so that the problem was simply gone, and the powers usurped to deal with it were returned to the people?

Has that ever happened?

Let’s go with liberty, letting ships defend themselves, instead of bureaucracy, spending billions to probably make the problem worse.

December 4, 2008 Posted by | International, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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