Archives for category: Economy

In a free-enterprise, private-property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to their basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom.” Milton Friedman, 1970

Between 1776 and 1970 the world had leaped forward. Technologically, economically and socially. Not only that we’ve managed to learn so much about the world and to produce immense wealth but we’ve somehow managed to ‘spread around’ the results. The proportion of people who had improved their fortunes had grown constantly during the entire period.

The majority of Americans share in economic growth through the wages they receive for their labor, rather than through investment income. Unfortunately, many of these workers have fared poorly in recent decades. Since the early 1970s, the hourly inflation-adjusted wages received by the typical worker have barely risen, growing only 0.2% per year. In other words, though the economy has been growing, the primary way most people benefit from that growth has almost completely stalled.” Jay Shambaugh, Ryan Nunn, HBR

Isaac Newton hadn’t invented gravitation. He only ‘noticed’ it. Put it in words.
Adam Smith hadn’t invented the free market. He had noticed how it used to work and opened our eyes about it.
For what ever reasons, enough of us had chosen to close those eyes back. And have reached the conclusion that ‘greed is good’.

Milton Friedman was both horribly wrong and exactly right.

He was right in the sense that he had gouged correctly what the ‘general public’ wanted/was ready to accept. “in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible

He was horribly wrong in the sense that he had perpetuated Marx’s error. Karl’s, not Groucho’s.

Money isn’t everything. Life beats it to the post.
Profit is, indeed, essential. Only it is nothing but an indicator. About how efficient a corporation is.
Meanwhile the role of a corporation is to accomplish – as Friedman himself had dully noted, the will of the shareholders.

The problem arises from the fact that ‘near mindedness’ blinds.
If/when both shareholders and management have nothing but ‘money’ in their scopes the market actually looses its freedom.

Economic agents no longer converge towards the market to solve each-others problems – like Smith had noticed, but to ‘make money’.

Not the same thing. Not by a long shot.

‘For things to work as intended, there must be a rule’.

Errr…

‘For things to work, there must be at least some consistency involved’.

This is a far better starting point!

An example would be fine?

Then imagine an Earth where the gravitational field was haphazard. In space and time. Where two lumps of dirt, a k a mountains, sometimes pulled at each other while some other times pushed. With no rules involved whatsoever.
Or where sometimes wood needed oxygen to burn while some other times – or in some other places, the presence of nitrogen was enough for wood to burst into flames.
Need some more? Then how about a place where dogs breed with cows. And also with butterflies. Only not always. And not in a constant manner.

Have you stopped laughing?
Well, this was how our ancestors imagined the Earth.
Sometimes after a mutation had provided them with the most powerful brain ever, our forefathers had learned to speak. To ‘trade’ information. Soon after they has started to develop something Humberto Maturana called ‘the ability of an observer to observe themselves while making observations’. ‘Self awareness’ for short. Or ‘conscience’ in everyday parlance.

Imagine a self-aware observer watching the sun go down. A rather smart one. One with a vivid enough imagination to ask ‘what if the sun will not come up tomorrow morning’…
Stonehenge has suddenly acquired a new meaning, right?

That was why God had so much traction. Simply because it gave sense to everything. It lend meaning to everything under the sun. And beyond!

In time, under God’s protection, we invented science. And, slowly but surely, we’ve started apportioning meaning ourselves.
Meaning we’ve started to take for granted.
Meaning which no longer depended on any third party!

Only we’ve gradually forgotten what science is really about.

Why we had developed it in the first place.

We had forgotten that science is wrong by definition.
That, by following this path, we’ll be forever able to find new meaning but that we’ll never be able to find ‘the’ meaning.

And now, that we’ve ‘killed’ God – as no longer necessary, we rely solely on the meaning we’ve already affixed to the things we already know.
To the things we consider to know… conveniently forgetting what science taught us….

Faced with unforeseen crises – unforeseen, not unforeseeable, we are left powerless.
Having taken so much for granted – our knowledge about the world and our ability to overcome everything the nature throws at us, above all, we find ourselves bereaved of our erstwhile powers.

Are we going to rediscover intellectual humility? And the ability to take advice? From the most unlikely teacher?

Or else?

One way to interpret Maslow’s pyramid of needs is to consider that an individual might become a full fledged human only after having climbed to the ‘fifth floor’.

The key word here being “might”!

Because nothing mandates that all those who have overcome the material constraints of this world and have successfully integrated themselves in the social milieu will ever become a ‘better version of themselves’.

Need examples? Have you ever heard about people like Bernie Madoff, Martin Shkreli or Myron Scholes?

‘But the last guy, Myron Scholes, was recognized by the Nobel committee as a world class economist!’
Exactly! What more could a person want? Money, fame, worldwide recognition… he was on the fast track to becoming whoever he wanted…
Yet he had chosen to associate himself with one of the deepest financial black-hole ever… Knowingly, unknowingly… doesn’t matter!

‘But what does it mean to become a full fledged human?’

To be free. To consider them-self a free person and to be recognized as such by their peers.

‘Scholes wasn’t a free person?!? Shkreli?!? Madoff?!?’

Nope. Neither was free from greed!
Greed for money, power, public recognition… or any combination thereof.

‘But “greed is good”!!! Isn’t this the current mantra? Aren’t we all driven by this sentiment?!?’

First of all, greed is not good. Read Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiment.
But yes, we are bombarded from all sides with this notion. That ‘greed is good. That greed is the engine of capitalism, which capitalism has brought us here. Where it is good.’

Yes, here it is indeed good. Only for fewer and fewer of us. It used to be better but since ‘greed has become good’ every ‘bump’ we encounter along the ‘free market’ road has proven to be quite a challenge. An insurmountable challenge for more and more of us.
An unsustainable arrangement. For us, as a community.
And yes, capitalism is the best economic paradigm to date. Only, as all paradigms, it has to be put in practice. By us, the people. In the right way. In the free market way.
Only we are no longer free! Those who cannot escape their sentiment may not consider themselves free. And too many of us have been enslaved by their greed!

‘But greed is written in our DNA!’

Indeed! So is the urge to have sex!
Only we’ve managed to teach ourselves, community wise, that while sex is good, rape is bad!
Not so long ago, rape was more or less condoned. ‘She must have enticed him’. ‘What was she doing there at that hour?’ And so on…
Nowadays, rape is shunned. By most of us.

Only we still live surrounded by rape culture. Seeped in greed.

Will we ever learn?
Will we, as a community, ‘actualize’ ourselves?

US Initial Jobless Claims, provided by the US Department of Labor, provides underlying data on how many new people have filed for unemployment benefits in the previous week. We can gauge economic conditions with respect to employment. As more new individuals file for unemployment benefits, fewer individuals in the economy have jobs. For example, initial […]

The US Unemployment Situation is Stunning — ASYMMETRY® Observations

This being the most convincing argument that we really need to quit ‘smoking’.

Just think of it.
Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale.
Inhale, exhale…

I know you can do this, breathe, without thinking.
You’ve actually done it since your birth. And you’ll continue doing it after you’ll have reached the end of this post.
But right now you should be fully aware that your lungs have only one opening.

What has to come out – what doesn’t belong in there, needs to exit from where it came in in the first place. Which is rather hard for anything which isn’t air.
That’s why dust, tar, or even microbes, should not go in there at all.

Quit smoking. And quit belching smoke into the atmosphere.

Let’s get to the second part of the post. Presumably, the more interesting one.
Click on the image and read the whole thing.
Now tell me why would somebody attempt to ‘debunk’ such a lie in the first place? Is smoking something worth arguing for?

The anti-smoking industry is happy to carry on misleading people on this subject because that is how they make their money. I would guess that the reason many people who know better do nothing to correct this misconception is simply that they think that if people stop smoking as a result of a little white lie then so be it!
Yes it is myth that smokers have black lungs! They would probably all be very dead long before they could become an organ donor.

Oops… so the whole thing revolves, again, around money…
And, if I understand correctly the point proposed by the author quoted above, a certain Fredrik Eich, there isn’t much of a difference between being duped into giving up and starting/continuing to smoke.

No, I don’t like being duped myself.
That’s why I’m telling it straight.
Lungs have only one opening. Don’t let yourselves be duped into believing that smoking isn’t that bad for you. That some smog is inevitable for a thriving economy.
After all, this is how ‘they’ make ‘their’ money.

Now, after proof-reading this, I wonder.
What do the dupers breathe?
Do they have their, private, atmosphere?
Have they duped themselves into believing everything is as pink as a pair of healthy lungs?

As a species, I mean…

We’ve ‘invented’ mutual respect.
Based on it, we created the two institutions which allowed us to get where we are now. Democracy and free market capitalism.

I’ll make a short detour for those who are not ‘convinced’.

Democracy, the functional kind, starts from the premise that it is impossible for an individual to know everything. And that together we know much more than each of us. This being the reason for any democratic process starting with an intense discussion. Whoever has something to say, takes the stand and whoever is interested in the well being of the community pays attention. To learn where to cast their votes.

Free market capitalism starts, too, from the premise that it is impossible for an individual to know everything. That nobody, be it an individual or a group of people, might be smart enough to call all the economic shots needed for entire society to ‘feed itself’ on the long run.

These two fundamental institutions operate on the basis of mutual respect between those who live within them. The people exchange ideas and goods on the principle that the transactions are done voluntarily and in good faith. That deception is just an exception.

These two institutions made it possible for us to cooperate into building the present reality. We have developed enough technology that we are able to produce enough food for everybody.
We went to the moon
We have enough weapons to destroy the entire planet.
Each of us can communicate, almost instantly, with almost anyone on the planet.

And? What do we do in these conditions?
Although there still are many of us who are starving, we throw away food. For various reasons.
Most satellites are used (and) for military purposes.
Although we could not have ‘arrived’ if we hadn’t ‘invented’ mutual respect, we currently use information technology mainly to spread fake news and ‘consume’ pornography.

Is this really okay?
How much longer is this going to last?

What do we have an economy for?

To make ends meet? To make it easier for our needs to be met?

What do we have a banking/financial system for? To mobilize capital for the economy? To make it possible for our needs to be met easier? More efficiently?

Or just for profit to be made?

“It really is possible to do two good things at once: address the abuse of the working poor by payday-loan and check-cashing outfits while expanding the range of services provided by the USPS. Media outlets have called Warren’s proposal “radical.” That’s ludicrous. She’s simply using her position and prominence to highlight the findings of a new study by the Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General, which notes that roughly 68 million Americans are underserved by the private banking system. “With post offices and postal workers already on the ground,” says Warren, “USPS could partner with banks to make a critical difference for millions of Americans who don’t have basic banking services because there are almost no banks or bank branches in their neighborhoods.”

This is not a new idea. From 1911 to 1967, the Postal Service maintained its own banking system, allowing citizens to open small savings accounts at local post offices—actually a better approach than “partnering” with banks. The system was so successful that after World War II, it had a balance of $3 billion, roughly $30 billion in today’s dollars. Congress did away with postal banking in the 1960s, but post offices in other countries—including Japan, Germany, China and South Korea—provide banking services. Japan Post Bank is consistently ranked as one of the world’s largest financial institutions based on assets.”

Or, to put it the other way around,
‘what profit is?’

The well deserved ‘consequence’ – considered as such by the vast majority of the stakeholders, of a well-done job?
Or a self serving benchmark to be reached at all costs? Which costs are to be ‘shouldered’ by anybody else but the profiteer himself… till reality slaps us, all of us, over our faces…

Let’s face it, in the present circumstances the picture above might mean a lot of things.

It can be a prank – somebody might have made the whole thing up just for the fun of it.
It can also express the frustration of somebody who isn’t such a good speller. Or of somebody who suffers from dyslexia?

What really interests me is how we, the ‘intellectual’ public, react to things like these.
Do we understand the frustration which lies at the bottom of this?
Do we even try to?

Or we just dismiss it as being a manifestation of stupid?

No, I don’t consider the economy as being more important than life preservation. Some very sound arguments can be found here.

But I’m absolutely convinced that treating the ‘others’ with disdain is what brought us here in the first place.

You don’t like the manner in which the likes of Trump treat those who don’t agree with them?
Then why are you doing the very same thing?

You consider yourself to be better than Trump?

Prove it.
Be nicer than him, not worse.

About half of our manufactured goods come from China. From half-way around the world. A shipping container needs about a month to arrive to Rotterdam from Shanghai. While ordering the merchandise takes some five minutes over the internet.

Shanghai is in China. A country so far away that hourly wages are a fraction of those in Europe. Or in the US. That being the reason for so many of our manufactured goods coming from there.

China is a country so far away that it took more than a month for the rest of the world to find out that a pandemic was brewing in Wuhan.
China is a country so far away that the CDC expert embedded in China’s Disease Control Agency was deemed useless by the current American Administration.

China is a country close enough for the Chinese tourists to had been a staple for the Italian hospitality industry. “5.3 million overnight stays in 2018
China is a country far enough for an “official opening ceremony” to had been “held at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a multicultural complex, in the Italian capital on Tuesday, at the presence of Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism Dario Franceschini and Chinese Minister of Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang.”

The ceremony was held because “2020 has been designated the China-Italy year of culture and tourism, as the year marks the 50th anniversary of China-Italy diplomatic ties.
“Tuesday” was the 21st of January 2020.

The same day

  • United States confirms its first case in Washington state, a man who traveled to the Wuhan area.
  • China confirms two additional deaths, a sixty-six-year-old man and a forty-eight-year-old woman
  • New cases are announced in China, including in Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai.
  • Chinese state media raises number of confirmed cases to 291 and confirms 15 medical workers in Wuhan have been diagnosed with pneumonia.
  • Hong Kong confirms its first case, a person in their thirties.
  • Taiwan confirms its first case, a woman in her fifties.

The above timeline was ‘borrowed’ – through the Internet, of course, yet another example for how close we are of eachother, from https://www.thinkglobalhealth.org/article/updated-timeline-coronavirus on 3/28/2020, 12:30 GMT
Which Internet pulls us together by pooling information/data while simultaneously rips us apart by feeding us a constant stream of fake news.

We are so close together that you can send/receive almost everything (from) almost everywhere.
We are so close together that everybody who has a smart phone can see their similarly equipped buddies halfway across the world.

We’re so far apart that we still have to make up our collective mind about which comes first. The Economy or the People.
We’re so far apart that we haven’t figured out yet that there’s no such thing as a running economy without enough able bodied and mentally sane people. To produce, transport, distribute and buy the things we need.
We’re so far apart that we haven’t yet figured out that the present number of people cannot survive – let alone maintain a decent living standard, without a running economy.

Smarter people than me are already prepping for the aftermath.
For the opportunities which will have ripened by then.

Which, let’s face it, is a wise thing to do. Most of us would have done it. Prepping for what we fear. And for what we covet.

Also wise would be for us to remember that everything we experience today – the good and the bad of it, together, is the consequence of how we have chosen to use the opportunities opened up by the previous crisis.

And by that before it …

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