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October 31, 2011

DOOM: I like that Doom Doom Pow

DOOOOM

Happy Halloween, Morons! It's quite an apropos day for DOOM.

Once again, the Feds express shock that Social Security went into the red so much sooner than they expected. They've been fudging the numbers for so long -- since the very start of the program, actually -- that no one really knew what the hell was going on. They still don't, really. What you're hearing are the best guesses of politicians and their economist pets who have every reason to lie. But as Walter Russell Meade observes, all the lies are falling apart.

The half-life of the newest EU bailout? Maybe two weeks. Investors can see this ploy for what it is: new paint and carpet instead of repairs to the foundation. It doesn't solve any fundamental problems -- in fact, it makes those fundamental problems even worse. (A while back I wondered if the Eurozone would do the right thing or just keep throwing good money after bad. Well, now I know the answer.)

Can the Eurozone marriage be saved? I doubt it. The old saying has never been more true: marry in haste, repent at leisure.

The week that European democracy died. It's been ailing for decades -- Europe never did seem to quite get the hang of the whole "democracy" thing. It just seems to go against the Continental grain somehow.

The EU assures the world that China will receive no concessions in return for aid. The Chinese probably won't get any return on their investment either, which leads a cynic to wonder why they'd bother investing money in this ridiculous enterprise at all.

If you're not sure how this Eurozone "rescue" works, Xtranormal lays it all out for you. ("What if there are no aliens?" "Then we are screwed.")

What does a world of seven billion people mean to investors? As always: profit and loss, risk and reward. You take your chances -- it still boils down to knowing your market and targeting your products or services accordingly.

It used to be pretty lonely in the "China bear" camp. Not any more. I'm seeing a lot more alarm now about China's economic slowdown, and as investors learn more about how shaky a foundation the "Chinese miracle" is built upon, the more alarmed they get. An authoritarian Communist government lying to the world about the status of their economy? Who could have seen this coming?

Spain's official unemployment rate increases to 21.52%. Unexpectedly, of course. And in Spain as here, the "official" rate dramatically understates the actual rate.

Cheaters must not prosper. And yet, they so often do. Sir John Harrington observed: "Treason doth never prosper; what's the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason." The same can be said for fraud, especially when it involves labor unions and government officials.

Nan-nan thinks it's perfectly okay for Uncle Sugar to tell companies where they can and cannot build their factories. I often console myself with the knowledge that when Dread Cthulhu rises from his slumber in R'lyeh, he will eat her first.

Speaking of Nan-nan: remember what she said of Obamacare, that we'd like it more when we found out what was in it? Well...not so much, as it turns out. Good luck running on that particular legislative achievement, Democrats.

Innovators aren't guaranteed to succeed. That's always been true -- sometimes they are simply ahead of their time, or are incompetent at executing a business strategy based on their insight. Sometimes they just have bad luck. Technology is an especially brutal industry -- it's a Red Queen's race where you must run like mad just to stay where you are. If you make one misstep, one slip, you will fall and get run over and left behind.

Christina Romer wants the fed to adopt a new "nominal GDP" benchmark. I suspect that what would really happen is that you'd just get one bulls**t number being replaced with another bulls**t number. Romer, let us not forget, was a member of Obama's economic brain-trust along with Orszag and Goolsbee before she got fired quit left public-service for her old job at UC Berkeley.

After driving New Jersey into bankruptcy as governor, Jon Corzine is now poised to do the same to the company he runs. If only there were some comparable element in the two situations, some common variable that could be factored....

The problem at base is that economics is not a branch of mathematics or statistics, no matter how much economists wish it was. Never forget that the economics equations you see, the pretty graphs and charts, are just educated guesses that are wrong more often than not -- economists love the gloss of the hard sciences, but the truth is that the field is firmly placed among the philosophical and sociological disciplines. Economics is a study of human behavior more than anything else, with all the uncertainties and confusion that entails.

Was the behavior of bankers prior to the 2008 actually risk-averse? Looked at in a certain light, I think you can make that argument: they were working from profoundly flawed risk models, but most of them thought they were fully (and carefully) hedged against disaster. The pressures on the financial system had been placed there by government regulation years -- in some cases decades -- before and had created a perverse ecosystem where risk was accumulated and systematized so gradually that no one realized the gravity of the situation until it was too late.

OWS: Lawless, selfish, disrespectful, and mean. They are overgrown children, in other words -- not adults in any real sense of the word. It is an oddity about modern Americans that always strikes me: many seem so...unformed. I've seen pictures of my grandfather and grandmother when they were in their early 20's (married and with 2 kids already, and another on the way) and they seemed like fully-formed adults already. They looked like adults; they dressed like adults; they behaved as adults. Yet now I see people at 30, 40, 50 years old who seem little more than self-obsessed adolescents -- smug, directionless, angry but inchoate, lavishly educated but not particularly intelligent, entitled without being industrious or deserving. They even groom and dress like children: slovenly, unwashed, unbarbered, sneakers, t-shirts, sweatpants, looking like unmade beds. I look at the OWS protests and I see a crowd of ill-behaved, unsupervised toddlers, but no adults willing (or perhaps able) to call them to order. My grandparents had much more difficult lives in any way you can measure than these spoiled brats, and yet they were better people -- and happier people, on the whole.

UPDATE 1: It seems that Il Papa is not a fan of free-market capitalism. For what it's worth, I think that non-religious people (and perhaps even most ostensibly religious folk) often completely misunderstand religious teaching in this regard -- whether Christian, Islamic, Hindu, whatever. I am not a Catholic and am not well-versed in Catholic doctrine, so I'll let someone else explain the subtleties at play here. My only caution to reader is this: there are subtleties. Just remember that anything you read in the media about faith or philosophy is usually wrong (or so misshapen as to give a dishonest account).

UPDATE 2: Who killed Horatio Alger? 'Twas the welfare state that did him in.

UPDATE 3: A consumption tax is "perfection"? Er...no. There are advantages to a consumption tax if done right, but it's most common form (a VAT) is a horrible vortex of suck. A VAT is a death by a thousand cuts, particularly when coupled with an income tax (as it usually is).



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posted by Monty at 08:37 AM

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