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December 05, 2011

DOOM: Cold cold heart


The welfare state's reckoning. Europe's problems are the same as ours, pretty much; they're just feeling the pain sooner because they traveled down the welfare-state road further and faster than we did.

Democrats will try to extend the payroll-tax holiday. Kent Conrad assures everyone that Democrats will do it without adding to the deficit.

While declining to discuss details, Conrad said the cost of Reid's proposal would be fully covered and not increase the nation's record $15 trillion debt. "It will be paid for, it will be in a way that is credible and serious," Conrad said.
Kent Conrad is...well, let's say deluded...if that's an accurate quote; if spending is not cut elsewhere nor taxes raised, then the money must either be printed or borrowed. I expect the GOP to give the measure the back of their hand, but you never know; there have been troubling signs of wobbly spines in the GOP caucus. (My theory on this is that the Democrats are pushing this "cut" in order to starve the Federal coffers a bit so they can cry poor next spring and insist on the necessity of raising taxes. There was never a Democrat born who actually believed in permanently lowering taxes, so you can rest assured that this is simply a tactical gambit.)

The employment problem is structural, which means two things: it will be a project of years and maybe decades to fix; and there are no silver bullets or magical fixes. Politicians of either party who claim that there's some easy path back to full employment are lying, and they should be called on their lies.

The Financially Driven Erosion of Scientific Integrity. The legendary robustness of peer-review has broken down badly in recent years -- but I think this has to do as much with the massive volume of scientific publications and the increasing specialization of fields as it does to do with money. And nasty old human nature plays a part as well.

The Chevy Volt: a turd that won’t flush.

Economics and the morality of debt. I've always argued that credit is a moral question as much as it is a financial one: you are borrowing money and giving your promise -- your word of honor -- that you'll pay it back.

How did Europe’s debt crisis get so bad? (There's a point to be made about the whole “the government can’t go out of business” canard, too: governments not only can but do go out of business all the time. That’s why you don’t see “The Soviet Union” or “Rhodesia” or “Yugoslavia” or “East Germany” on maps any more.)

We don’t have enough bad jobs.

Several economics speak on what the future of the Eurozone may be, from “ZOMG IT’S THE END OF DAYS” to “nothing to worry about, old chap; just a bit of bad weather”.

Keynesian truth vs fiction.

Dodd-Frank is only the latest failure in a long string of them from the estimable Barney Frank.

It’s become obvious that the EU monetary union won’t work without a fiscal union as well. Unfortunately, this is (far) easier said than done -- and it’s far from clear that the sovereign nations that make up the Eurozone will be willing to give up the sovereignty necessary to form a closer fiscal union. Even if the voters were amenable (which they probably aren’t), it would require votes and changes to the EU Constitution, all of which will take time the Eurozone doesn’t have. And finally: "Europe" is not a nation in the way America is a nation, and it never will be -- at least not in time spans mortal human beings have to be concerned with.

Here’s an idea: if you’re going to protest about something, it’s a good idea to have some basic idea of what you’re protesting about. Ignorance is one thing; everybody starts out ignorant, and the empty vessel is filled through experience, education, and an inquisitive spirit. But stupidity -- especially of the aggressive sort show in the referenced article and in the OWS idiots -- is a deliberate action, and is indefensible. For all the charges of “know nothing”-ism thrown at Conservatives, it seems to be liberals who most ofen exhibit this behavior.

Junk mail is keeping the USPS alive, but that’s not news to anyone who’s been getting a flood of circulars, credit-card come-ons, political ads, sweepstakes, and donation pleas in their mailboxes for the last two decades. The USPS is basically a government-subsidized (and therefore taxpayer-subsidized) direct-mail advertising delivery service with a money-losing sideline in delivering personal letters and cards.

Austrian-school economists have been bearish on China for years, but the boosters blithely ignore the signs.

You know what funds those expensive University computer and biology labs? Football. Basketball. Baseball. I deplore the fact that it is so, but nonetheless: it is a fact.

Detroit is on the brink of being taken over by the state. It’s not clear to me that this action is legal, and even if it is, whether it would constitute a credit-ratings event similar to a bankruptcy. It’s basically a receivership, with the State changing or abrogating contracts by fiat. It’s also not clear to me what would happen to Detroit muni bonds in the event of a state takeover, either.

Fiddling while the Euro burns. I’ve said it before: this is the worst political class Europe has seen since the years leading up to World War I. Or World War II. Or...well, Europe has always had a pretty sucky political class, come to think of it. That’s probably why they can’t go for more than fifty years or so without going to war (at least historically speaking).

Many of the old jobs are simply gone and they aren’t coming back. In many cases, unemployed people are going to have to think outside the box and be entrepreneurs. If there are no jobs, it’s time to make one -- or go where the jobs are. In other words: it's time to get out of the carriage-building business and start learning how to fix those newfangled motorcars everyone is talking about.

There are obvious problems with turning the Eurozone crisis into a morality play, but a “moral hazard” play might be perfectly appropriate. The moral of this play is that it’s stupid to lend money to people who manifestly can’t pay it back (and that it’s ethically wrong to borrow money that you either can’t or won’t pay back). There are no angels in this play, but plenty of villains, cheats, and fools.

The cheap luxury Americans (or at least American women) can’t live without.

UPDATE 1: It turns out that the Biblical adage to 'be fruitful and multiply' is good advice whether or not you're religious. I never fathered any kids (as far as I know), though I think I would do differently if I had it to do over again.

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posted by Monty at 08:55 AM

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