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December 07, 2011

DOOM: Sweeney guards the horned gate


December 7, 1941 - a date that will live in infamy. Remember.

This “Ace” fellow seems to be a kindred spirit. It often strikes me how much Barack Obama looks, talks, behaves, and (apparently) believes like a character out of an Ayn Rand novel. Rand always wrote of statist Socialists more as caricatures than characters, but Barack Obama could have stepped whole and breathing right out of the pages of Atlas Shrugged. Which shows you the shallowness and unthinking obeisance to leftist cant the man displays -- there is precious little subtlety to Barack Obama. You sometimes find hidden depths even in your ideological enemies, surprising pockets of common ground. But in Barack Obama, there is only a hollow vessel filled up with the thoughts and opinions of leftists he has associated with in his life. He speaks (and apparently thinks) only in platitudes, bromides, and cliches. Barack Obama is, in short, the end product of the grand "progressive" experiment since the early 1900's. Ecce homo!

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

Hayek understood that humility in the face of the imponderable is a very great virtue. Intellectuals of all stripes are terribly prone to hubris. The lesson of the ancient Greeks - which seems to be entirely lost on our current generation of “experts” - is that where Hubris rules, Nemesis always lurks nearby. People who forget that (or ignore it) nearly always come to grief, and take others with them. Also: Hayek understood that economics is not mathematics (however much its practitioners love to put on the mantle of the hard sciences). It is - or should be - a study of human behavior and psychology more than anything else.

Teh Bernank: Lies! Lies and perfidy! Bloomberg: We retract nothing!

Here’s the thing about the Eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis (and the American one, as far as that goes): it’ll never be any easier or cheaper or less painful to resolve it than it is right now.

Megan McArdle talks about “socializing losses” where sovereign debt is concerned. This is an age where the concept of “moral hazard” has become very debased: the prudent and wise are punished for the sins of the spendthrift and improvident, and told it is all for their own good. If this is the system we’re tyring so diligently to save...perhaps it deserves to fall.

Well...there’s a certain beautiful symmetry to it: S&P may downgrade Europe’s bailout fund. Wasn’t the EFSF supposed to reassure investors that Europe had enough money to bail everyone out? I don’t think investors got that message.

France has been isolated so far from the turmoil in the rest of the Med countries’ bond markets, but that holiday from reality may be ending.

Guess what, Germany: you’re going to get stuck with the bill anyway. Suckers!

Judge shuts down Minnesota Governor Dayton’s fiat order to unionize private child-care in Minnesota. They don’t call ‘em “prairie socialists” for nothing, folks. Dayton himself is practically a caricature of exactly the kind of progressive liberal most Americans dislike, and yet he was elected by the good burghers of Minnesota by a pretty comfortable margin. I dislike making public policy from the legal bench, but in this case I think the judge has the right of it: this is not something that can be done by executive fiat. It's a flagrant example of executive overreach. This kind of thing is why we go to all the bother of having a legislature. Dayton knows all this, but he also knows that he owes Minnesota unions big-time, so this is his way of saying “thank you for your support”. (And Dayton knew very well that the Republican-majority legislature would terminate this effort with extreme prejudice, which is why he did it by executive order.)

One more spin through the Euro cycle.

The basic facts in Europe have not changed. Germany and France remain bitterly divided over the future of the European monetary system, and neither has the power to get what it wants. Germany wants the rest of Europe to adopt German-style economic policies, but key countries like Italy, Spain and even France really can’t do that. They can sign pieces of paper saying they will do it, and they can swear oaths of mickle might that they will never sin again, but they are who they are and they do what they do.

Teh Krugman: “Friedrich Hayek is not an important figure in the history of macroeconomics.”
Monty: “Teh Krugman is a ridiculous wizened little gnome of a man, and smells of rancid elderberries. He is also given to bouts of room-clearing flatus.” (According to post-modernist theory, both statements are true. Prove they're not!)

(It’s a fair point about Karl Marx, by the way. You can accept that Marx was an important figure in the history of economics while still believing that he was a morally corrupt and deeply misguided man.)

As I said in a previous DOOM post, I have grown tired of beating up on Granny and Grampy. For a change, let’s beat up on those thankless, lazy, snotty kids with their weird hair and their crappy music and their make-out parties that I never get invited to. Listen to Uncle Monty, Junior: the world doesn’t owe you a living. Nor does Mimsie and Pater, come to that. If you have to subsist on mac-n-cheese and wear factory-second clothes and give up your cable TV or cellphone to pay the bills, so be it. Plenty of people in the world have it hell of a lot worse than you do. Quit yer whining and get your ass to work. Oh, and if you don’t feel “fulfilled” by your work? Join the club, pal. If it was fun they wouldn’t call it "work".

Obama: You know what’s causing the loss of all those jobs? Not overbearing government regulations, runaway federal spending, a crushing welfare-state burden, or a stifling tax code. No, it’s those damned internets, that’s what. Or maybe robots. (I had a Judge Smails moment about Obama when I read this story: Good Lord, this man is a buffoon!)

Apparently the newest converts to the Keynesian Gospel of spending money you don't have on "stimulus" is the Italians. I predict that the stimulus will have the same general success there that it has had here and in Japan: zero, or near enough.

Last year’s meme: “Funemployment!” This year’s meme: “More time for the kids!”

Basically, the problems at the core of the Eurozone project comes back to the centuries-old power-struggle between France and Germany. The two regions wanted (and still want) completely different things.

How bad is the mess Medicare is in? (Which translates to our mess, as in you and I and everyone else.) This bad.

EU to double their bailout fund. Double the fund? Really? With what money? The whole reason you guys are in the shit you’re in right now is because you have no money! Hence all the borrowing. So riddle me this, Batman: exactly how are you going to double your bailout fund? All of your member countries -- including the Germans -- are skint, and Uncle Sugar’s tit has run dry. So it’s a question of simple math: two times zero is still zero.

It’s ironic that a noted liberal tool like Danny DeVito gives one of the best "creative destruction" speeches that I’ve ever heard. (Thanks to Ben for the link.)

The problem with investing in government bonds. Essentially, the problem is that you'd be better off burying your cash in a coffee can in the back yard. You're actually paying Uncle Sugar to hold your money, because the coupon on the bond is lower than the rate of inflation. And the vaunted "safety" of holding government debt has been shown pretty decisively in the past couple of years to be illusory.

This is what a real market crash looks like.

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posted by Monty at 09:00 AM

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