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May 06, 2013

DOOM: Who run Bartertown?


UPDATE: Why Friday's job report was ominous. All those fabulous new jobs His Majesty the King was bragging about are mostly low-end part-time jobs.

UPDATE 2: Don Boudreaux lays the lumber to a fat pitch and mashes it over the centerfield fence: "I Do Not Care About Income or Wealth Inequality".

Worrying about income (or wealth) differences as such has always for me smacked of childishness. It’s envy elevated into public policy. I’m sure that it has something to do with how I was raised, but the very thought of fretting about how much money other people make relative to what I make has always seemed to me to be grossly impolite, anti-social, pointless, corrosive of one’s character, and in horribly bad taste. This was so for me for as long as I can remember, even when my income was very low by American standards.

I posted a rather gloomy prediction about the 21st century labor market on Saturday. Kevin Williamson (of National Review's Exchequer blog) has a different take on the situation -- not so much a rebuttal as a more optimistic take on what the long-term prospects are. Williamson's idea, boiled down, is that market capitalism will survive our era of lousy governance and thrive in the post financial-crash world that will follow. But it is important to note that both he and I agree on one thing: we're facing a hell of a lot of pain in the short to medium term.

Democracy's death by welfare. The whole idea of the tax-funded sovereign-controlled welfare state was flawed, but it took a century or so for the really intractable problems to emerge. Democracy may have had its day in the sun (a point Donald Kagan advances) as people find the twin burdens of responsibility and fiscal continence too much to bear, and when the obituary for the democratic form of governance is written, it will be noted that it was the welfare state and not a conquering enemy that did it in.

A case in point: New York City now spends more money paying retired cops than they do paying active-duty cops.

Europe bleeds out. I confess that I am shocked at how long Europe has been able to avoid the wages of their Euro folly. The fiasco has dragged on for far longer than I had thought possible. It just goes to prove Adam Smith's legendary observation that there is a lot of ruin in a nation. Though I suppose that is cold comfort to the Greeks, Irish, Spanish, Cypriots, and Portuguese.

CNBC dares to speak the terrible truth: America's spending habits may be to blame for their lack of savings. Next month, CNBC plans to do a shocking expose on how borrowing money leads to debt.

That look on Harry Reid's face isn't the result of a bad taco off the lunch-truck; it's the realization that he's not going to be able to get out of the hot zone before ObamaCare goes critical.

Argentina has to re-learn this lesson every two decades, it seems like: socialism is a one-way ticket to the poorhouse. Someone ought to remind them of Einstein's aphorism that insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

New rule signals the kiss of death for pensions. Private-sector pensions have been dying for decades now. Public sector pensions are where the most grievous danger lies, but regulators and lawmakers are terrified to look into that abyss.

How boned is California? Boned to the tune of approximately $1.1 trillion dollars, my groovy babies. And that's not even a worst-case scenario.

The recent jobs numbers had some people positively giddy, but don't be fooled: the real unemployment rate is still 10% or better. And it's substantially higher for teens and other demographics. The labor market isn't "improving"; it's a dead whale bumping along the ocean floor, shedding bits of itself as it rots away.

Generally speaking, it's a really bad idea to borrow against your retirement assets, and that bad idea gets worse the closer you get to retirement. Borrowing to finance a college education for yourself or your kid probably made sense years ago when the return on a college education was much higher than it is now, but now it falls into the realm of financial malpractice.

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posted by Monty at 08:27 AM

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