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March 18, 2015

DOOM: We are the hollow men


In an alternate universe an alternate Monty did manage to get the DOOM post up on Monday morning, babies. Alas we live in the bearded-Spock universe where everything is not only evil but also late, and so now you have DOOM on a Wednesday instead of a Monday. I twirl my dastardly mustache and laugh at your discomfort, for such is the way of things in this universe.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds on to win the election in Israel. This isn't actually DOOM-y news (I think it's good news, myself) but it's important news, both for Israel and for us.

The end is kind of near. Like Bill Bonner, I'm amazed that the current fiat money system has staggered along for as long as it has. (Thus bearing out Adam Smith's observation that there is a lot of ruin in a nation.) But I think that there are clear signs that something is dreadfully wrong -- probably many things. When we have sovereign long-bond rates dipping into negative territory and (possible) deflation looming in spite of a vast orgy of money-printing, it is clear that the global economic machine has begun to seriously malfunction. The Age of Debt might finally be coming to a close.

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. The minimum wage, as Dr. Sowell has famously said, is zero.

One piece of advice to my Greek friends: if you want to borrow a lot of money from someone, it's a good idea not to piss them off. I always thought that putting radical Marxists in charge of Greece's government would turn this story from a financial tragedy into an absurdist farce, and so it has proved.

If the wage of sin is death, then the wage of lousy policy is economic pain. The H1B visa program is a classic case of governmental ineptitude, poor policy, and corporate rent-seeking and connivance. This is a story with no heroes, only villains.

You all know me as a free-trade and free-markets kind of guy, but on the issue of H1B Visas I find it hard to be dispassionate. I've made my living as a software engineer for nearly a quarter of a century now, man and boy, and I've seen up close the wreckage the H1B program has wrought on businesses and IT workers alike. Indian IT workers reduced to the status of indentured servants; American IT workers endlessly working under the sword of Damocles, waiting for the outsourcing axe to fall; businesses falling into the outsourcing trap and finding out too late that they've outsourced their own business intelligence and lose that domain knowledge when the contractors leave.

Which leaves us with the IT field as it is today: mediocre pay, high stress, long hours, and constant pressure to stay current on ever-shifting technology. And the ever-present if unspoken threat that if you don't like it there's a foreign contractor who'd be happy to do it for half of what you're being offered. What's not to love? It's amazing that more kids aren't diving into the IT field right out of college. (And don't speak the dread word union -- that's a cure that's worse than the disease.)

As usual, the basic problem is one of governmental fuckery and official ineptitude (or actual perfidy, if you're inclined to the black-hat view of the world). The H1B visa program was set up to draw non-immigrant alien workers with technical skills to fill jobs that could find no domestic takers. The actual language of the program lays it out this way:

The intent of the H-1B provisions is to help employers who cannot otherwise obtain needed business skills and abilities from the U.S. workforce by authorizing the temporary employment of qualified individuals who are not otherwise authorized to work in the United States.

In other words, the program is intended to make up for a shortfall of domestic technical talent, not to replace domestic technical talent. Yet this is exactly what has been happening because of the warped way the H1B program has been implemented and interpreted by the government. This has created some very perverse incentives not just for employers, but for prospective IT workers as well. The H1B subverts the IT labor market, as governmental intervention in labor markets so often does. Whether that subversion is intentional or not depends on your level of cynicism...and I am a very cynical man.

California is boned: San Bernardino defaults on $10 million in bond payments.

I keeping saying it -- a promise to pay is only as good as the ability to pay.

"Expertly planned impoverishment." That accurately describes the entire modern global financial system, actually. Top men, babies. Top. Men.


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posted by Monty at 08:39 AM

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