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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The American free market

Free markets exist where buyers and sellers transact voluntarily, reaching a mutual agreement. In the “free market” a consumer can demand a better price, buy a similar item, shop elsewhere or forgo the purchase altogether.
The right argues that any interventions in the form of taxes, regulation or subsidies are detrimental to the “free market”. This is simultaneously proposed with the “supply side” theory which provides government support, and subsidies, to the suppliers and “job creators”. From this we can see that “supply side”, “job creators” and the “free market” are terms used to describe a political or ideological viewpoint on policy. None of these terms describe any field of economics. As policies based on ideological views, economic research and real world data is most certainly unwelcome.
The ideology of “free market” medicine will work if you decide to voluntarily have a heart attack, or voluntarily get injured in a car wreck. If the price is too high, you just forgo the heart attack, or postpone the injurious car wreck, until a better offer is available.
The inconsistency, fraud, deception and hypocrisy of the ‘free market” ideology becomes obvious. Capitalism based on a level playing field has proven successful for all participants, the “free market” ideology based on monopoly, taxpayer support and rigged rules (our too-big-to-fail banks), ultimately fails everyone. We have reached a point where too-big-to-fail exists for the rich, while too-small-to-save is the rule for the common citizen. The billionaires need a safety net, while grandma needs to become self reliant and tough it out. This is not a market failure because there is no capitalist based market.
This not an accident, this is not the natural evolution of capitalism, nor is this the way it has to be. This is the intentional result of power protecting power. This is the result of humans acting like humans. When we get lucky, we credit our intelligence, we all protect ourselves from perceived threats, and we all think we are the best drivers on the road. To these normal human traits add unlimited power and vast resources, and abuse will be the results. Temperance becomes wrath, charity becomes greed, and humility becomes gluttony. Only a great person can withstand great temptation, and great people are exceeding rare.
I push the speed limit on the highways, occasionally far beyond the legal limit, and if caught by police authorities I am punished. HSBC (a British mega bank) was found guilty of illegal money laundering, the laundry of drug money, terrorist money and organized crime money. The judge released the corporation, and all managers, without penalty. Too-big-to-fail is now too-big-to-jail, laws no longer apply to the mega wealthy. They are only policed by themselves, a very unreasonable expectation.
The rich have used their resources to create the ideology of “free market”, “job creators” and “supply side economics”. There are many apologist op-eds written supporting the crimes of HSBC, there are “think tanks” dedicated to creating supportive “research” for the rich, flattery by politicians is rewarded with “campaign contributions”, and lobbyist write legislation benefitting the rich at the expense of the common citizen. Being an apologist is very lucrative and secure profession.
You and I have no political representation, there is no lobbyist working on our behalf, no organization fighting for the middle class. The politician that claims to represent me in speeches, sponsors legislation that destroys my environment, laws that restrict my protection from corporations, and laws which give tax benefits to ship my job off shore. This bad legislation is explained as helping me, improving GDP, and increasing jobs. A message professionally packaged, market tested, refined in focus groups and then emotionally tinged. We are told that apple pie taste best with a little arsenic added.
You may not be shocked by any of this, but you certainly got the bill, with none of the benefits.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Quotes from Cicero and Caesar

I have been writing short epistles about the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I have noted that these blogs are popular and well read. I decided to search the internet and see what others are writing about the Roman decline and American imitation of the collapse. Wow, I am really out of the main stream of internet blogs with my views. Rome is clearly the cautionary story, we are certainly doomed if we do not study history. I found the following quote from Cicero, circa 55 BC.

“The budget should be balanced.
The treasury should be refilled.
Public debt should be reduced.
The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled.
Assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt.
Instead of living on public assistance, people must learn to work.”

Wow again, like super wow, we ARE repeating the Roman disaster! Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Cicero ever said any such thing, not even close. This does indicate that I am far from the standard on the America-is-like-Rome allegory. I need to make up my own Cicero quote.

“Rome’s greatness requires virtuous leadership.
Public funds must be immediately committed to the betterment of all citizens.
All immigrants must be welcomed with honorable citizenship.
The rich must commit their funds to the public good.
All citizens should receive the best Roman education.
The Senate should improve the aqueducts and public roadways.
The Roman soldier's pay needs be increased.”
Cicero, 53 B.C.

I should also note Julius Caesar’s famous reply to Cicero and the Roman Senate in 52 B.C. 

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,
Our military ventures have been deceived.
We fight the great Persian Empire of evil without perception.
Recall that we mistakenly believed they had advanced chariots.
That they inflamed the Grecian youth with false ideas.
Let us amend our thoughts.
Let us balance our needs with our abilities.”
Julius Caesar, 52 B.C.

I do hope this gets me back into the good grace of the blogosphere. I can make up stuff as well as anyone.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Soon America will fall like the Roman Empire

America is on course to fall like the Roman Empire. Sagacious wisdom delivered by serious individuals. A prediction at least a century old, I have heard some say Nostradamus predicted our Latin destiny in the 16th century. I have listened to many sages talk of America’s demise since a small child, this story proved helpful by teaching me to ignore the wise sage’s moralistic pontification. I predict that America will decline and then fall, I also predict an earthquake will happen in California, Turkey or Japan. I foresee pestilence, war and famine, we are all doomed. Sound familiar? Now I add some time lines, the end is 15 to 20 years in the future. My solution will prevent our failure for 75 years. Currently we hear this spiel about Social Security dysfunction. In 1983 Ronald Reagan used the same argument to modify Social Security, which saved Social Security for 75 years. We need not worry about Social Security until 2058 due to the fixes instituted by President Reagan. Part of President Reagan’s argument was the Fall of Rome comparison. The Fall of Rome paragon is a red flag, a warning that the sales pitch has begun.
Our contemporary sages compare the moral decay and economic collapse of America to Rome, history will repeat unless we do as they say. Warnings are presented with feeble ideas that have never produced positive results. The poor ideas are hidden by the emotional argument, if you hear a lecture about America repeating Roman history, change the channel, there are some great sports programs available.
Why did the Roman Empire fall is a valid question. German professor Alexander Demandt published, in 1984, a compilation of 210 theories explaining why Rome fell. An alphabetized list is available from the University of Texas. These theories can be grouped into four broad categories. Loss of morals, disease and earthquakes, economic collapse, and last, Rome did not fall, instead it devolved into the European dark ages. As a history buff, I have read many of the presentations by professors, and I have developed my own thoughts.
Is there a lesson to be learned from the collapse of the Roman Empire? There is a lesson, a story repeated across time and cultures, always with the same end game. The decline and fall of the Roman Empire, several Chinese dynasties, the French monarchy, the Persian Empire, even the Greek city state of Sparta, all civil organizations that loss the support of the civilian masses. It is a lesson of greed, pride and power by the elite, while for the common man, life became unbearable, with starvation wages, abusive conditions, staggering inequity and justice for sale.
The source of success, is the root of the failure. As a society’s wealth increases, the difference between have and have-not increases. Initially the concentration of wealth and power aides the entire society, this concentration allows for larger endeavors, it provides direction and success for the society. Inevitably the elite go too far, conditions for the common individual deteriorates, the society losses the support of the common citizen. In the case of the Roman Empire, by the fifth century, the abuse of the common citizen was so bad that surrender to a barbarian King could be an improvement. In the case of America, at the turn of the 20th century, the abuse by the “robber barons” was so extensive that America’s political system was on the edge of collapse. The political system, and culture, was saved by legislative action creating the Interstate Commerce Commission and laws regulating monopolies, later combined with the Labor Union action which improved wages, work safety and conditions, benefits and the 40 hour work week.
We should not look to Roman history for the answer. We should look to American history for the answer. The Romans failed, as did the French Monarchy, while America succeeded. America survived the crisis of the “robber barons” and went on to create the “American Century”.
The Roman Empire started as a Republic, all male citizens had a political voice, a thousand years later only the elite had political power. This is the pattern. The elite slowly reduce the number of people at the table, eventually only the elite sit at the table. Initially the elite solicit the voluntary support of the populace, later the elite compels their support by force.
America in the early 1900’s solved the problem by giving workers a political voice, a seat at the table.
The elite learned the lesson, the attempts to buy the Presidency failed, the attempts to murder labor leaders failed. Today their grandchildren play a far more sophisticated game, with the same objective, remove people from the table. The short term results will be greater wealth and power for the elites, the long term result will be the same as that of the Roman Emperors, or the French King.
The lesson of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is to have all citizens at the table.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

There is Something in the water

There is Something in the water. It is a story that explains everything. There is Something in the water, that is our problem. My simple, confused, and conceited mind had accepted concepts about making choices, about balancing risk vs. reward, a kind of a karmic sort of thing. Then I figured it out, there is Something in the water. We all drink the water, we use the water to make Kool-Aide and chicken soup. An artful sneaky plan so simple we all missed it.
Water is simply impossible, it cannot exist. Water cannot be compressed, it dissolves all, and it exists as a solid, a liquid and a gas all at the same instant. Water recycles perfectly. The water I drink today is exactly the same water that dinosaurs drank millions of years pass. Two hydrogen atoms from the beginning of time, and one oxygen atom cooked up in a star then released in a super nova, combined in an interstellar gas cloud warmed by ultra violet light. Then frozen into a comet and brought to earth until the oceans were full. This is what I was taught when I learned magic. I was a good student of the occult, mastering physics, chemistry and mathematics. I was taught the magic that keeps bridges from falling down, and the spells of enchantment which allow me to fly in aluminum cans across the sky. I believed all this, and I faithfully practiced the arts of illusion, then, one day, I realized that water was impossible. With that single insight, the entire abracadabra was gone like fog at sunrise.
Someone put Something in the water, a very long, long time ago. It is all clear to me now. Now I know why we think guns don't kill. Now I know why we select idiots for leaders. Now I know why we dress little girls as cheerleaders, and then make them dance in public. It only affects humans. Whoever did this has no interest in animals. We are the experiment.
I haven’t had a drink in days, with each passing hour I can see with greater clarity, the truth will set you free. I need to get the story out, I must spread the words.
There is Something in the water.