A Reasonable Life – Reprise

Welcome to ARL

OK, as might be obvious to past visitors, I’ve scaled things back here for the time being.  This change mostly reflects a change in my own priorities, but also a bit of time needed for reflection on the purpose of this blog.

Originally, one purpose was to simply provide a place to organize certain resources that I was finding useful and interesting in my own life, a function that I think I’d like to preserve.  What has gotten a bit more tiring is the following and commenting on current events.  There is a point where these matters are either obvious to like-minded folks or they are simply irrelevant.  (Anyone who might be curious about what I mean can read this article.)

In the meantime, its time to advance the cause of my own reasonable life.  I’ll try to improve things here, which is likely to include both taking out the trash, so to speak, and some new additions.  Thanks for visiting. – HT

A Few Stray Thoughts on Current Events and the Knee-Jerk Impulse for Gun Control

With the spate of “mass shootings”, whether or not officially designated as terrorism, I can see by this site’s traffic counter, that concern for self-defense (and gun control) is once again on the rise. I’m not altogether certain that my “spin” on these issues will change anyone’s mind – most being staunchly in one camp or another. But, for the mere sake of veritas, I’m inclined to add these few nuggets for consideration.

1. Mass shootings (and suicide by gun) notwithstanding, the vast majority of gun crime in the US is related to gang/drug cartel activity. Remove these statistics and the USA compares favorably with the rest of the world’s gun violence stats.

2. Suicide stats (by gun or other method) is not, so far as I know, appreciably higher in the US, some places higher or lower. We’re in the upper middle of the pack and it would be hard to consider that our “gun culture” has facilitated our position, above any other consideration, such as general values and/or mental health.

3. Mass shootings, in my opinion, whether associated with intentional “terrorism” or not, are indicative of rather deep moral/mental psychosis. The popular culture in the US can, in my opinion, be expected to facilitate such derangement, to the extent that we’ve progressively abandoned the traditional values that, more often than not, keep hopelessness and despair in abeyance. Any exchange of such values for the selfish, childish, value-neutral popular culture can, with reasonable precision, foster – on the margin – a rising percentage of psychopaths, some of whom will act out, sometimes aided by their medications. That guns are reasonably available here, will, of course, make such events more likely and *spectacular*.

4. Terrorism is part and parcel of the above-noted derangement syndrome, even when associated with Islam. Values matter, ideas matter. Pick yours with care.

5. Political solutions, i.e. those offered by *politicians*, are guaranteed to give folks a false sense of security. The Federal government should have, as it’s core mission, dealing with *existential* threats, ahhh, be they “foreign or domestic“. In a world in which FDR or JFK would appear conservative, I hold very little hope. As oft stated here, the progressive mindset is, for us, a singular example of the derangement culture. It doesn’t stay the same, it progresses.

6. You and yours are on your own. Do with that what you will.

HT

The Better Currency: Bitcoin or Pie?

Dear Harry (and Harry),

I just read a book about Bitcoin. I was fascinated. My wife was repelled.  That’s another story.

The decentralized, public ledger, idea behind Bitcoin seems brilliant to me. But the fact that there is a cap on the number of bitcoins that will ever exist seems like a problem. Am I wrong? Help me. It seems that this would encourage saving, which is good, but discourage any sort of investing in actual goods, such as homemade pies. Here is my thinking:

Let’s say that, right now, a home-made pie is worth one bitcoin. Next year, if the pie economy grows at all, a pie will be worth less than one bitcoin. So, if I have bitcoins, I’m never going to buy that pie because next year, I’ll be able to get a better deal on pies. Also, if I am a pie maker, I’m never going to spend bitcoins on the ingredients to make pies, for the same reason.

I see that some pies must still be made because bitcoins are not edible and humans have a basic need for pies that can’t be completely eliminated (I’m not counting paleo-dieters as human, for the purposes of this article.) Is this enough to balance things out? Perhaps this will result in the perfect amount of growth in the pie economy?

It seems like it would be better if bitcoin creation was tied to the creation of pies, instead of vice versa. If every time a pie was baked, a bitcoin was created, things would work much better.

So, Mr. Harry Tuttle and Mr. Harry Dexter White, help me out here. I need some basic economics lessons and I want pies (meat pies too) to go on being made.

Best regards,

M. Ragazzo

An Update with Robert Neuwirth

Continuing my interest in his take on the world of “System D”

Negative Liberty

What a concept. Perhaps, over the past several years, you’ve heard of ZIRP. Lately, this is (quickly) evolving toward NIRP, which might be expected to definitely shift monetary policy tools from the carrot to the stick, (or hammer, as the case might be).

It is in such concepts that the full and over-arching Orwellian mind might be considered. We might start with, Keynes’ own quote on the notion of the “zero interest bound” (as he called it in – possibly – the most cherished of progressive scriptures) To wit:

Thus it is to our best advantage to reduce the rate of interest to that point relatively to the schedule of the marginal efficiency of capital at which there is full employment. There can be no doubt that this criterion will lead to a much lower rate of interest than has ruled hitherto; and, so far as one can guess at the schedules of the marginal efficiency of capital corresponding to increasing amounts of capital, the rate of interest is likely to fall steadily, if it should be practicable to maintain conditions of more or less continuous full employment—unless, indeed, there is an excessive change in the aggregate propensity to consume (including the State)…. Now, though this state of affairs would be quite compatible with some measure of individualism (emphasis mine), yet it would mean the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital.

The point being, perhaps for the sake of discussion only, that the price (as a measure of value) of anything depends on both its scarcity and its utility. As we move steadily from a condition in which the price of capital (for those with proximal access to the printing press) is, in effect, negligible, to one in which it is a curse held in abeyance of prescribed consumption, we might imagine the consequences. Keynes euphemism – euthanasia of the rentier – is merely one, albeit one whereby the free market mechanisms that motivate and reward most constructive economic behavior are quietly “put down”. How this state of affairs might be the least bit compatible with “some measure of individualism” escapes me.

Orwellian – (From Wikipedia) Orwellian” is an adjective describing the situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It connotes an attitude and a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past….as practiced by modern repressive governments.

So, as it happens, negative liberty, roundabout, is antithetical to negative interest. As noted by Hobbes: “a free man is he that in those things which by his strength and wit he is able to do is not hindered to do what he hath the will to do.” Negative liberty, you see, is – simply enough – merely the freedom to be left alone. It is, I’m convinced, the last refuge of moral agency. Were it cherished by the political forces at work in our nation as the equal to the Arctic Wildlife refuge, any attempts to blot the slightest part of it would meet rather ardent opposition.

Those who care to study the matter should, I would hope, come to discover the true root of both economic and political inequality. It is, simply enough, the degree to which we exercise the will to punish the most basic human desire for self-determination, to choose to be useful, or productive, or charitable, understanding full-well the natural and likely consequences of alternative choices. To reward bad behavior is but one step on the path towards compelling bad behavior.

It has become the seductive, and now rote, belief of the modern collectivist that individualism is inherently dangerous, leading as it might, to acts of selfishness and greed. Rather, we’ve simply substituted, in neat Orwellian fashion, the manner and power by which selfishness and greed is expressed. With the wholesale manipulation of entire classes of people, of course, those few who might rise to the very pinnacle of power have waning restraint against their own avarice. More the pity, those manipulated classes, have less still, having lost all means of self-determination.

One more from the Keynesian bible: “Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”

HT

To A Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!
 
I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!
 
I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave ‘S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!
 
Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!
 
Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ wast,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.
 
That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!
 
But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
 
Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
 
Robert Burns