Category Archives: Socioeconomic

The Continuing Sheldon Crisis

Hari Sheldon

Recently I’ve been rereading the Foundation Trilogy by Dr. Asimov and I noticed something for the first time. In the stories Dr. A never really gives the ready a good idea of just how long a ’Crisis’ takes to build and just what all of the key and/or important events are. Only the ones key to the story line. Which is great for telling a story but not so great for someone who is trying to extrapolate a Socio/Politico/History.

I’ve become aware of this with all of the small (relatively) small events that have been happening this past year. With the release of the latest Trump Tape where we can hear what is reported to be Donald Trump actually revealing what he said was/are classified documents/information to person(s) not cleared to have that information. He also made it clear that he understood, at that time, the rules and regulations regarding classified documents/information. What is important is currently Donald Trump has yet to be charged with the improper revelation of classified information, only the improper possession and failure to return government documents.

I’ve gone in to this detail to illustrate just how complex a Sheldon Crisis is and how it can turn on the smallest things. The small detail here is that he talked about it. Another detail is he let himself be recorded. Finally it shows that even if the Trump wins the Mar-A-Largo case he still faces possible charges in New Jersey for the actual act of disclosing the information to person or persons not cleared for that information.

So inclosing we currently have two major ’crux points’ in the Crisis, the New York State charge(s) and the Federal Mar-A-Largo charges. We have another two potential ’cruxes’; the possible Federal charge(s) on reveling of classified information in New Jersey and the Federal Sedition charge(s) in D.C. Both of these could be made up of many smaller crux points. Which points are important and which are not is the question. I guess we will just have to wait and see, or until the Vault opens at Terminus City.

Dorian & Mar a Largo

For years now I’ve been saying that what is needed for the 1%ers to get hurt by the effects of Global Warming (aka Climate Change) and it looks like it could be happening now. According to Forbes, 40 of the wealthiest people in the world live in West Palm Beach.

At the time of writing hurricane Dorian is only a category 1 but it is projected to be a category 4 by the time it makes landfall in Florida. If you look at a map you will see that West Palm Beach is almost exactly in the middle of the cone of projected path for him. Looking at the map will also show that there are a great many ‘large houses’ (dare we say mansions) on the island that Mar a Largo is located.

I have been told that many of these island of the Florida East cost are not very high. It is also be projected that Dorian will be coming ashore at high tide and that it is also a new moon, so the tide will be higher than usual. This is just made for some serious damage. The people who are not going to be your average citizen of Porto Rico, shoot they wont be your average American, much less Floridian. We are talking about the 1% of the 1%. People who don’t take kindly to loosing anything to anything. An they like to find some body to blame other than themselves.

Unfortunately for the President the usually candidates for blame, the poor, the Immigrant, or any “not us” are really good as a scape goat for this. The 0.01%rs are not, generally stupid. They know just what is going on and who is doing what to whom. This has happen before in our, human, history. The example I like to remember is how London started to get a modern sewer system. In the mid 1900’s London was swept by annual Typhus epidemics every summer. Also the Times River was used as an open sewer for the city. The stench was getting so bad everyone but the very poor and the people who made their living off the river got as far away from the river as possible. Unfortunately for Parliament, the parliament building was on the river. So when both the stench and Typhus got too close (aka knocking on the doors of parliament) both the city and national government took action.

They waited this long, in spite of the clambering of the common fore about the problem. Nothing was done till ‘those who mater’ were inconvenienced and/or threatened. Well, we could be seeing this happen to the 0.01% now. First West Palm Beach, tomorrow Manhattan Island.

The Wealth of Nations and 1776

In the late 20th century people who say that Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, (generally referred to by its shortened title The Wealth of Nations) shows why ‘Capitalism’ works are forgetting the world and culture he was writing was. This is a world where rapid transit was by sea.  Most people walked and few ever went more than 7 miles from where they were born.  This is a world where most people were farmers and in some nations the middle class was smaller than the nobility.

Most business were ‘small’ like two or three people small. An big business was never over a 100 people.  Where money was cold hard cash (coin mind you) that you still had to check out to be sure of it’s purity (monarchs still liked to debase coinage to stretch the budget) and true weight (people like to shave or Knick coins).  An people lived in neighborhoods so small everyone knew everyone else and was suspicious of everyone else.

In Great Britain (England, Scotland,and Wales) most towns had just had Church & Chapel if not just Church. If you acted badly in your business everyone would know and best you would have a very hard time of it.  If you were very unlucky or very bad, you could even have your “Name read out” on Sunday.  Your wife, if wife you had, would could be ostracized from all town social life and finding suitable marriages for you children would be next to impossible.  Now I can hear some of you saying, “But what about all those stories I read like “Pride and  Prejudice”.  First the people in the story are not middle class they are ‘Gentry’ AKA lower upper class.  An if you look closely few, if any, of the characters are in “Trade” which is what business was called back then.

So what does this all have to do with Capitalism?  Simply that the Capitalism being discussed is small/local Capitalism.  Capitalism with few and easily identified entries into starting a business.  Just consider this:  Why was the silver smith shop of Paul Revere in Boston, a city, and not in a village like Braintree.  Several reasons but two of the most important was access to raw materials (shipped in over water to Boston Harbor) and customers.  That is the people with both the need to buy silver and the cash gold to buy it.  It would do us well to remember that most artisans did their work on consignment.  This went for cobblers, cartwrights, blacksmiths as well as silver or gold smiths.  Very little would you see a shop filled with goods you could come in and buy.

Also the law was very different back then.  Like modern day full partnerships, someone like Paul Revere, or even John Hancock, was personally responsible for all debts and liabilities of the business.  It is just about this time you see the first limited/shared liability companies showing up in London (to wit “ lloyds of London”) where an investor was liable only for the amount of money he invested and nothing more.  Even then some very interesting cases in commercial law come out of the period that forced Parliament to make new law.  Next comes the steam revolution that suddenly made traveling over hundreds of miles in a day something that could be done by most anyone.  I shan’t go into more detail on the industrial revolution as there are many many good books and online classes on the subject.

What is important here is that the type and form of capitalism we have now would be totally unrecognizable to Adam Smith.  Trying to justify economic activity using his writing makes as much since as starting a business based solely on cold hard cash and selecting your business location on foot traffic of the wealthy.

A problem with Socialism & Capitalism in America

As strange as it may sound both Socialism and Capitalism suffer from the same problem in America. This is not to say both suffer other problem/issues, just that they both suffer from the same one in America. In America we seem to think that both Socialism and Capitalism are well defined and thought out economic systems. Unfortunately they are not. They aren’t even well formulated economic theories. What they are are two, in practice, economic systems with many many different systems in practice.

People also think that Capitalism is a 18th century development an Socialism is a 19th century one. What is true is that those were when economic systems that had been going one for many centuries started to be both studied and, sometimes, formalized. When Adam Smith wrote “The Wealth of Nations” he was describing the economic system system he found around him in 18th Scotland. He both gave it a name and did try to formalize it into a theory. An for an 18th century philosopher he did quite well. But he wasn’t the last word, not by a long shot.

The same can be shown for Socialism. The economic philosophers of the early/middle 19th century were describing an economic system that they could observe practiced by natives in the soon to be colonized Africa and Americas.

So just what is the problem these two Izums share? When discussed they are in an idealized form. This is something done quite often in science. We will create an ‘idealized’ model to simplify the tremendously complex system we are studying. The thing to remember that it is an idealized sample we are looking at and therefore subject to errors. What will work in the idealized system doesn’t work, or works in strange ways, in the real world.

A great example of this is something I learned in a Macro Economics class, the concept of elasticity. All too often people think that you can buy, or refrain from buying something depending on how much it costs. An for a lot of things this is true. But somethings you must have to live, like food an water. If either or both of these become scares people will do what ever is needed to get them. These are what are called inelastic commodities. In an idealized economic model commodities will either be all elastic or all inelastic, not a mix. Nor will you have a commonality that is usually elastic that can become inelastic do to non economic forces.

Another thing that is often done in idealized economic systems is to limit the number of reasons a person will do something to strictly economic reasons, excluding religious , moral, and/or philosophical reasons. We even do a lot just for emotional reasons, because it will make us feel good, or to get back at someone/something that hurt us? These reasons for making economic decisions are difficult or impossible to quantitize much less predict.

So the next time someone brings up Socialism or Capitalism take a moment and ask them just what they mean by that word. You just might be surprised.

A Less than Rosy view of a Confederate Victory

Confederate Flag On Fire

For many years I have loved reading a form of Historical/Science fiction known as Alt-history. One of the more common themes is the “What if the South had won the American Civil War?” So far I have yet to read any that don’t show a Confederacy that is both economically and politically viable. My thought here is why?

I know that the authors of the story start out with the story idea and then work backwards to change history, but why always a Rosy or at least successful Confederacy? Why not a failed Confederacy? I ask this especially with the rash of post-apocalyptic story now being written. It is not as if it wouldn’t make for a great background.

Let’s just take a look at the problem a Confederacy winning would face. First is their own construction which give tacit, if not dejur, approval of a State leaving the Confederacy. Once the issue of abolition has been removed the issues separating the border slave states from the Plantation slave states. This problem has been touch one at least one ‘what-if’ (see “If the South had won the Civil war” by MacKinlay Kantor) where Texas leave the Confederacy. Assuming the maximum size of the Confederacy, giving them Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri, I can see situations where one or more stares would leave the Confederacy.

Let’s move on to some of the problems that would face the CSA in the years following the end of the war to 1899. First and most recognized problem, even by the Planters of the time, is that both Cotton and Tobacco, the two cash crops that supported the southern economy, are very had on the land. Something the city Dwellers of the 21st century may not no is that there were no chemical fertilizers in the late 19th century. Once the land was worn out growing Cotten or tobacco all it might be good for is follow grazing land. An not very good grazing land at that. Don’t take my word for it, read up on the economic history of the old south in the latter half of the 19th century.

Now lets add in something else, the blights. The old south in our timeline suffered both the Cotton blight and the tobacco blight. These are just singleton bights either both cotton and tobacco suffered from both disease and insect bights. So now we get to the biggest problem economics for the south. When your agriculturally based economy falters what do you do with all those slave mouths you need to feed?

Let’s back here for just a moment and talk about the effect on slavery wining the civil war will have the ‘peculiar’ institution. Most just see the end to threat of abolition but lots more could happen. Like the end of the Underground Railroad. Most would say this is a good thing for slavery in the south. But stop and think about this; with the end of the Underground Railroad those slave who are most likely to lead slave revolts are no longer being removed from the south by running away. They are stuck in the south with no hope of freedom except revolting. This also means that both the National government of the Confederacy and the State governments are going to need to keep enough men under arms to suppress slave revolts befor they start. That will not be cheap.

Now add in an economic crash with very bad farming condition, little food, and you have the makings for a wonderful apocalypse. What do you do when you have a total glut on the market for slaves. Take a look at just how much of the wealth the Confederate States had tied up in slaves. Some estimates show a ‘prime’ field hand would go for $900+ gold. Now just think, what happens when you can’t give away a slave, that they are worth nothing, or just $100 (paper)?

Unlike live stock in this situation you just can’t kill them. You could try, but it would have to be done right or the slaves facing certain death or possible death revolting. Maybe the Confederacy might set up ‘colonization’ camp for “freed” slaves like the Nazi resettlement camps in Poland? Wouldn’t that make a dark world.

I would like to leave you with one more dark idea before I go. Imagine, if you will, a post 1900 America where all of the sites have either been killed or driven out of the Confederacy. That it is now a country based on agricultural economy, but working hard to industrialize, that like Israel today, welcomes any black but treats all whites as the deadliest of enemies. Say it is 1914. Which side of the Great War will both the USA and the CSA come in on? Both have good reason to hate and despise both Britain and France for their support of the ‘old’ white Confederacy.

Now, just why don’t we see stories like this? I don’t know. And before you say “Well if it is such a good idea, why don’t you write it?” I will just say this, when it comes to writing fiction “I suck big time”. My only thought on why we don’t have dark south winning is the massive influence on our thinking of the “Myth of the Lost Cause”. This myth has totally kept anyone from think about all of the flaws the antebellum south. It has papered over all of the fault lines in its culture so we find it hard to think about them. But they were there.

So, consider if you will……..

President and Autocrat of all the States

For as long as I’ve been studying politics, just about 50 years now, I have heard the mime “Elect a Businessman and run the country like a business and things will be better.” From conservatives.  Well, now we have elected a Businessman, so how our things going?  If you grow and sell soybeans or make things with steel/aluminum, not so well. If you’ve come to this country with your family seeking asylum things are even worse.  An don’t get me started on the people who live downstream from a coal mine. So why is the facts so out of kilter with the mime?  I once tried a little though experiment that I’d like to share with you:

Imagine you have a business that you run.  You have a small but powerful and independent board of directors (they hold their seats totally independent of anything you can do).  Now ad in that every one of you customers is also a shareholder and each shareholder as exactly the same number of votes as anyone else.  Finally each of your customers and directors are also you employees.  Now run this using classic business practices. Now add in the business is responsible for the general welfare of all of the stockholders/employees.  Have fun.

What Facebook, and Cambridge Anaytica tells us

The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’

– Lewis Carrol

Some may think it strange that I start what should be a very dry and serous post with a quote from one of Lewis Carrol’s more nonsensical poems, but bear with me for a bit and it shall be all made clear.

With the news that the Company that is self acknowledged as being a hard core political marketing (read Agitation/Propaganda) organization violated the terms of use of Facebook it has forced the body politic to face up to the facts.  An just what facts are these?  Simply, that what once started out as computer age equivalent of gathering at the local Pub/Saloon/Coffee Shop/back fence and talking, that is Social Media has reach full maturity and has been co-opted by the Con-men.

Make no mistake about it, we are no longer just talking about people being creative in their sales pitch.  We are talking about people using social media to look deep into our pyche’s and use are deepest fears to manipulate and control us.  An just like the oysters in the poem, will will be betrayed and consumed if we do not do something now!

It is time  for all governments of the Free World to take action.  Here in the USA it is time for the GOP to stop viewing the Russian actions in the 2016 election thru the distorting glasses of partisan politics.  It does not mater who won the election in 2016, it is done and over.  What maters is that hidden agencies used improperly  gleaned personal information to craft fallacious activities in our body politic.  Do not say “This is just an Internet issue.”, it is not.

Rather think how you would feel if someone was able to observe all of your reading/shopping/casual  conversations and then sent in undetectable agents into your favorite local Bar/Coffeeshop, where every you gather with friends to talk, to use what they know of you to feed you lies.  I don’t know about others but I would feel violated, betrayed and badly misused and I’d want to both put a stop to it  and to  wreak just revenge on the perps.

So the time has come to talk of many things:

Of Social Media – and accountability – and visibility

Of freedom – and politics

Of why our rage is boiling hot

and if Politicos have courage.


Capitalism and Wealth Redistribution

Today I’m going back to logic or the lack of it in our political discussions.  For over a hundred years the ‘Right’ of American body politic has lambasted the Socialist ‘Left’ for being anti-capitalism and pro Wealth Redistribution.  For anyone who is pro Capitalism, in all it’s myriad forms, to be against the redistribution of wealth is flatly illogical.  Capitalism is the foremost wealth redistribution economic system.  It is all about moving in wealth around from one place or person to another.

“WHAT????? That’s not possible.  It’s Socialists and Socialism that wants to take wealth from the rich and give it to the undeserving poor.

An your right, Socialism is interested in moving wealth from the wealthy to the poor.  But that does not mean that Capitalism doesn’t move wealth around.  In fact classical ‘Adam Smith’ Capitalism was/is all about moving wealth from the landed nobility to the much poorer tradesmen and craftsmen. Capitalism is a system of moving wealth from one person to another in such a way as to reward the hardworking and innovative person and to punish the lazy and stick in the mud person.  Unfortunately the society that enables Smithian Capitalism hasn’t existed for over a hundred years.

The kind of Capitalism that exists now, what I call Mega-Corps Capitalism is not anything like Smithian Capitalism.  The Capitalism we live with now is still interested in the moving of wealth, but unfortunately it is moving the wealth from people in the middle class to the top 1%.  This is still wealth redistribution, it’s just not trying to spread it around, it is trying to concentrate it more and more.

So next time someone says you’re supporting Wealth Redistribution, smile and say yes, I’m a Capitalist.

Meritocracy vs Capitalism

Lets be clear from the start, Meritocracy is a political philosophy and Capitalism is  an economic philosophy and that means they are not the same thing.  That being said it does not hold that they do not come into conflict.  The point I’m going to make here is that they do, sometime do come into conflict and this conflict happens just because they don’t care about the same thing.  They have different goals.

The conflict I want to point out is that Meritocracy holds power should be vested in individuals according to merit and in the economic sphere wealth can be used to represent power.  Unfortunately Capitalism isn’t the lest bit interested in where or how wealth is vested, only how it is increased, i.e. the rate of return.  See the conflict?  Meritocracy wants to use merit as the measure of where power is vested and Capitalism wants the only measure of merit to be the rate of return on investment.  See the trap?

If you don’t, here is a little thought experiment for you.

You have $1,000,000 to invest and two people have approached you with an investment opportunity for you.  The first person’s opportunity is to start manufacturing ZPM (a source of clean enegry) but the rate of return will take time, 5 to 10 years, to show up and will only be relatively modest 5% per anum.  The second persons opportunity is in Organlegging out of the country of ‘PeopleIDontKnowistan’ where the organs of convicted criminals are sold for transplants (currently the 3rd speeding ticket is a capital office in  PeopleIDontKnowistan) but the rate of return will start next quarter and run at 25% per anum.

See the problem?

According to Capitalism the more meritorious investment is the 2nd even though it’s business model is something many people find fundamentally abhorrent.   Therefor you should invest in the 2nd opportunity even thought the first is more meritorious in more areas of human endeavor.

Now the point I’m trying to make is this, Capitalism want us to only use a one dimensional measure of merit where Meritocracy works best with a multidimensional measure or merit.  So if we want to have a meritocratic society then we can not use just Capitalism’s measure of merit when judging the merits of business decisions.

Thank about it.


Party Cognitive Dissonance and Hypocrisy

Yesterday we had a wonderful example of cognitive dissonance causing the GOP to take on the appearance of hypocrisy.  Ca. House Reps. Keven McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), Devin Nunes (R-Tilare) and David Valadao (R-Handford) are calling the current drought ‘man-made’.  (read what Rep McCarthy and Rep Nues have posted)  This just days after others in the GOP are decrying  the myth of climate change and any connection with actions by man.

Back in the 60’s, when I was a teenager and knew everything, this kind of action by a political party was why we called them ‘Hypocrites’ (in case your wondering it was the Democratic party we were directing this charge).  Now to be fair, the good Congressmen were talking about actions taken by the ‘Radical Ecologist’ movement and not the burning of oil/gas.  The problem facing the Congressmen is that they are saying “Yes, actions of man can effect the climate, but only those action done by people we don’t like.”  Unfortunately this is not how science or logic work.