Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Failure of Laissez-Faire Capitalism

Introduction: This is a discussion of Paul Craig Roberts’ book by that title. I just raced through the book. I couldn’t put it down. It hit me real hard, the way inescapable truth hits you. It codifies much of what I have been worrying about for decades.

Roberts’ central theme is simple: Globalism and free trade have been an unmitigated DISASTER for the United States. The country has been outsourcing the totality of its industry to China, to India, to Japan and to others. America’s de-industrialization is now complete. We are now a Third World country, but we don’t yet realize it, because the dollar still functions as the world’s reserve currency.

Who is Paul Craig Roberts? I remember him as a staunch Reaganite. He was assistant secretary of the treasury and co-founder of Reaganomics. He still defends “Supply-side” economics. He insists, however, that this is NOT related to “trickle-down” economics, and he is also mum about the so-called Laffer curve. Read more...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sisters and their Famous Brothers

I read somewhere that only three percent of the most illustrious figures of history are women. Ben Franklin, Einstein, William the Conqueror and Freud do not have female counterparts. It is as if the genius gene only gets passed on to sons, carefully skipping over daughters.

Famous men of history often had more sisters than brothers; Benjamin Franklin had seven sisters, Freud had five and Darwin had four. What happened to them? They all lived their lives, side by side with their famous brothers, only to vanish without a trace, almost as if they never existed. Were they less talented? Or did they have a different role to play, a different destiny?

Looking at the size of the families that these famous men grew up in, one wonders how anyone of the female sex could find the time to do anything but pop out babies. Women were baby factories, not much else. Josiah Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s father, had seventeen children. His first wife died giving birth to their 7th child, so he didn’t waste time and married Abigail Folger that same year, who bore him ten more children. She started at age 23 and had her last child at age 45. Josiah Franklin, 'made sure that each of his sons learned a trade', a noble endeavor, to be sure, but there is no mention of his many daughters being included in these paternal ambitions. Read more...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The United States is the 20th Best Country in the World and That isn't So Bad

1. Introduction:

One of my perennial concerns is the relative health and well-being of various countries. For example, I fret a lot about Mexico’s descent into lawlessness and anarchy. There used to be a saying, when the US stole Mexican territory and preyed upon Mexico in other ways as well, "Poor Mexico, so far away from God and so near the United States." Today, this could be reversed: "Poor America, so near Mexico." Could the narco-mayhem south of the border ebb over into the US?

The term "failed state" comes to mind. We know that some countries, for example Somalia, have ceased to be "countries" in any meaningful sense except as a swath of surface on a paper map. Is our next-door neighbor in danger of emulating places such as Somalia? Of approaching disintegration?

But the question is generic: How do different countries stack up, or rank, overall?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What America Needs is a Good, Strong Socialist Party

Socialism: (sõˊshə lizˊ əm): A system of social organization which advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production, capital, land, etc. in the community as a whole. From the Latin socius: comrade.

In the United States, “Socialism” is taboo. It is sacrilegious. The label, when applied to a politician, is a death sentence. It is un-American. Centrist politicians such as President Obama and progressives such as economist Robert Reich struggle desperately NOT to be labeled “socialists.”

On the other hand, I am perfectly comfortable calling myself a socialist (I’m not running for office), and I also find it reasonable to call people such as Reich and even Obama at least “somewhat socialistic.”

You see, it’s all a matter of definition, a matter of degree: The definition with which I start this article (Random House) is just one possible definition. Ever since its beginnings in France in the early 1800s, Socialism has evolved into many different forms (see for example “Socialist Thought,” by Albert Fried and Ronald Sanders, Doubleday Anchor). The extreme forms of Socialism associated with Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mao, and enacted in the Soviet Union and in other totalitarian states, have given Socialism a bad name. In the extreme, Socialism can indeed mean the total collectivization of the economy and the total expropriation of private property.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Are You Prepared for Old Age?

People are afraid of old age. I am afraid of old age, even though I am old. I am way past my prime and looking at the flow chart of my life, I am probably where I will either flow into ‘you will live longer’ or ‘you are living on borrowed time’.

It’s really a dilemma. I am pretty sure I will live longer than today. I am not sick, I am not unhealthy, and I don’t feel really all that different from when I was in my 40’s, but I am. Many people die at my age, including my father. On the other hand, my mother, who is going to be a hundred next month, is still alive. So, it’s really a crapshoot, isn’t it?

But what I really wanted to talk about are the advantages of being older. Wouldn’t you like to know? Everybody does. Everybody is going to be old one day but we are all scared shitless. We don’t want to think about it. It’s too abstract. Weird, huh? We think about what ifs all the time. We think: ‘what if I lost my job?’ ‘What if my boyfriend left me?‘What if I got sick?’ But we never think: ‘what if I was old?’ That’s the thing, you see, there is this self-preserving mechanism. We never think what it's like to have kids until we have them. If we did, nobody would have kids. We never think about what hunger feels like until we are hungry. We never think about dying until we have to. Same thing with old age. We never think about old age until we are old, and then we are totally unprepared. Read more...