Uncommon Sense

November 12, 2022

Contrary to the Evidence

You thought this was going to be about religion, didn’t you?

Actually it is more about economics and other things. The theoretical structure of economics is built mostly out of self-serving bullshit. For example, they refer to the human beings interacting in our economy as a particular kind of human: Homo economicus. Homo economicus is an hypothetical person who behaves in exact accordance with their rational self-interest. Using rational assessments, Homo economicus attempts to maximize utility as a consumer and economic profit as a producer. Ta da. Recent studies show that such beings do not exist and never have. (Think of economic Vulcans.)

Economists also base their theoretical structures on “economic transactions” involving buyers and sellers who both have complete information. Have you ever heard of such a ridiculous thing? If this were ever the case economists would be advising clients that not only is advertising not needed, but that it was a distortion of the economic system and should not be done.

In the U.S. we are obsessed with having a pay-as-you-go culture. Everyone needs to pay for everything as you proceed through life. Anything that is just handed to you is “Socialism!” leading to the destruction of freedom, motherhood, Chevrolets, and apple pie. A consequence of this is that 40% of all jobs are “bullshit jobs.”

A bullshit job is “a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as a part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend this is not the case.” David Graeber

According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.” David Graeber

What is doubly ironic about this is that the bullshit jobs rarely pay a living wage. Living wages and minimum wages, etc. are Socialism! In order for us to have a pay-as-you-go culture, people have to make enough money to pay for their needs (not necessarily their wants, but food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, etc.). That is what a living wage is. If you are making a living wage, you can “afford” to live; if not you are dying or at a bare minimum spiraling down to an early death. All to maintain the illusion of a “pay-as-you-go culture.”

The cost of everyone receiving a living wage for their labor is that there may be a few fewer billionaires and the billionaires still in existence may have a few less billions of dollars in their money bins. But this cannot be because . . . Capitalism, the only god Americans actually worship.

Even that social troglodyte Henry Ford understood this. He paid his workers almost a dollar more per day than other manufacturers. This caused workers to flock to the Ford plants and those already there worked hard to keep their jobs as they paid so much better than elsewhere. But was that Ford’s reasoning? No, he wanted his workers to make enough money to be able to buy a Ford car. And they did, with money Ford paid them as wages. So, he got “his” money back. If he had starved his workers, like his fellow plutocrats, he wouldn’t have sold near as many cars.

November 10, 2022

If You Aren’t Yet Convinced that Our Enemy is the big Money Corporations and the Uber-rich . . .

Please read this:

Amazon and Apple have an illegal price-fixing conspiracy

November 3, 2022

Grubbing for Respectability

The study of economics has been searching for respectability for many decades. Most recently it has been mathematized in order to make it more sciency and references to the “economic sciences” (sic) abound.

I noticed that today the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences had been awarded, and as a lazy news agencies reported it, it was the Nobel Prize for Economics. There is no Nobel Prize for Economics. This prize was named to imply that it is but it is not. They even announce the “winners” at the same time the real Nobel Prizes are awarded to complete the illusion. Pathetic. Almost as bad as the award shows, like the Oscars, et. al. in which an industry rewards itself.

No matter how much respectability grubbing proponents of the study of economics claim it is, economics is not a science. Yes, math can be used, graduate courses in economics now require Calculus where they did not in the recent past, and money can be calculated to fine precision, but the “laws” governing the topic aren’t scientific laws and, in most cases are little better than conjectures.

Take, for example, the concept of market equilibrium. A market is said to be at equilibrium when supply and demand for a good or service balance each other, and as a result prices become stable. If something changes this situation, once breached, the market opposes these changes, moving back in the direction of equilibrium. It is a nice concept and, as a rule of thumb, is a description of a small part of the behaviors one can observe in economic markets. But it is not a scientific law. There are no natural forces behind it. The major users of economics, businesses, are striving fang and claw to create monopolies for their businesses, so that have complete and total control of their market. There is no “market force” or “economic force” that opposes these attempts at “market domination.” Such “economic laws” (sic) are just crude descriptions of how markets can perform under a small set of circumstances.

The whole idea of free markets was built upon the myth of market correction forces. The myth is that politicians should leave markets alone because markets function best when unregulated. This is a baseless, self-serving claim that is not supported by any facts. Those promoting free markets, that is markets free from government regulation, really want governments not interfering with their market manipulations. They want to be the regulator of their markets, not the representative of all of the people, governments.

There is no such thing as a “free” market, which is a good thing because markets do not work without some regulation. Consider pharmaceuticals. Would you want to have a market for pharmaceuticals that was completely free, meaning that anyone could claim anything as an outcome of taking their medicinals and, well, anything goes? No FDA interference? No requirements for effectiveness interference? We have had a glimpse of what this would be like when in 1994, Congress removed “herbal supplements” from the purview of the FDA. What we got were herbal concoctions claimed to cure everything from the common cold to cancer with no requirement that such claims be proven in clinical or any other studies.

An AsideI have a method of determining when a “herbal supplement” is bogus. If you are temped to try the XYZ herbal supplement, do an Internet search along the lines of “does XYZ really work?” If the first ten websites you find are websites that are bogus, set up by the purveyor of the supplement, you know it is bogus. The practice for such bogus supplements is to put up a dozen or two websites seemingly independently studying your product, but usually just having long lists of testimonials, from people like Tom T. from Philadelphia, or Theresa W. from Portland, Oregon. None of these people can be contacted for verification because not enough information was been supplied, but that would be a waste of your time because they and their commendations are fictional. These website dilute out any honest evaluations of the XYZ supplement.

If you see such sites listed at the top of your search, well, now you know.

Does anyone want “anything goes” markets? I don’t think so. The “free market” bandwagon is just a vehicle to oppose government regulation that protects citizens from phony claims and phony products. Like a dog chasing cars, if it actually caught one it wouldn’t know what to do with it. Any economist who touts the virtues of free markets is a charlatan. Some economists don’t even know they are charlatans. Every course in economics they took in college had the same nonsensical presuppositions built in and then quick raced past to play with more “advanced” topics. Never to the go back and check their original suppositions.

Then they take their suppositions and double down on then, an example of which is Walras’s “law” which says that excess supply in one market must be matched by excess demand in another, so that in the larger picture there will be a general equilibrium. Can any causal connection be made between the demand in one market and the supply in another? I don’t think so. But the concept of “equilibrium” has run away with these person’s common sense. In the physical sciences, a system can only be in a state of equilibrium if it is isolated completely from the rest of the universe, excluding all other matter, energies, forces, etc. As a consequence a system in physical equilibrium is detached from the rest of the universe and has no effect on it or it on the system.

Now, there are systems that are near equilibrium all over the place in nature and those systems show some of the behaviors of equilibrium systems, for one they oppose changes in the distribution of matter and energy in the system, but those near-equilibrium systems are limited in such responses and can always be shoved off of the tracks, so to speak. Economic systems are somewhat like physical near-equilibrium systems but only under very constrained circumstances.

The key point is if you want them to behave as if they were near-equilibrium systems, you would have to regulate the situations they apply to. Certain “market stimulations” would be forbidden, etc. If you want an example of this look at the U.S. stock markets. The “players” in the markets for stocks invent ways to manipulate the markets in their favor on almost a daily basis. The markets, though, are heavily regulated (there are hundreds of pages of regulations adopted by each market) and most of these manipulative practices never get implemented. But every once in a while corrupt players get some control and you end up with high priced worthless “financial instruments” that crash the system, sometimes worldwide, like what happened in 2008. And these morons still preach “regulation is bad!”

I think economists should be required to dress for their profession, witch doctor garb would be appropriate.

October 21, 2022

Government Handouts—Bad?

There are conservatives who believe that all “government handouts” are bad and lead to laziness on the part of ordinary people. They seem to overlook the dwarfing handouts given to American businesses and focus in one the trivial ones given to ordinary citizens. Here is but one example.

Elon Musk, the nation’s richest man, is heavily subsidized by taxpayers, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. Musk’s net worth is somewhere about $210 billion. Yet he goes where the government money is.

Los Angeles entrepreneur Elon Musk has built a multibillion-dollar fortune running companies that make electric cars, sell solar panels and launch rockets into space.

And he’s built those companies with the help of billions in government subsidies.

Tesla Motors Inc., SolarCity Corp. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support, according to data compiled by The Times. The figure underscores a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups.

“He definitely goes where there is government money,” said Dan Dolev, an analyst at Jefferies Equity Research. “That’s a great strategy, but the government will cut you off one day.”

The figure compiled by The Times comprises a variety of government incentives, including grants, tax breaks, factory construction, discounted loans and environmental credits that Tesla can sell. It also includes tax credits and rebates to buyers of solar panels and electric cars.

(From Diane Ravitch’s blog)

October 11, 2022

Republicans Are Against Redistribution of Wealth

Well, the title of this post needs a clarification: they are against redistribution of wealth towards you and way from their paymasters, redistribution the other way is fine, just fine.

A recent study by the RAND Corporation (https://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WRA516-1.html) came to the conclusion that “the cumulative effect of four decades of income growth below the growth of per capita gross national income and estimate that aggregate income for the population below the 90th percentile over this time period would have been $2.5 trillion (67 percent) higher in 2018 had income growth since 1975 remained as equitable as it was in the first two post-War decades” This in essence means that 2500 billion dollars of wealth was redistributed from the bottom 90% of our economy to the very top. The median worker should be making $102,000 per year instead of the current value of about half of that.

A Fast Company blog post outlines the findings quite well (https://medium.com/fast-company/we-were-shocked-rand-study-uncovers-massive-income-shift-to-the-top-1-a4970c2e0863).

Now I have heard some say that if we had received those funds all along, it would have just inflated prices so much that we wouldn’t be any better off, which misses the point entirely. It is not so much that our money left our control, it is that it went into the oligarch’s pockets and was under their control, and they are using that money to buy politicians, judges, news media and more to in effect gain control over the entire country!

While both parties were bribed to help pull this off, the GOP is by far the worst perpetrator. When you hear a Republican say “we are against redistribution of wealth” realize they are saying we don’t want to give you your money back and we want to keep stealing more. When you hear a Republican saying “We don’t want government regulations, what they are really saying is “we don’t want government competing with our manipulations of the markets and the environment.”

The GOP used to be the Party of Big Business. Now they are the Party of Big Money, and the Democrats are lining up behind them. We desperately need to start throwing some of these bums out and electing candidates like Bernie Sanders.

October 2, 2022

This Sounds Harsh, But . . .

I recommend to you this post

We Shouldn’t Be Sending Federal Relief to Florida Because of Hurricanes

If this is pay walled, the author’s basic point is that “these 100 year storms” seem to happen every couple of years and therefore, since this is a known characteristic of the places that are affected, like Florida, that the state should establish its own relief fund. He also points out that wealthy people are flocking to Florida because it is a “low tax state,” so their tax burden isn’t so great that they cannot afford to do this for themselves.

He also points out that, well “I live in Northern Wisconsin. Every single winter, it gets very cold. We get destructive ice storms. It can be -30 for as much as a week. Sometimes we get several feet of snow.

“When was the last time this was national news? When was the last time people said, ‘Think of the poor people in Wisconsin! They’re dealing with daytime highs of -36! Let’s send them some federal aid!’

“Nobody ever says that. The president has never declared a national emergency and sent people to help me shovel my driveway.”

He’s got A Point there!

September 11, 2022

Using Older Software

I was reading an article in a newsletter I subscribe to regarding Microsoft Office. The article was entitled “Buying Older Versions of Office.” The article addressed how one could get Office 2016 installed on an additional computer when the questioner already had it installed on two others. (Having the same versions of a software package on all of your computers prevents a great deal of confusion.

I had to laugh as I was currently using Office 2003. The advantages of much older software is that, if it meets your needs, all kinds of bonuses accrue. I recently acquired another copy of Office 2003 for Windows, with installation codes, etc. for US$20 on eBay. In some cases, older licenses offered multiple installs on multiple computers, a practice becoming more rare as we make the transition to “subscription” software.

I find “subscription software,” where you pay an annual fee and they provide “free” updates, offensive. If you add up the annual fees over five to ten years you will find yourself paying far more than when you bought the program outright. And, for someone using 20 year old software quite happily, I am not sure what value the updates have, certainly not enough to render the annual fees reasonable.

More modern users probably look at the current state of affairs and consider it “normal” as it were the “norm now. I sure don’t.

By the way I am writing this draft on Word 2003, part of my Office 2003 package, and the program I have used to write dozens of books and hundreds of magazine articles. None of the improvements made to Word over the past twenty years would affect my work positively. I don’t use most, or even many, of the features in the 2003 version.

Shortly after the 2003 version of Word, came the 2007 version, with a new standard document format for Word documents, the .docx format, which I submit is somewhat superior to the old, .doc format, in that it is harder to corrupt. But Microsoft also had to deal with a huge installed base of older Word versions that couldn’t handle the .docx formatted files, so they made a converter, a converter that converts files both ways (.doc to .docx and vice-versa). That converter is available as a free download and so my Word 2003 keeps ticking, working on even .docx files.

Some software programs get so old they become unworkable. Sometimes this seems the actions of a cabal of the hardware and software manufacturers. When I bought my last Bare Bones computer I tried installing Windows 7 on it, of which I had numerous copies and with which I was well pleased. The computer refused to accept the operating system. I contacted the maker and they said, the minimum system needed was Windows 10, which I hadn’t noticed when I bought the box. Such is progress.

I was recently offered a free upgrade to Windows 11 which would do very, very little for me, but quite a bit for Microsoft. I refused for now, although my hand may be forced in the future. (Win 11 is setting up an operating system which is only a couple of small steps away from determining which software programs you can run under it (guess who gets to choose). That is not what I ask from an operating system.

Oh, btw, Windows has had a Compatibility Mode built in for quite some time. If you had some really valuable old software you could tell windows to address it as if you were using a previous version of Windows (all the way back to Windows 95!). They seem now to be operating 180° away from that prior attitude of being flexible.

Quiet Quitting Ain’t New

The business news and some of the mainstream news sources are all abuzz about “quiet quitting.” Quiet Quitting refers to doing your job and only what’s required of you at work–nothing more and nothing less. But this ain’t new folks. It has been around for millennia. Do you think slaves were gung ho and always doing more that they were asked to do?

More recently “working to rule” was a tactic of organized labor, requiring workers to only do what was in their job descriptions (which is where some of the juicy anti-labor stories have unfairly come from).

Currently, “quiet quitting” is simply adopting the attitude that one’s employer only deserves what they hired you to do. As a labor representative, I commented over and over that people misplaced their trust and loyalty. They are loyal to their employers because they want to be employed by someone who they could be loyal to, not because their employer had earned their trust and loyalty.

But, there are any number of job sites in which you will observe no such “quiet quitting” behavior. These are sites in which the employees are not only empowered, but given a piece of the action. They are consulted regarding work rule changes. Their suggestions for improvements in processes are taken seriously. And when the whole company benefits, they benefit, too.

These companies pass Robert Reich “We-They Test.” To test a company, ask any employee how they are treated. If they refer to their bosses as “they” or “them” you know a lot about the relationship (primarily a “us and them” or “we-they” relationship). If they refer to the company as “we” or “us,” you know that that company is employee focused and employees have bought in.

And, funny thing—companies that invest in, empower, and honor their employees perform better, are more profitable, etc. Funny, hah! Company executives would rather have inflated egos than more profits, imagine that!

August 31, 2022

Should Building Rockets Be Left to Private Enterprise?

NASA’s mission to the moon involves the development of a new booster rocket and the price tag is, well, astronomical. This has brought calls to leave the development of space to “private enterprise.”

Such calls are stupid, of course, and ill-intentioned. They usual come from the idiots claiming that private enterprise can do everything better than government. Both private enterprise and government have their strengths and weaknesses. And we need both. But, this is not one for private enterprise.

The current exploration of space by “private” concerns is basically the playground of billionaires. If we had no billionaires, a good thing, then there would be no private exploration of space. To assign space exploration to the private sector assumes that there is motivation in the private sector to do such a thing. So, what motivates the private sector? Profits, no? Are there profits for the plucking from space explorations? I don’t think so. If we had left the mission to the moon to private concerns in the 1960’s, we wouldn’t even have orbited the Earth, let alone orbited the Moon, and landed upon it and returned.

So, what is motivating the current efforts of the likes of billionaires Musk and Bezos? I suggest it is ego. Is that a dependable motivation for progress in any channel of human society? Again, I don’t think so.

So, we are left with expending large amounts of public monies on the exploration of space and some argue that those funds could be better spent on healthcare, education, etc. That is true, but why focus on NASA’s budget when there are other expenditures of public funds that are far less supportable. How about taking away 25% of the Defense Budget, around $193 billion—over twice NASA’s budget, to direct toward things like education, healthcare, and climate change efforts? We would still be spending more on “Defense” that any three other countries around the globe combined. How about the billions spent as subsidies for oil companies, which are some of the more profitable companies in existence? How about the trillions of dollars of tax reductions given to the wealthiest of Americans and the most profitable corporations by the Trump administration? Gosh, we could pay NASA’s bills by the simple expedient to voiding the “carried interest provisions” of the tax code, that are there only to serve wealthy hedge fund managers.

I argue that NASA’s missions are aspirational. They are accepting challenges that we need to address as human beings. Instead of shifting their missions onto private enterprise, which is ill-suited to the tasks, we should be giving it other technological challenges, like addressing climate change, another topic ill-suited to being addressed by private enterprise.

August 27, 2022

Where Capitalism Acolytes and Apologists Go Wrong

Capitalism and free markets are touted as the best economic system we could possibly invent. How anyone could know what we could invent in the future and that it will be worse, is quite beyond me.

These cap fiends are making a fundamental mistake. As Benjamin Cain has stated: “Capitalism’s strength in determining the best prices, with being an empirical model of reality. What a free market models — or rather measures — is supply and demand. What are people craving, what are they willing to buy, and how much would they pay for it? Likewise, how plentiful or feasible is the supply? The choice of prices in a capitalistic economy is supposed to reflect those subjective and objective conditions.

Capitalism doesn’t work on products that are not being bought and sold. (This is why people speculated for years that General Motors bought up patents making cars very much more efficient and locked them away in their safes. You can’t buy what doesn’t hit the market, and capitalism can’t set the best price for it, either.)

Are any capitalists, for example, marketing solutions for climate change? Are any capitalists studying it? Did capitalism come up with any solutions to the costs of pollution? It is funny that economists have a term that describes costs that capitalists dump on their societies, i.e. externalities, but no branch of economics shows how capitalists can take responsibility for the externalities they create, and include them on their cost-benefit balance sheets.

I have stated over and over (and over . . . sorry) that capitalism’s Achilles’ Heel is that it contains no limitations upon greed. Gosh, since the greedy have benefited the most from unrestrained capitalism, do you think it is them, and their lackeys, who are making the arguments for “Capitalism is the best economic system we could possibly invent?”

Gee, I wonder.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.