Loyalty without truth
is a trail to tyranny.
|Tuesday, 10 March 2009 at 19h 19m 55s|
Sorry about the lapse
I realize itz been a few weeks since I've made a comment or posted something. I'm still in somber ecstasy over the Obama
But at the same time I look out at the minions who are handling this crisis and wondering just how willing the status quo will be
to confront the underlying nature of the real crisis that folds before us. The real crisis is the limitations that the Amercan
economy has upon the real world. Americans might own some part of the assets that underlie the corporations of the world, but
the productive basis and the location of the resources and factories in the global economy is not innately favorable to the United
States. Indeed wealth (in the form of capital production) has been vacating the US over the last 40 years.
The manner of growth over the last 40 years has been due to the cost savings by migrating from high cost, highly regulated
to low cost, no regulation regions. This has been justified on the grounds of some angelic "principle" called the free market,
is incorrect. It's called short-sided greed. Transplanting the capital basis of wealth from one nation to another enables a
momentary savings, but shows up 30 years later as an asset depletion. There are many different types of devices and
units of basic hi-tech construction that have to be imported because they aren't made in America anymore -- which now
entrepreneurial industry who have to pay more now than they initially saved 30 years ago.
These same folks are now running the conventional wisdom circuit of the media, talking about what they are supposed to have
learned or what they didn't realize, and it's all a bunch of bullshit. They were stupidly egotistical and selfish. And they still are.
End of story.
|Monday, 2 February 2009 at 18h 9m 21s|
A note on my fantasy baseball strategy
Over the last 3 years, I have played 6 games of fantasy baseball, 2 games per year. One is a weekly league, the other is for the
whole season. Both are 5 x 5 roto leagues (AVG, HR, Runs, RBIs, SB & W,SV, ERA, STRIKEOUTS, WHIP). I have been fortunate to
win first place in 5 out of the 6 times. I lost in the weekly league last year, and placed 3rd after making it to the 2nd round of the
This my drafting strategy. Draft your entire infield and one outfielder for your first 5 picks. Pick the best available. I usually save
the outfielder for the 5th pick unless one of maybe 4 elite outfielders are around. Depending on the talent available, the 5th pick
might be the position that has the most depth. I pick the best starting pitcher there is by round 6. Then I'll either pick another
hitter -- if a few of the elites are still around -- or the best reliever for round 7. Round 8 is outfielder number 2. Round 9 and
10 are then pitchers. The 11th and 12th pick become 2 more outfielders. Then I alternate pitcher , hitter until round 15 or 16
when I pick the first catcher. After that I pick the best potential player available, whether pitcher or hitter, until the end of the
The value of pitching, and starters in particular tends to get overrated, but only because a higher percentage of pitchers have
high variability from year to year. More pitchers experience spikes in their numbers (both good and bad) from year to year than
hitters. Pitchers also get injured more often than hitters, and remain disabled longer -- hitters very rarely have Tommy John
surgery for instance. Hitters are more consistent and less disabled for longer time spells as a group: the standard deviation is
much lower. More hitters can actually play hurt and be successful than pitchers. Likewise, more pitchers rise up and perform
better than expected than hitters. So you can take a chance and wait to set your pitching staff, whereas, after the top 100 hitters
leave the board, the percentage of the next 200 who remain that will pop to the top 100 is not as high as it would be for
This is why pitchers who remain consistent for 2 or more years are so valuable. Look how many of the top twenty pitchers in the
major leagues are recent arrivals, and how few of them have been there more than 2 years. Using Lindy's 2009 magazine as a
reference, I count only 10 or 11 out 20, and 12 or 13 out of the top 30. Now compare this ratio with the top 50 hitters and you
will see the ratio is 80% ( about 40 out of 50.)
Of course, if Johan Santana and probably Sabathia are still around by round 2, you grab them. Otherwise, I don't pick a pitcher
until round 6, after grabbing the infield and getting at least one elite outfielder.
|Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 19h 14m 5s|
The two false tenets of Libertarian philosophy
There are two false economic notions that I would like to address in this essay. I think the sad permissiveness of these false
notions limits the scope of our economic understanding, inhibits our ability to comprehend our nation’s economy, and restricts
or distorts the available policy choices.
1) "tax cuts" used to "incentivize" investment is better than government directly funding various investment projects.
2) the idea that nurturing "self-interest" creates the best society for all.
These are tenets of the modern neo-classicists called Libertarians. Their main appeal however is essentially a distaste for "big
government." As the theory goes, since Government is either despotic or corrupt (or both), letting people make "individual
choices" becomes perceived as more free and pristine, or less tainted by the sodden hand of government. Thus "tax cuts" as an
economic policy becomes better than government investment. The evil corrupt government will just waste the money on things
from which only a few people will benefit, and people know best how to spend their own money.
But listen carefully to this dualistic philosophy. One extreme is attainable only by avoiding its opposite extremity -- the
avoidance of government investment "makes possible" independent, free actions by citizens who have a little more money in their
pocket. This leads inevitably towards the desire to exterminate the "bad" in order to enjoy the unmitigated "good." Rather than
viewing the cosmos as a composite mixture, this philosophy divides into 2 unbalanced camps, believing in the virtue of the
individual above and beyond all else without recognizing that no one is independent of society, that no individuality occurs
without feedback, guidance, and influences. People are even expected to "self-regulate" naturally according to some hyperactive
versions of this paradigm.
Society is composed of individuals, it is true. That some individuals, by their nature, exert an influence on culture, technology,
economic and political leadership is inescapable. However, this will be and is true no matter what type of government or
economic philosophy gets applied. Human beings are genetically wired and instinctively capable of producing talented,
intelligent, and charismatic individuals regardless of the nature of government. To base an economic policy solely upon the
desired end of nurturing individualism is actually quite useless because Individualism, or lack thereof, is a political question, not
an economic question.
Giving individuals more money through "tax cuts" in order to sponsor "demand" is not effective. Individuals will spend or save
their money according to their own whims, and are widely dispersed in addition to being asynchronous in time. There is no
aggregated focus for the funds that are involved in the "tax cuts". Once the profits filter up through the businesses benefiting
from the spending, these profits are not guaranteed to be invested in any other way then by the demands of the investors.
Although possible, the influence of some "superstar" CEO's "vision" on investment strategy buts against a long history that has
proven time and again mankind's tendency to view short-term gain over the expense of long-term gain. Individuals quite often
do not act towards something they cannot envision, and very few person's are disciplined enough to maintain focus for a very
long term vision. Thus a very small percentage of the "tax cuts" winds up in the hands of these very few. The vast amount of
funds is used up merely supporting short term consumption.
Only by direct government investment does all of the money get spent on a specific investment infrastructure. Citizens might
have a few extra dollars in their pocket, but they won't get high-speed rail interconnectivity throughout the nation unless
government begins to directly fund the 10 to 15 projects across the country that this policy would take. This initial investment is
too large for any private firm to make, because the horizon of such a project is longer than 20 years, and the profitability of such
a project is too small. There are quicker, safer ways to make money. However, enabling fast, cheap long-distance transportation
within the United States is an undeniable social benefit that will pay for itself much as the national highway system did.
This was true about the creation of the national railroad system, the national telephone system, the electric grid, the internet,
and every other massive long-term investment that has occurred. Railroad companies were given free land and subsidized bond
financing. The eventual national railroad system that evolved through a series of state railroad commissions would never have
gotten built otherwise, because there were too many competing fiefdoms, each corrupting the state officials and fleecing the
public with high costs. Once the frontier of massive federal lands (confiscated from the Indians and Spanish) shrank by the early
1900's, government needed to rely on income and wealth taxes to be able to afford it's function in society. Larger and more
concentrated populations demanded collective decisions and approaches to problem solving.
The needs of a populations is paid for by taxes. Instead of pretending we can cut the budget and continue to borrow profusely
from foreign nations, we should simply pay for the previous years tax bill. If taxes need to be raised, then create a simple
progressive formula that increases everyones burden according to their ability to pay. The necessity of a government proactively
making the collective investments is fundamental. Society as we now know it would not have come to fruition without the
concerted aggregate strength of the larger society represented by government. It is true that the halls of government can be
corrupted, but only until such corruption is rooted out, and not without the aid of other members of government or citizen
involvement. By contrast, a corrupt aristocracy is practically inescapable, as our forefathers once knew. We have forgotten their
wisdom I'm afraid.
"Tax cuts" are a very inefficient investment strategy. The economic policy of "tax cuts" only creates an elite wealthy class at the
expense of the socio-economic infrastructure. The very wealthy will gradually use their large tax cuts to pay for their own
societal comforts at the expense of investments needed by society. Paying for private police, yachts, private schools, and private
jets does nurture a sector of the economy, but these "investments" do not spread to the society as a whole. Over time, about 2
or 3 generations or 60 years, the system grows more economically stratified, until 90% of the people are poor, 9.9% are middle
class, and 0.1% are very rich. Even while all those individuals made their own choices and exercised free independent decisions.
Human societies will drift towards aristocracy and plutocracy. This is what the writers of the Constitution all debated and
understood. The document they created was their attempt to avoid this historical trend.
|Monday, 26 January 2009 at 19h 51m 14s|
Woodward assesses the Bush Presidency
This comes from Bob Woodward, one of the 2 Washington Post reporters infamous from the Nixon Watergate years. One week
ago, Mr. Woodward assessed the lessons learned from the Bush Presidency.
- Presidents set the tone. Don’t be passive or tolerate virulent divisions.
- The president must insist that everyone speak out loud in front of the others, even — or especially — when there are
- A president must do the homework to master the fundamental ideas and concepts behind his policies.
- Presidents need to draw people out and make sure that bad news makes it to the Oval Office.
- Presidents need to foster a culture of skepticism and doubt.
- Presidents get contradictory data, and they need a rigorous way to sort it out.
- Presidents must tell the public the hard truth, even if that means delivering very bad news.
- Righteous motives are not enough for effective policy.
- Presidents must insist on strategic thinking.
- The president should embrace transparency.
[SOURCE: Bob Woodward | Washington Post | 18 January
Hat-tip to Barry Ritholtz.
|Tuesday, 20 January 2009 at 18h 16m 45s|
The coming decade long downtrend
If History is any indicator, we are looking at 15 to 18 years of a downturn from now, the worst of which will be the first 8 or 9 years.
So if we presume the beginning to be 2007, that means another 6 or 7 years hence before the unwinding completely unravels.
And notice that the recent dramatic rise over the last 17 years completely dwarfs the previous historical rises since 1871, by a
factor of 2. This means the unwinding and longevity will be longer, hopefully not by a factor of 2. Or else, we are looking at
a full 12 to 15 years before the economy stabilizes.
Yes. It is really that bad. California is soon going to be out of money, unless money starts growing on trees or federal subsidization
begins in another 2 months. The State Comptroller John Chiang has said California will run out of money by March or April if
nothing is done. This is the guy who signs my paychecks.
|Thursday, 15 January 2009 at 19h 19m 36s|
3 false notions
1) supply-side economics only allows financiers more money with which to make foolish investments
2) tax rates alone are not an effective tool to “spur economic growth”, and do not diminish or limit the available investment
3) throughout all of history there has never been such a thing as a market that existed without government setting the
boundaries and regulating the transactions … because no one wants the alternative
I think the sad permissiveness of these false notions limits the scope of our economic understanding, inhibits our ability to
comprehend our nation’s economy, and restricts or distorts the available policy choices.
|Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 18h 49m 5s|
Another dollop of specious gobble-dee-goop
The following is the beginning of an opinion in the UK Telegraph by Rob Arnott (founder and chairman of Research Affiliates) and
John Tamny (editor of RealClearMarkets). Both men are ideologues and charlatan's of economic theology.
Back in the dark economic days of the late 1970s and early 1980s, truly revolutionary change on taxation improved the economic
outlook in both Great Britain and the United States.
With demand-driven Keynesian thinking having proved ineffective as an economic stimulant, classical thinkers possessing a
greater affinity for the works of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill successfully filled the gaping policy void.
Nigel Lawson perhaps articulated the new/old thinking best when he noted Britain's fundamental economic defect "was not a
shortage of demand but a failure of supply."
[SOURCE: Rob Arnott & John Tamny | UK
Telegraph | 12 January 2009]
This is a high level statement of opinion. Yet it is an opinion that erroneously equates coincidental events without understanding
or even acknowledging macro-economic developments. Raising or lowering taxes alone do not all by themselves stimulate the
broad crescendo of economic developments that occur in any age: especially, in the absence of legitimate new investment
opportunities (except buying and selling paper) or when self-interest demands forms of investment that are narrow-minded and
For instance, no increase or decrease of taxation would have changed the economic outlooks in 1252. Or 1811. Or 1888. Or
During the 1970s and 1980s, massive changes in consumer goods, consumer entertainment, electronic devices, and computer
technology opened up a tremendous amount of investment opportunity. Videos created a video production industry, video
stores, and VCR recorders. Ditto the cassette tape and the CD industry. Cable tv required electronic boxes that had to be
installed, and cable programming boomed from 3 to 5 stations, to 30, 40, 80, and more than 100. Consumer goods created half
of the food industry at the supermarket, and the aluminum can changed the the way soft drinks were distributed. Computers
went from the size of a desk to sitting on a corner of the desk, and computers intervened everywhere in every single line of
industry and service, from the assembly line of factories to the registers at retail outlets to the desks of accountants and
journalists and college students.
Lax taxation did not create this historical situation, and high taxation levels would not have restricted what occurred at all. The
changes to human culture was too tremendous.
If you buy something for $8 and sell it for $14 under the given tax conditions, raising taxes will increase the cost to $9, but then
you can sell for $15. Notice that the increase gets factored into the cost. The resulting revenue is thus increased, and all salaries
come out of revenue. Since the difference between sale and cost is still $6, nothing has occurred which changes the incentive of
the business. This is true within a range of percentage rates. I am using a simple analogy as a metaphor for how taxation alone
does not "open up", "release", or "create" investment opportunities.
This was known by John Stuart Mill during the 1800s. The same John Stuart Mill for whom (according to the Telegraph opinion)
"classical thinkers" have a greater "affinity" by making insinuations quite antithetical to the original thinker's reality based ideas.
The median income since 1970 however has not changed, while larger and larger percentages of wealth accumulated to the top
0.5%. Like the galleons of Spanish gold, there was so much money and investment opportunity that no one paid attention to the
unequal distribution of economic gains. Social costs increased on those who worked hard but earned less value from their
wages. The rate of poverty has also increased. Government meanwhile created deficit spending and downsized investments in
social and economic infrastructure.
Here's another silly statement.
But history says tax increases are rarely the revenue generators that they're presumed to be. As Adam Smith wrote, high taxes
"frequently afford a smaller revenue to government than what might be drawn from more moderate taxes".
More importantly, history in both the UK and the US shows that the best way to increase tax revenue from top earners is
paradoxically to tax them less. The percentage of federal revenues paid by the top 1pc of US earners rocketed (from 15 to 35pc)
when the rate of taxation fell.
Notice how the putative "fact" at the end does not have a date, or a context. It's just rounded-off numbers. The ACTUAL history
is that if you have a lot of loopholes and a higher tax rate, you can cut out the loopholes and decrease the tax rate a small
amount (from 90 to 70 for instance) and raise more money through taxation. This is true even while the opinion's quoting of
Adam Smith is akin to finding a passage in the bible that justifies your favored predilection. The statement is anecdotal.
But the silliness continues throughout the "opinion". Here is the last statement in the Telegraph "opinion" piece.
When all's said and done, there is no company formation and there are no wages without capital. Rather than creating false
growth through wealth redistribution, the better, more-proven path would be to reduce penalties on work and investment for all.
If this were done, the UK economy would boom due to increased productivity and any lack of consumption would quickly become
The cycle of investment opportunity is fickle. It's occurrence is due to historical timing. All taxes do is distribute the burdens of
society and economic infrastructure as a cost to government, because making social and economic costs as an individual burden
is exploitative and (more importantly) terribly inefficient. We tax ourselves and pay the costs because the alternative
will cost too much and tend to focus on short-term profit at the expense of long term development, when a long term horizon of
20 or so years is necessary. Private investors can't wait 20 years before showing a 2 or 3 % gain.
This is the real lesson, if there be one to learn, by Mr. Obama.
But the authors of the opinion in the telegraph article only presume a specious policy decision, and then use it to attempt
limitations on the issue of government involvement and government investment spending. This is like presuming that flushing
the toilet will inhibit free-thinking, so the discussion gets focused on how to contain the smell, and everyone wonders why the
pile of smelly shit just won't go away. Sooner or later someone will have the courage to admit the need to flush the toilet.
Instantly the false prophets will raise a howler about the ramifications. Free-thinking will go away, they will say, but not everyone
will be intimidated by the backward stupidity.
Free-thinking can't go away. Flushing or not flushing the toilet is not going to inhibit or promote free-thinking, but it will create
a pile of stinky manure. Likewise, investment opportunity or the lack thereof is not a function of taxation.
This notion of taxation being able to create investment opportunity in absence of the context and the economic conditions is, like
the toilet example, inhibiting the understanding of how we function as a healthy, creative, effective society. Similar to the above
analogy, if you apply the wrong solution to a misunderstood problem, all you get is a bigger mess.
|Friday, 26 December 2008 at 10h 48m 40s|
A pertinent anecdote
I didn't come up with this analogy, but the story is a relevant parallel to the economic situation between the United States and the
Asian exporters that manufacture more than 95% of everything Americans buy.
7 people crash on a desert island, 6 Asians and one American. The 6 Asians are assigned jobs, one fishes, one hunts food, one
collects firewood, one grows vegetables, one makes clothes and another builders shelter. The American’s job is to live in the shelter
and consume the food and clothes. He feels good about himself - after all, the 6 Asians only have jobs because of him, he gives
their day some purpose.
How long before the 6 realize they are better off kicking him off the island?
|Sunday, 14 December 2008 at 9h 0m 40s|
Math at work
Proof once again that math is an architecture built upon assumptions. If the assumptions are wrong, so is the math.
For instance, 2+2 = 4 and 2 * 2 = 4 are both equal to 4. But that is because multiplying by 2 means adding the same number
twice. If however we built an entire theory upon this happy coincidence we might start thinking 10 + 10 = 10 * 10 , and be wrong
by 80 digits.
|Tuesday, 25 November 2008 at 18h 17m 53s|
Financial crisis made easy
Click here for the
THE FLOWCHART THAT BECAME THE FINANCIAL CRISIS
picture courtesy of Barry Ritholz at ritholtz.com
GOTO THE NEXT 10 COLUMNS