All Posts Tagged With: "economics"
Last night I had a lengthy debate with my very intelligent friend Robert after a concert. Our debate swirled around whether humans are making progress or whether we are creating a greater probability that we will destroy ourselves and our planet. I am a naive, heedless optimist and he is a depressing, Gulliver pessimist. I find it interesting that two people can view the world with such different colors painted over their lenses.
I believe that humans are becoming more intelligent, more educated, more moral, less violent, and more human. By more human, I mean that we have more leisure time to consume and to create art, politics, music, literature, etc. We also have more and more leisure time to help other humans or to heal the environment, as evidenced by the enormous number of NGOs and donors who fund them. Free trade and technological development are two primary factors that have allowed humans to escape the cruelties and monotony of the non-industrialized life and to become “more human.”
My friend and others who think as him (a significant portion of Prof. Freyfogle’s Individualism & its Critics class), often romanticize the non-industrialized, agrarian, hunter-gatherer world. I always find it curious that when I hear that romanticization and the denunciation of the industrialized world that it always comes from someone who lives in the industrialized world, but who visits nature. They visit nature during their leisure time as a vacation, but I have not yet met one who has had the courage to abandon civilized society to live an entire life on an isolated farm or in a forest with hunter-gatherer opportunities. A quick Google search reveals many such opportunities.
Regardless, the answer to the question asked in the title of this post is not obvious, even to a naive, heedless optimist. The amount of evil in the world is decreasing as humans become more educated and more connected through technology and the radii of our circles of empathy expand. Our humanity might be increasing, but the technologies of destruction that we develop are also increasing.
The equation would look something like this: (Proportion of Evil in the World) x (Ability of Existing Technology to Destroy Humanity) = Probability that Humans will Commit Mass Suicide. The existing technology could be nuclear power plants, nuclear bombs, the factors that cause global warming, a killer virus, or anything else. Therefore, the probability of mass suicide might be increasing. This equation serves as a general comment and also as a slight critique of Pinker’s presentation below.
I have posted two TED videos below that support my argument and I invite him to share material that supports his views. I maintain my optimism in the face of the arguments presented by Robert and myself. My thoughts on this subject are not well organized or articulated, but I am mostly curious what y’all think.
Andrew Mwenda, a journalist in Uganda, has an aggressive and unique view of financial aid that flows into Africa. Mwenda created the Ugandan newspaper The Independent after growing frustrated by government censorship of the Ugandan newspaper he had previously written for. The Independent promises readers “Uncensored News, Views & Analysis.” Mwenda is bold and aggressive.
TED holds conferences around the world that invite innovative speakers to present their ideas on a diversity of subjects. Mwenda argues in his TED talk that aid hurts African economic development. Bono attended Mwenda’s talk and he (rudely, I think) interrupted Mwenda. I have not seen a video, but I have read that Bono spent his entire TED lecture rebutting Mwenda instead of reading from his planned lecture. Mwenda’s thesis, if accurate, undermines nearly everything that Bono has devoted himself to in Africa. Andrew Rugasira, Chairman of Good Africa Coffee, wrote an interesting op-ed response in the Financial Times to the confrontation. Rugasira writes, “[T]he Bonos of this world need to listen more and display greater humility to African perspectives on African problems.”
The economic crisis is pushing nations in two directions: first, inward toward protectionist or isolationist policies; second, toward developing an international system that can respond to and prevent these crises. How we handle these pressures will affect our economy, our security, and the way we think about the world. Read more…
If you watch CNBC, you know Rick Santelli. He reports from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I love his fire. The polemicist goes nuts in the video below about the recent bailout bill and its socialist implications. He proposes a Chicago Tea Party and the idea has some traction.
I find it sad that we forget the values that have made us the most powerful nation in history – economic liberty and limited government intervention – when fear overwhelms logic. Our economy is too complex for the federal government to micromanage it. If America maintains its dominance during China’s rise, it will be because of inefficient and corrupt intervention in the marketplace from the Chinese government. Markets require extensive regulation to prevent them from self-destructing, but market intervention is distinct from market regulation. Economists still debate whether FDR’s Keynesian spending programs hurt or helped the economy. Markets fluctuate and we must learn to accept years of recession. We cope with recessions because in the long-run free markets will generate a far greater abundance than enslaved markets. Big government spending tends to create moral hazard, be inefficient, create abundant opportunities for corruption and create a network of perverse incentives.
While I agree with many of Obama’s social views, I chose not to vote for Obama because I fear his faith in the slimy squid tentacles of the federal government and his lack of faith in the system of economics that has created an abundance of wealth, health, education, universities, food, luxury, travel, philosophy, art, music and film – all of the things that make us human.
Perhaps after reading this post you will no longer doubt my conservative credentials.
A president once said that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. He was wrong. Fear can be good. Fear, so long as it does not dictate our actions, can be a moderating influence. Read more…
The Washington Post reports that the Senate lacks the votes to pass the stimulus bill. And by that, they mean they don’t have 60 votes, the necessary number to defeat a filibuster. This is crazy, and why can’t we all agree to get rid of the stupid filibuster already? It was undemocratic when the Democrats did it for Bush’s judicial appointments, it’s undemocratic now. The Senate itself is sort of an absurd institution in modern America, and I’d be in favor of tossing the whole thing and having just a House of Representatives. But that’s not gonna happen anytime soon, so can we at least get rid of the insane, obstructive filibuster? The number of veto points in American politics is ridiculous, and it’s moments like these that it can be extremely frustrating and dangerous.
Late update: Nothing in this post takes away from my love for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or this episode of the West Wing.
As promised, here’s a column on how to survive the next decade meant for Millennials and late Gen-X who have based their future plans on the indefinite continuation of prosperity and importance of college-taught skills. Read more…
Politics is sexy, but it is money that makes the world go round. While most people today will focus on the latest pearl of wisdom from President Obama, or if they live in Illinois the Greek tragedy that is Rod Blagojevich, many will blow by the fact that today is the day that money became free. Read more…
This semester I took my fourth class with Professor Ira Carmen: Genetics and Politics. The class required a final paper. Below I have pasted the concluding paragraph of the paper along with my Circular Theory of Genetics and Economics. The entire essay can be downloaded here.
The scientific literature has shown that free markets fit best with human genetics. History shows the violence and inefficiency of attempts to mold human nature against its pre-loaded software. Not all human genes are the same. The composition of gene pools in the countries of the world depends on immigration, climate, geography, and a myriad of other factors. The existence of cross-country genetic diversity suggests that varying shades of free markets should be applied to the various shades of genetic pools. Some countries, like Singapore, properly fit their economic laws with their genetic predisposition for risk and free markets. Other countries, like Japan, have economic laws far freer than the population’s genetic tolerance for risk and economic freedom. The Circular Theory of Genetics and Economics shows the surprising closeness between Marxism and libertarianism in terms of the inefficiency of their fit with human genetics. The lower portion of the circle is a bowl of efficiency bounded by the European Welfare-State on the left and Modern American Capitalism on the right. This bowl represents the approximate range for all genetically efficient economic systems. Economic philosophers have always used abstract speculations on human nature as the basis of their proposed economic systems. Today we have objective scientific measurements of human nature and we should use that knowledge to precisely and scientifically craft economic laws tailoredto the diversity of human genetic pools – Genetic Capitalism.
The entire essay can be downloaded here.
I’d recommend Andy Tobais for investment advice and political commentary. Tobias wrote “The only investment guide you’ll ever need” a highly readable book offering very practical, step by step ideas on how to build wealth slowly.
He has a comment up today, that I wanted to submit to the Agora for discussion on Warren Buffett’s support for Obama:
HOW DID WARREN BUFFETT GET SO RICH?
He started with nothing, inherited nothing, made it all by his wits. How? By being uncommonly smart, sure, but also by being wise, which is different, and uncommonly thoughtful; uncommonly decent, which has attracted decency in return; by taking the long view and sorting out what’s important; and – crucially – by being a good judge of talent: knowing which chief executives to bet on.
What does it say about Senator Obama that for the first time ever Warren Buffett has taken an active role in a modern Presidential election, hosting and headlining fundraisers to make Barack Obama our next chief executive?
What does it say about the urgency of the situation?
What does it say about Senator McCain?