Monday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. Considering past investment bank bailouts.
  2. A letter to one considering leaving the church.
  3. Lent and the economic crises.
  4. Considering Mr Geithner.
  5. Girls on bikes.
  6. Manliness.
  7. Hmmm
  8. Issues with the stimulus.
  9. Box office woes shouldn’t stop Mr Gore from raking in millions via the stimulus package.
  10. Considerations on the Brazilian abortion case.
  11. St. Gregory Palamas and seeing the uncreated light.
  12. The recovery could take 4-5 years?
  13. Soooo …. who long for the other shoe to drop on this one?
  14. Well, you how else can they afford under-the-table kickbacks?
  15. Considering the BSG finale.
  16. Noting St. Benedict (although I though it was St. John Cassian who brought monasticism to the West).
  17. “I suppose it would be better …” (and I concur it would be better).
  18. Of not letting go.
  19. In which “go drink carbonated cow’s piss” is not fiction?
  20. Exonerating (partially) Mao? With Holodomor denial to boot no less. Which faces this problem too.
  21. On using your hands and the whole higher vs lower professions thing.

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7 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    Issues with the stimulus.

    Glancing at the article, it raises two points that are worthy of note:

    The first is that Europe is reluctant to do big stimulus bills. Their argument is that they have extensive safety nets that automatically increase spending in recessions through the use of unemployment and welfare benefits that are very generous. Unemployment, though, is a lagging indicator so ideally you would want to do a stimulus bill to keep people from showing up at the unemployment office rather than use the unemployment office as the stimulus.

    What I notice, though, is that this isn’t really an argument against the stimulus. The underlying assumption is that stimulus works. The author is only saying that Europe already has a stimulus built into their legal system so there’s no need to pass a special one. I notice conservatives do this with the Great Depression. They say that FDR’s gov’t spending made the Great Depression worse. When asked how we got out of it, they say it was WWII….which was, of course, gov’t spending on a scale much more massive than FDR’s New Deal.

    The second is the assertion that fiscal stimulus can’t work until the ‘banks are fixed’. Megan McCardle has made a similiar assertion. What I don’t see is any actual support for such an assertion. The econ 101 model of a fiscal stimulus does not rely on bank lending at all. I don’t see any theoretical support for the claim that the banks must be fixed before fiscal stimulus can work.

    The problem is that there is no easy way to ‘fix the banks’ directly. If we gave Citi $1T and BoA $750B and AIG $300B just to be safe I’m sure the banks would be ‘fixed’ but we’d have massive moral hazzard problems (what’s the long run lesson here? Try to blow up the world and get every increasing funds from the Treasury?)

    I think we are getting it backwards here. The banks are trillions in the hole because their assets are worth less in a failing economy. A failing economy hurts all banks, the ones that made smart loans as well as the ones that made bad loans. If the economy turns around (because of aggressive stimulus on both the fiscal and monetary fronts) then bank assets go up. Some banks may still need to be ‘fixed’ but at less cost than right now.

    The difference is that if the economy does better, all bank assets go up but the banks that made smarter loans go up more than the ones that made stupid loans. You dodge the moral hazzard problem of rewarding bad behavior. If we are really lucky, maybe some banks that were smarter might improve enough to buy up the stupider banks thereby leaving us with less cleanup.

  2. Boonton says:

    Exonerating (partially) Mao?

    I think he has a point. You shouldn’t count famine as people Mao killed unless we know that Mao intentionally caused a famine in order to kill people. One of the problems with communism is/was that you cannot really understand the consquences of radical policy changes. Anti-communists kind of contradict themselves when they turn around and imply that a leader could create a famine to target with precision political enemies.

    Box office woes shouldn’t stop Mr Gore from raking in millions via the stimulus package.

    How has Gore raked in millions from the stimulus package? Is this yet another example of stimulus mythology? I recall the blog that demanded Obama insist that funds for ACORN be taken out of the stimulus package. When I asked where there funds for ACORN in the package no one could answer. So now where are the millions for Gore in the package?

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    In reverse order ….

    Re Mr Gore: Your tenses are wrong. Mr Gore has not made money from the stimulus, it’s my impression that the release of stimulus funds is still in the future tense. Mr Gore is in the business of carbon offsets and the like. I imagine that such things were included in the stimulus bill. Do you think not?

    Re Mao: I tied that link to a post noting that farming and growing plants is a skill that takes some time to acquire. A leader can indeed “target” with precision a class of people (in this case the ‘educated’) by sending them to farms expecting that they will not starve. …. Do you think I misread a denial of intentionality tied to Holodomor in that post as well? Do you not think that Mao, Lenin, and Stalin did not expect (and thought unimportant) mass human misery and death as a result of their “radical policy changes”? I don’t think they “couldn’t really understand” the consequences. I think it is pretty clear that they knew and yet acted.

  4. Boonton says:

    Mr Gore is in the business of carbon offsets and the like. I imagine that such things were included in the stimulus bill. Do you think not?

    Actually no they are not. I assume by now you have read the bill (or at least read some detailed summaries of it since you considered it so important to know what was in the bill). You should have no difficulty confirming that.

    Do you think I misread a denial of intentionality tied to Holodomor in that post as well? Do you not think that Mao, Lenin, and Stalin did not expect (and thought unimportant) mass human misery and death as a result of their “radical policy changes”?

    I wasn’t sure what you were trying to say regarding Mao. Do I think it’s possible that Mao, Lenin and Stalin targetted people for mass murder? Yes. Do I think all misery and death under their regimes were well planned and intentional acts on their part? No. Here I think you’re committing the classic fallacy of assuming the planner is master of the universe (ironic considering you like to pretend you’re an Austian or Hayekian in regards to economics). Your error actually plays right into the hands of apologists for communism. After all, if famines under Mao and Stalin were planned then it follows that a communist leader who *doesn’t* want to target anyone with famine would produce an agricultural prosperity. Do you have that much faith in communist farm policies? Tsk tsk tsk.

    Let me make it clear I do consider the three you mentioned as mass murders. I don’t think it says much that a person is ‘cleared’ of 10m deaths because he didn’t expect it as a consquence of implementing a radical agricultural policy so his death toll is ‘only’ 11m instead of 21m.

  5. Boonton says:

    Mr Gore is in the business of carbon offsets and the like.

    Is he. What specific business does he have? Does he own non-carbon producing power generation like wind/solar/hydro/geothermal farms that can sell carbon offsets to those seeking to buy them? Does he own a brokerage company that matches offset owners with those seeking to buy them pocketing a percentage as the middleman?

  6. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    It is my understanding that Mr Gore has substantial (perhaps majority) holdings in a number of companies in the “carbon offset” business.

    And no, I have not read the stimulus bill. I have not the time and it matters little to the implementation or not of that bill whether I have read it. I don’t have time to do a fraction of the reading and other things I’d like to do. Time in my life to do things is a scarcity.

    I think there is a problem in your logic regarding those three (Lenin, Mao and Stalin). “Radical restructuring” (especially of something as important as agriculture in a partially industrialized country) is the key. That in an of itself is problematic. Are you arguing that Lenin didn’t anticipate starvation and death when he implemented collectivization of the farms? I’m pretty sure it’s clear he did, but that he thought individual pain and death were less important than his political ideological aspirations.

    To put it more plainly, where you write, “Here I think you’re committing the classic fallacy of assuming the planner is master of the universe.” No. I’m not. I’m assuming and I think their legacy of writings backs this up, that they intentionally acted to restructure their agricultural systems with full knowledge that many (millions) would die but did so anyhow.

    Actually, I might soften this just a tad. I’m not as fluent in the history of the “second” cultural revolution’s ins and outs as with the other two. However, I’d bet there is a distinct lack of evidence of “regret” expressed by Mao over his actions in this regard in his extant writings and public speech.

  7. Boonton says:

    To my knowledge the stimulus bill had nothing in it about carbon offset companies. You may be thinking of the ‘cap and trade’ system, which is part of the longer term budget proposal.

    Are you arguing that Lenin didn’t anticipate starvation and death when he implemented collectivization of the farms? I’m pretty sure it’s clear he did, but that he thought individual pain and death were less important than his political ideological aspirations.

    Actually I don’t think he did. What happened, and my history here is probably less complete than yours, fair warning, is that when the farms were ‘collectivized’ individual farmers had no incentive to produce and no property interest in tending their fields. Yields collapsed and famine was the result. (* side note – your example of forcing professionals and intellectuals out of the cities and onto the farms was, I believe, not part of the USSR or China’s communist history but Cambodia’s*) Do I think that was planned? No. For one thing famine is a pretty volitile situation. While Lenin, Stalin and Mao were able to hold onto power, I think all three knew that famine was a risky crises that could be rebellion and revolt. If they had their way, I’m sure they would have rather had stable food production.

    I’m sure when famine did arrive, though, they made sure their political enemies took the brunt of it. And I agree I don’t think they had any serious regrets or remorse for the casualities of their policy. That is not the same thing, though, as asserting that was the original intent of the policy and all that happened was by design.