Trade

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 31st, 2011

Economics 101

People Traded the Things they Made to have Things they couldn’t Make

Agricultural advances gave us food surpluses.  Food surpluses gave us the division of labor.  And spare time.  For the first time everyone didn’t have to hunt or gather food.  They could do other things.  Think.  Experiment.  Innovate.  Create.  And they did.  Becoming specialists.  A middle class.  Artisans.  People who became very good at doing one thing.  So they kept doing that one thing.  Finding ways to improve that one thing.  And created surpluses of their own.  Potters made excess pottery.  Shoemakers made excess shoes.  Tanners made excess leather goods.  Metalworkers made excess metal goods.

Cities grew in the center of the sprawling farmland.  And it was in the cities where these artisans lived.  Where they honed their specialties.  And met.  With other specialists.  And with farmers.  To trade.  The potter would trade pottery for shoes.  The farmer would trade food for shoes and metal goods.  The tanner would trade leather goods for pottery, shoes and food.  And so on.  People traded the things they made.  To have things they couldn’t make.  Everyone was able to have more things.  Thanks to this trade.

This unleashed the vast human capital of the people.  Their cities.  And their civilization.  Cities on the coast fished.  Cities closer to the forest harvested wood.  Cities closer to the hills mined silver, gold and copper.  And coal.  And the cities traded their surpluses with other cities.  Metal workers and potters traded their goods for fuel for their forges and kilns.  Miners traded their ore and coal for grain and fish.  Either directly.  Or indirectly.  When other people traded their large surpluses with other people in other cities.  With the miners getting a portion of these large-scale trades for all their efforts to make those trades possible.

As Civilizations became more Complex they became more Dependent on Trade

All of this trading made cities grow.  And as a result the civilization they belonged to grew.  And became more advanced.  People ventured further.  Looking for other resources.  And met people from other civilizations.  Who had raw materials that were different and interesting.  As well as finished goods that were different and interesting.  And these civilizations traded with each other.

Civilizations established trade routes with each other.  Which connected civilizations with others in the unknown world.  Beyond the civilizations they knew.  Markets appeared on these trade routes.  Bringing the exotic from the furthest corners of the world to everyone.  As well as new ideas.  And innovation.  The civilized world grew more advanced.  More interdependent.  More peaceful.  And better.  There was more food.  More technology.  More goods and services.  And more leisure.  Giving rise to the arts.  And entertainment.

But it was not all good.  As cities grew they grew attractive to the uncivilized barbarians beyond the frontier.  Roving bands of hunters and gatherers.  Who were more partial to plunder than trade.  So a portion of their surpluses had to be set aside for city defenses.  The building of city walls.  Implements of wars.  And standing armies.  To defend their cities.  Their civilizations.  And their trade routes.  For as civilizations became more complex they became more dependent on trade.

Trade Improved the Quality of Life which is the Hallmark of an Advanced Civilization

Trade unleashed our human capital.  Because it drove innovation.  There was a big world out there.  Creating a lot of fascinating stuff.  And the only way to get it was to trade your fascinating stuff for it.  And when we did everyone won.  Life got better.  We learned new and interesting things.  That we used as building blocks for further innovation.  And further advancement.  Which led to a better quality of life.  The hallmark of an advanced civilization.

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The Chinese Scale Back their Ambitious High-Speed Rail Plans because their Keynesian Polices Unleashed Inflation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 30th, 2011

Week in Review

Railroads are expensive to build.  And to operate.  Especially high-speed railroads.  Why?  Because unlike airplanes that fly in the air between cities trains have to travel on track between cities.  And that’s a whole lot of railroad infrastructure.  That’s why railroads don’t suffer as much during times of escalating fuel costs as trucking and aviation.  Because fuel isn’t their greatest cost.  As it is for trucks and planes.  It’s that massive infrastructure that they have to build.  And maintain.

To build a railroad you need lots of money.  And lots of labor.  Preferably cheap labor.  And that usually means government money.  And immigrant labor.  That’s how they built the first transcontinental railroad in America.  Along with a lot of inefficiencies.  And corruption.  Typical when you put government and big piles of money together.

That first transcontinental railroad needed a lot of ‘fixing up’ before it was safe for use.  They had to move some track from ice to terra firma.  Rebuild some bridges that weren’t disposable after a few uses.  That kind of thing.  Because that’s the kind of craftsmanship you get when government is in charge of the money.  What we call crony capitalism.  Government rewarding their friends.  Picking winners and losers.  And helping those who will help them.  That is, return the favor of government contracts with campaign contributions.

Governments all around the world are in favor of building more high-speed rail.  Because it will ‘put people to work’.  And ‘save the planet’.  By moving people out of gasoline-powered cars into electricity-powered trains.  Electricity that is generated from even more polluting coal-fired power plants.

The Americans have been trying.  Obama’s stimulus included billions for high-speed rail.  That did nothing.  Meanwhile the Chinese have been doing it.  By making money for the banks to lend.  And using cheap ‘second-class’ migrant labor from China’s countryside to build their high-speed rail.  And how has that been working?  Not so good (see Can’t pay, won’t pay posted 10/29/2011 on The Economist).

EFFORTS to curb inflation in China are having some painful side-effects. A squeeze on bank lending has prompted some businesses short of cash to stop paying wages to blue-collar workers. Even the much-vaunted state sector is feeling the pinch. Work has all but ground to a halt on thousands of kilometres of railway track, and many of the network’s 6m construction workers have been complaining about not being paid for weeks or sometimes months…

The government touted building railways as a great way to keep the economy buoyant during global financial trouble, and boost employment. But the $600 billion stimulus launched in 2008 is all but spent. Indeed, the central government has urged state banks to cut back on lending in order to curb inflation, which in the year to July reached a three-year high of 6.5%, before dropping to 6.1% in September.

Yet another example of why Keynesian economic stimulus stimulates only economic bubbles and inflation.  Which are always corrected by recessions.  And the greater the stimulus/bubble the greater the recession.  Of course Keynesian government economists everywhere will all come to the same conclusion.  That China isn’t spending enough.  And that governments everywhere should follow the Chinese example.  But without the one flaw of turning off the easy credit spigot.  Because Keynesians always say that any inflation created by government stimulus is minor and negligible in comparison to all the good that it does.

Similar problems have also been reported in road building and property construction, prompting a growing number of demonstrations and violent incidents, including clashes with employers and suicides. Such difficulties are likely to get worse towards the end of the year, when companies traditionally try to settle accounts with employees. Wage inflation is adding to employers’ woes. Minimum wages have risen by an average of nearly 22% in the two-thirds of China’s provinces which have adjusted them this year. Nice if you can get it, but not much use if you are not being paid at all.

But the Keynesians couldn’t be more wrong.  Once inflation starts it ripples through the economy.  Costs go up.  Wages go up.  Increasing consumer prices everywhere.  There’ll be some economic prosperity for a little while.  But soon inflation will eat away at the standard of living.  People will be making more money everywhere.  But that money will buy less and less.  It will buy less of a house.  Fewer toys.  And even less food.  This is the endgame of Keynesian stimulus.  And we’re seeing it played out on a grand scale in China.  Like we saw in Japan during their Lost Decade.  Where the Japanese suffered a deflationary spiral that just never ended.  To correct all that damage caused by their Keynesian bubble.

This could prove to have a devastating effect on the American economy.  For the Americans will have no one left to finance their debt.  And yet President Obama, the Democrats and all those mainstream Keynesian economists are all clamoring for one thing.  Can you guess what that is?  That’s right.  More Keynesian stimulus.

Some people just never learn.

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If Corporations are Vile and Evil why do Democrats/Feminists want Women to Run Them?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 30th, 2011

Week in Review

The Occupy Wall Street movements linger on.  In their battle against capitalism.  Bankers.  And corporations.  The greatest scourge known to human kind.  President Obama has expressed some support for these protesters.  And the Democrats are on board with them.  To teach corporate America a lesson.  All the while trying to put more women into the CEO positions of these evil, vile corporations (see Number of female ‘Fortune’ 500 CEOs at record high by Laura Petrecca posted 10/26/2011 on USA Today).

If no women step down before the end of 2011, there will be 18 women running Fortune 500 companies in 2012. Previously, there haven’t been more than 16 female CEOs at Fortune 500 firms at the same time.

Yet, while the upcoming ascensions are notable, the gender gap between men and women in the workplace remains vast, with females struggling to get the mentors they need and the pay to equal their male counterparts.

If these are so evil and vile why is it so important to get more women running them?

The Democrats claim the feminists.  They are always fighting for the equality of the sexes.  Yet it is the Democrats throwing in with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  Those people who hate these evil, vile corporations.  So are corporations bad?  And if so why do Democrats want women running them?

Anecdotally speaking, men are also more apt to quickly say “yes” to a career-enhancing assignment that could affect their personal life, while women tend to consider how the opportunity could affect home situations such as elder care or child care, Catalyst’s Soon says.

In turn, the next time a manager has a job to offer, he or she may remember that woman’s hesitation and consider going with another candidate, she says.

So I guess there are differences between the sexes.  One cares about children and parents.  The other doesn’t.  They’re just a bunch of selfish bastards.  So that’s why we pay men more.  Because they put career ahead of children and parents.  The selfish bastards they are.

Of course, in choosing a CEO for a corporation, being that kind of selfish bastard is definitely a plus.  Besides, corporations are vile and evil.  Better a selfish bastard run them than a selfless, good woman.

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The Free Market Sweeps Away the Boring and Old and Replaces it with the Exciting and New

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 30th, 2011

Week in Review

Oh my, the market is failing (see Time to Regulate These Tech Titans by Adam Thierer posted 10/22/2011 on the Technology Liberation Front).

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for decisive action. Cyberlaw scholars have been warning us for years that tech titans dominate the digital landscape.  Our leaders must act immediately to ensure that these 4 Internet gatekeepers don’t lock us in their walled gardens and turn us into their cyber-slaves. The future of Internet freedom is at stake. It’s market failure! There is no possibility of escaping their evil clutches. And there’s certainly no possibility markets will evolve to give us better choices. Only decisive regulatory action can give us a more competitive, innovative future.

So who are these titans?  Google?  Yahoo?  Bing?  Baidu?  Yandex?  No.  There’s a graphic following the paragraph quoted above showing the 4 titans.  Prodigy.  CompuServe.  MS Network.  And American Online.  (If you don’t know who these companies are ask your parents).  Which dominated in the mid 1990s.  But they don’t dominate anymore.  And it’s not because of regulatory action.  Which is the point of this humorous piece in Technology Liberation Front.

Innovation in the free market swept these titans aside and replaced them with something better.  The way it always has.  And always will.  The market constantly changes.  It sweeps away the boring and old.  And replaces it with the exciting and new.  Always.

As long as we don’t sweep away the free market, that is.

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After a Series of Central Planning Failures Senator Durbin says what the Economy Needs is more Central Planning

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 30th, 2011

Week in Review

The great Margaret Thatcher was a limited-government conservative.  She brought the UK back from the abyss of socialist malaise.  Fixed the economy.  Gave the people a life of plenty.  And good times.  The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, visited Margaret Thatcher.  He was impressed.  The people in the UK weren’t hungry.  He asked her how she did it.  How was she able to feed her people?  For in the Soviet Union this was a never ending crisis.  Growing enough food on their collective farms to feed their people.

An odd question for Thatcher.  Or any other capitalist.  Because elected leaders of capitalistic countries don’t feed their people.  The free market economy does.  And it does it very well.  For the Soviets had the breadbasket of Europe within her borders.  The Ukraine.  And the UK was but a tiny island nation.  With barely a fraction of the farmland as the breadbasket of Europe.  Yet the British could feed her people.  And the Soviets could not.  Which just goes to show you that planned economies are all well and good if you want to control and oppress your people.  But they’re abject failures if you want to feed your people.  Still, there are those who still believe in the folly of central planning (see Durbin knocks GOP for not ‘designing the economy’ by Joel Gehrke posted 10/29/2011 on The Washington Examiner).

Despite the demonstrable failure of the bank bailouts, the 2009 stimulus, and the federal loan program that produced the Solyndra scandal, Democrats still believe that Congress should play a major role in shaping the economy — with the help of expert planners, of course.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., acknowledged as much while offering a misguided rebuke to congressional Republicans. “Simply standing back while trying to design the bumper sticker for the 2012 election instead of designing the economy to put Americans back to work,” Durbin said during an interview with the Chicago Tribune, “is not what the American people are looking for.”

The Democrats took both the House and the Senate in the 2006 midterm elections.  They held that power until the Republicans took back the House in the 2010 midterm elections.  They had 4 years of full legislative control.  And what designing of the economy did they do?  Just the destructive kind.

The housing bubble blew up on their watch.  And the fallout, the subprime mortgage crisis, happened on their watch.  The Great Recession happened on their watch.  The bank bailouts, the stimulus and the federal loan program that produced the Solyndra scandal happened on their watch.  And if that wasn’t enough destruction, they unleashed the job-killing, economy killing, private health care insurance killing Obamacare.  And they wonder why the economy isn’t doing any better.

No, Senator Durbin.  We don’t need any more of your expert planning.  Anymore and I’m afraid you guys will do some damage that not even a Margaret Thatcher can fix.

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Libya going the Way of Iran is not good for Libya, Israel, the Middle East or the United States

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 29th, 2011

Week in Review

How’s that democracy in the Arab Spring?  Good.  As long as you’re a man.  And are a devout Muslim.  Because they’re starting to head down the Iranian road.  Following their Islamic Revolution (see Libya’s new leaders say they will make Islamic Sharia law main source of legislation by Associated Press posted 10/24/2011 on The Washington Post).

Libya’s new leaders said they intend to make Islamic Sharia law the main source of legislation and will nullify any laws that contradict its tenets, giving the country a more Islamist character in the post-Moammar Gadhafi era…

However Libya is not headed down the same path as Saudi Arabia and Iran, which follow a stricter interpretation of Sharia — cutting off the hands of thieves, the heads of murderers and stoning adulterers to death. Those who drink alcohol are publicly flogged.

They won’t be like Iran?  Yeah, right.  This is exactly how things happened in Iran.  When they overthrew their secular leader.  Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi.  The Shah of Iran.

You cannot lump Saudi Arabia and Iran in the same category.  Iran hates us and wants to kill us.  Saudi Arabia is a friend and ally.  Even though this brings a lot of hate onto the House of Saud.  Both from within the kingdom.  And without.

The one area where Islamic law is nearly universal is in personal status law — rules concerning marriage, divorce and inheritance. Sharia allows men to marry up to four women, without the approval of one another even without their knowledge. Men are also allowed to divorce their wives by proclamation.

Women have the right to ask for a divorce under any circumstances, without the man’s approval, but in such a case the woman foregoes rights to alimony. Islamic law also stipulates that married daughters receive half the inheritance that sons receive and insists that women have the right to a dowry upon marriage.

Christianity treats women a lot better than Islam.  Yet liberals attack Christianity.  And bend over backwards to explain, excuse and forgive the harsh treatment of women under Sharia law.  Even though the liberals are the party of the feminists.  Funny how that is.

Egypt got warm and cozy with Hamas.  Threw open the border to Gaza.  Even though Hamas is warm and cozy with Iran.  Hates Israel.  And has it in their charter to destroy Israel.  Now it looks like Libya is moving more into the Iranian orbit.  Just like Egypt.  Humph.  Anyone see this coming?  When we all threw in with the Libyan rebels?

Libya going the way of Iran.  Not good.  For Libya.  Israel.  The Middle East.  Or the United States.

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No Arab Spring Democracy in Yemen yet, just All Out War

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 29th, 2011

Week in Review

Still no democracy in breaking out in the Arab Spring.  Just more violence.  And a preview of violence to come (see Yemen’s Embattled Government Calls Cease-Fire That So Far Fails to End Violence by LAURA KASINOF posted 10/25/2011 on The New York Times).

The northern part of the capital city has turned into a virtual war zone in recent days, and even as the government announced a cease-fire on Tuesday, explosions boomed across the city.

The failure to end the bloodshed was another sign that fighting has intensified between the nation’s elites, a dynamic that began to unfold when antigovernment protests began months ago, inadvertently aggravating longstanding rivalries between heavily armed groups. The largely peaceful protesters still camped out in the streets, calling for democracy, remain a vulnerable backdrop to an armed conflict that has defied resolution…

Then, The Associated Press reported that Mr. Saleh had met with the United States ambassador to discuss stepping down, a statement that, like the cease-fire announcement, may prove to lead nowhere.

Why would he step down?  Bashar al-Assad saw what happened to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.  No exile.  Only jail.  If he’s lucky.  So Assad has no incentive to step down in Syria.  And neither does Saleh in Yemen.  Of course, if he doesn’t step down, the images of a dead Muammar Gaddafi must surely come to mind.

Also, if he’s talking to the Americans you just know that it won’t end well for him.  Because it hasn’t helped our other allies in the Middle East and North Africa.  Unless you call these countries going Islamist a good thing.  Lest you forget, the Islamists are the ones who have been trying to kill Americans and Jews wherever they can.

The Arab Spring is not being very good to America.  Or Israel, for that matter.

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The Arab Spring brings on an Israeli Winter

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 29th, 2011

Week in Review

It may be an Arab Spring, but it looks more like an Israeli Winter (see Moderate Islamist Party Claims Victory in Tunisia by David Kirkpatrick posted 10/24/2011 on The New York Times).

A moderate Islamic party appeared to emerge as the big winner in Tunisia on Monday as preliminary results leaked out in the voting for an assembly to draft a constitution and shape a new government in this small North African country, where a revolution in January inspired uprisings across the Arab world…

In neighboring Algeria, an electoral victory by Islamists 20 years ago set off a military coup and a decade of bloodshed, and in the Palestinian territories, the sweep to victory of Hamas in 2006 elections led to a showdown with the West, a split in the government and armed conflict in Gaza…

Military coups and bloodshed.  Not exactly what we have in mind when we think of Arab Spring.

Islamists cheered the results as a harbinger of their ascent after revolts across the region. Islamists in Egypt are poised for big wins in parliamentary elections next month and their counterparts in Libya are playing dominant roles in its post-Qaddafi transition…

In Tunisia and elsewhere some are wary of the Islamists’ surge, arguing that party leaders sound moderate now but harbor a conservative religious agenda. Tunisia, arguably closer to Europe than the other states swept up in the political upheaval of the past year, is widely viewed as having the best chance of establishing a genuinely pluralistic model of government…

In countries like Egypt, where Islamists are more ideologically divided, Ennahda’s victory was sure to embolden those who favor a more liberal approach, including some within the Egypt’s mainstream Muslim Brotherhood as well as breakaway groups like the New Center Party or a new party founded by former leaders of the Brotherhood Youth — groups already drawn toward the thought of Ennahda’s founder. But in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood also faces competition from new parties formed by ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, who seek an explicitly Islamic state that might enforce religious laws.

Just in case you don’t know, the Islamists aren’t the good guys.  At least, they’re not friendly to the U.S.  Or to Israel.  These are the people who are more apt to chant something like, oh, I don’t know, death to America.  Death to the Zionist state.  You know, the same old sweet talk.  But now they’re in Egypt.  Tunisia.  Algeria.  Gaza.  The West Bank.  And now Libya.

Doesn’t sound so much like an Arab Spring.  But more of an Israeli winter.  And an American defeat.

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Another terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 29th, 2011

Week in Review

More trouble in the greater Middle East.  Well, more around the Horn of Africa.  But it’s an Islamic problem (see Second big blast heard in Kenyan capital; injuries by Reuters posted 10/24/2011 on the Chicago Tribune).

A large blast was heard in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Monday evening, a Reuters witness reported. Kenyan media said the blast had been at a bus stop, and that people had been injured.

Earlier on Monday a grenade exploded in a Nairobi bar, wounding 13 people, two days after the U.S. embassy in Kenya warned that an attack was imminent as the east African nation fights Islamist militants in neighboring Somalia.

The U.S. pulled out of their aid mission to Somalia back in 1995.  Islamist terrorists bombed the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998.  And Somali pirates are menacing the waters off the Horn of Africa.  Not quite the stable area.

We demanded that Hosni Mubarak step down in Egypt.  During the Arab Spring.  The supposed dawn of democracy in the region.  But we’re not seeing democracy.  Yet.  Muslims are attacking Christians.  And the government doesn’t do much to stop it.  That didn’t happen under Mubarak.

Not learning the lesson of Egypt, we went into Libya.  And supported the rebel opposition.  Even though we did not know who they were.  And after learning that there are elements of extreme Islamism in the opposition.  And so Gaddafi is dead.  Killed without a trial by the rebels.  (Saddam Hussein got a trial).  So what’s next?  Democracy?  Like in Egypt?

Pulling out of Iraq?  Cutting military spending?  Put it all together and one thing is for sure.  It doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy.

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FT89: “Liars lie.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 28th, 2011

Fundamental Truth

Keynesian Tax and Spend Big Government Liberals don’t Win Elections

No one shops at the store with the highest prices.  Not if we can buy the same for less elsewhere.  That’s why stores can’t just raise their prices to make their owners rich.  Because most stores sell something that can be bought elsewhere.  We call it competition.  It’s what keeps prices fair.  And the ‘fair’ price is exactly what both buyer and seller agree on.  Too high and the buyer won’t buy.  Too low and the seller won’t sell.  Just right and buyer and seller happily make the sales transaction.

So people don’t willingly choose to pay higher prices.  Because they want to keep their hard-earned money.  And rightly so.  Because they earned it.  And the same goes for paying taxes.  Just as they don’t willingly choose to pay higher prices they don’t willingly choose to pay more taxes.  Which presents quite the quandary for the tax and spend liberal.  Because to tax and spend you must first tax.  And telling the people that you want to raise their taxes doesn’t really go over well at election time.

So they lie.  Because that’s what liars do.  Liberals never run as Keynesian tax and spend Big Government liberals.   Because they’ve learned from experience that Keynesian tax and spend Big Government liberals don’t win elections.  (Unless you’re Nancy Pelosi in uber liberal San Francisco.  But that’s a whole other story.)  So they lie and run as conservatives.  Reagan Democrats.  New Democrats.  Or they just launch withering personal attacks on their opponents.

About 40% of the Electorate are Limited-Government Conservatives

Of course, not everyone is against higher taxes.  Those who don’t pay taxes rarely oppose higher taxes.  Or those with generous pay and benefit packages courtesy of the taxpayer.  They’re always in favor of new taxes.  Because more taxes means more free stuff.  And better salary and benefit packages.

These two groups of people are rather large.  Nearly half of the electorate doesn’t pay any federal income taxes.  And there are a lot of people in the public sector.  Because government keeps growing.  So these are a lot of people to vote for Keynesian tax and spend Big Government liberals.   But it’s not enough.  About 40% of the electorate are limited-government conservatives.  And about 40% are moderates.  Who can swing either way.  And that’s a lot of votes.  If only 10% of the moderates vote conservative, government will have a lot of trouble growing.

The problem with that moderate 40% is that they have jobs.  They pay taxes.  And are none too keen on paying any more.  So what is a liberal to do?  Well, lie, of course.  Liberals don’t want to raise taxes to go on a spending orgy to buy more votes.  No.  They want to make the rich pay their fair share.  Which has a nice sound to it at election time.  Because most people don’t consider themselves rich.  But when nearly half of the electorate doesn’t pay federal income taxes, guess what?  A lot of people are richer than they thought.  Because ‘taxes on the rich’ will ultimately include anyone with a job.  Because half of the people aren’t paying them now.  And that pilloried 1% just doesn’t earn enough to pay all of the taxes.  Even if we take all of their earnings.

Liberals lie because Voters don’t Willingly Vote for Candidates who say they will Raise your Taxes

When liberals are talking you can be certain of one thing.  They’re lying.  Because that’s what they do.  Liars lie.  Because if they told you they were going to raise your taxes and pass job-killing regulations, chances are that you wouldn’t vote for them.  Unless you’re part of that 50% that doesn’t pay any federal income taxes.  Or collect your pay from the private sector taxpayer.  In which case you’ll say, “Tax on!  Tax those private sector tax-paying suckers.  Just give me more free stuff.”

They may not say it in these exact same words.  But you get the gist.

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