Autocorrect masks Poor Job Teachers are Doing in Teaching Two of the Three Rs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 26th, 2012

Week in Review

What the calculator did for our arithmetic skills autocorrect is doing for our spelling skills.  Well, autocorrect and bad teachers (see Over-reliance on technology is undermining spelling skills by Graeme Paton posted 5/22/2012 on The Telegraph).

Around a third of people in Britain are unable to accurately spell words such as “definitely”, “separate” and “necessary”, it was revealed.

The study found that just a fifth of over-18s could properly pick out a series of potentially tricky words from a list. Teenagers and those in their early 20s were the worst spellers, it emerged…

“With over two-thirds of Britons now having to rely on spell check, we are heading towards an auto-correct generation,” he said…

Females aged over 65 were officially the best spellers, while men aged 18 to 24 were the worst, the study found.

The conclusions come amid growing concerns over standards of literacy in schools.

This is not a British problem.  It’s everywhere.  The quality of teaching has declined.  Our technology hides the horrible job they’re doing teaching spelling to our children.  Computers, smartphones and other electronic gadgets that can correct our spelling are making up for the deficient teaching in our schools.  But when we find out how poorly our children spell we blame these devices instead of the people tasked to make them good spellers.  The teachers.

Why is this happening?  Two of the three Rs in reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic involve the written language.  So what are our teachers teaching in school if they’re not teaching the three Rs?  Well, in the U.S. they’re teaching our kids to become Democrat voters.  They may not know how to read or write but they know that capitalism is evil.  And that government is good.  They also learn how to hold a picket sign when their teachers go on strike.  This is the stuff they’re teaching in our classrooms.  Not how to spell ‘definitely’, ‘separate’ and ‘necessary’.  Like they did when our grandparents went to school.  When school was school.  And not political indoctrination.  Today they worry less about teaching their students how to spell correctly.  And more about teaching their students how to vote ‘correctly’.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , ,

Court orders Spanish Doctor to pay Child Care after Botched Abortion allows Baby to be Born

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 26th, 2012

Week in Review

An interesting court case in Spain places the responsibility of a child not on the parents who conceived the child.  But on the doctor who failed to abort the child.  Odd.  For in the birth of that child the doctor is only an accessory after the fact of coitus (see Spanish doctor ordered to pay for upkeep of child after failed abortion by Giles Tremlett posted 5/25/2012 on The Guardian).

A Spanish doctor has been ordered to pay for the upkeep of a child after a failed abortion operation meant the boy’s mother was obliged to see her pregnancy through to the end…

The boy was born in October 2010, six months after his mother had gone for an abortion at the city’s Emece clinic. The operation had been performed when the mother was almost seven weeks pregnant. The doctor told her two weeks later that a scan proved she was no longer pregnant…

She did not return to the clinic for three months, and only after becoming convinced she must have become pregnant by mistake once more.

A fresh scan revealed, however, that this was the same pregnancy. She was already into her sixth month and past the 22-week limit for abortions in Spain. “I sought advice and was told that it would be a crime to abort at that stage,” she said.

The woman, who had hidden her pregnancy from her family out of fear at their reaction, was forced to confront her parents with the news. She and the child now live with them. Despite the fact that a suction technique had been used to try to remove the embryo, the boy was born healthy.

The mother sued the doctor for damages, with the court awarding her €150,000 (£120,000). It also decided the doctor and his insurer should pay maintenance of €978 a month for 25 years, or a further €293,000.

“I am living off my parents now, and it shouldn’t be like that,” the mother said…

“I am OK now, because I have had to accept things. There is no other option. I’m happy with my son,” she said. “When I have to explain all this to him, I’ll try to make sure that he feels OK about it. It was back then that he was not wanted, not now.”

I have one question.  Where’s the father?  Why isn’t he paying child support for his child?  I can understand the penalty for the botched abortion but child support?  The doctor didn’t make that baby.  He only failed to abort it.

Okay to abort within 22 weeks.  But a crime to abort after 22 weeks.  Okay at 5 months.  But not at 6 months.  Makes you scratch your head and think about the argument over when life begins.  At conception?  Or after 22 weeks.  Sounds rather arbitrary, 22 weeks.  Especially when you can hear a heartbeat at 8 weeks.

You hear some people joke about not being a planned baby.  About being an accident.  I imagine if one thinks about that too much it could make one question one’s purpose in life.  And question how much of an unwanted burden one was on one’s parents.  But surviving an abortion?  I don’t think that’s something a person should ever learn.  What possible good could come from that?  If mother and child bond and grow up loving each other why take a chance on ruining that?  It’s bad enough the mother has to live with this memory.  The child doesn’t.  In time perhaps the mother will feel it unnecessary to explain this unpleasant fact about his prenatal life.

But once again, where’s the father?

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Chinese Economy is mostly Bad Investments, Savings and little Domestic Consumption

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 26th, 2012

Week in Review

The Chinese economic juggernaut is losing steam.  The communist 5-year plans in infrastructure projects isn’t having the magic it once did.  Exports are down thanks to a worldwide recession.  And worse of all for Keynesians everywhere savings are outpacing consumption.  People across China are acting responsibly.  And this just won’t do (see Chinese urged to spend more, save less by Mure Dickie posted 5/25/2012 on The Washington Post).

Yet with China’s economy slowing — to a relatively modest annual rate of 8.1 percent growth in the first quarter — some observers fret that consumption could be faltering. Retail spending in April was weaker than expected. And while Wen Jiabao, the premier, last week signaled action to shore up growth, the government appears to have set its policy focus on promoting investment rather than consumption…

Indeed, [Andrew] Batson [research director at GK Dragonomics] suggests that the present slowdown could promote a much-heralded rebalancing of China’s economy, away from reliance on increasingly unproductive investment to a healthier consumption-driven model.

While the government has long talked of such a shift, the proportion of gross domestic product accounted for by investment actually soared to 46 percent in 2010, while household consumption’s share of GDP slumped to just 35 percent…

So China’s investment is increasingly unproductive.  Perhaps their high-speed train program isn’t the only black hole for their investment capital to disappear in.  The Chinese have invested a fortune in their high-speed trains but so far that has been an investment earning a negative return.  Sure, it created a lot of jobs but their high-speed trains can’t turn a profit.  So far they’re only accumulating debt.  But they keep spending this money.  Adherents to Keynesian economics that they are.  For the Keynesians say anything that puts more money into a workers pocket is good.  Because that worker will spend that money.  Even if we pay him to dig a ditch.  And then pay him to fill it back in.  Or pay him to build a very costly high-speed railway that the people don’t need.  Or can ever pay for itself.  A Keynesian will say that’s good.  Because it will give the worker money.  And that worker will spend that money.  Thus increasing consumption.  Unless that worker does something stupid like put it in the bank.

Some economists say the government needs to do more to promote this rebalancing in a country where citizens still save a far larger proportion of their incomes than do their counterparts in developed economies…

Lower-income consumers also save fiercely. In the village of Wuti in northern Hebei province, house builder Li Moxiang and his farmer wife aim to set aside $3,150 or more a year to help raise their future grandchild — even though stingy state-set interest rates mean such savings are constantly eroded by inflation…

A big motivation for such saving is the lack of a social security system to cushion Chinese in old age or ill health. Serious illness or accident often spells household bankruptcy. For most rural people, children have to play the role of pension provider.

In a report this week, the World Bank said fiscal measures to support consumption — including targeted tax cuts, social welfare spending and other social expenditures — should be Beijing’s top priority as it seeks to avert an economic “hard landing.”

Some economists would like to see mass privatization to shift wealth out of the dominant and domineering state sector.

Keynesians hate savings.  They want people to spend their money.  And not be responsible and save for their retirement.  Or to save to pay for any unexpected expenses.  Why they hate savings so much that they constantly inflate the currency to dissuade you from saving.  For if you do save you’ll only see inflation eat away the value of your savings.  Sort of like putting an expiration date on your money.  Telling you saving is for fools.  That consumption is the smart way to go.  And so what if you can’t afford food or housing in your retirement.  Or pay for medical care.  That’s what family is for.  So you can be a burden to them.

Right now the social democracies of Europe are imploding from the massive debts they incurred from their social spending.  And the World Bank is encouraging Beijing to increase their social spending.  To be as irresponsible as the Europeans were.  Unbelievable.  Europe is burning because of the social expenditures they can no longer afford to pay.  And the people are rather reluctant to give up.  So when the government tries to live within their means with a touch of austerity the people reply with riots.  And this is what the World Bank is advising the Chinese to do.

History repeats.  For everything the Chinese are doing, or trying to do, or are being advised to do has been done by every nation with a spending and debt problem.  Sure, China is still enjoying 8% GDP growth.  But a lot of that growth is from building stuff that the market isn’t demanding.  Consumer spending in China is only at 35%.  With the worldwide recession hurting Chinese exports that leaves that 35% as a large component of their market-driven spending.  And you can rarely sustain economic growth from making stuff the market isn’t demanding.  Instead this artificial growth usually leads to some kind of a bubble.  And a painful recession to correct the mess the government made while artificially increasing economic output.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Canadians living Near the Border Escape their High Taxes by Shopping in the United States

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 26th, 2012

Week in Review

High prices in Vancouver getting you down?  No problem.  Just hop into the car and head to the U.S. border.  Everyone else is (see Cross-border shopping: price trumps moral suasion in the fight for consumers by Craig McInnes posted 5/22/2012 on The Vancouver Sun).

I always feel a little guilty when I shop in the U.S. I would much rather support local merchants. I get the whole notion that local merchants employ my neighbours and that the money they earn stays in the community and creates more jobs.

But as the report from the Bank of Montreal pointed out last week, the price gap between Canada and the U.S. is too great to be ignored. The report predicts that gap, combined with new rules about how much Canadians can bring back duty free, is going to increase the already powerful pull of cross-border bargain hunting.

We learn early on that a penny saved is worth two pennies earned, thanks to the effect of income and consumption taxes. So mining lower prices is both a thrill and sound financial management.

The gap between sample retail prices in the U.S. and Canada documented in the Bank of Montreal study is compelling. Running shoes were 37-per-cent more on this side of the border. A Canon camera was five-per-cent more, a Gap Kids T-shirt cost $5 more here…

And it’s not just price. The bigger market in the U.S. offers more choice as well…

But is this short-sightedness on my part? Am I undermining my community, my country and ultimately myself in my drive to save money by passing over the merchants in my neighbourhood and town?

No.  It’s not short-sightedness.  It’s you getting the most value out of your money.  For why should you pay higher prices to subsidize uncompetitive businesses?  However, if you want all of those government benefits you pay for with those high income and consumption taxes then, yes, you should pay the higher prices.  Which pay for all of those government benefits.  Including that national health care everyone in America is so envious about.

It makes it tough on a government to put high taxes on gasoline and other goods & services in cities close to the U.S. border.  For those living in the interior of Canada can’t escape this social democracy as easy as those living near the border can.  And this is the greatest threat of any social utopia.  Better stuff across the border.  Because if people can escape the high taxes of their utopia so they can better afford to live it will only put pressure on the government to raise taxes further.  To make up for that lost tax revenue on those purchases across the border.

Of course to have this problem can only mean one thing.  Canadians are taxed too much.  Those consumption taxes really inflate prices in the supply chain.  Adding a tax whenever someone adds value.  It adds up.  And given the opportunity people will avoid it.  A lesson as old as time.  People are smart shoppers.  They spend their money wisely.  And they will go where they will get more value.  And typically that will be where there is more capitalism.  And less socialism.  Even if you live in a country that has just a little socialism.  For in the social democracies of the West there are varying degrees of socialism in these countries.  But one thing is always certain.  This kind of cross-border shopping traffic is always towards the country with less socialism.

This even holds true for health care.  For people who want the best in health care will travel from a country that has more socialism to a country that has less socialism.  Even in Canada.  Where they pay high income and consumption taxes in part to pay for that free national health care.  Of course Obamacare will put a stop to that.  For when Obamacare is just like the Canadian system there will be no reason for Canadians to cross the border.  For the amount of socialism in our health care systems will be the same as in the Canadian system.  And the American system will no longer be better than the Canadian system.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

High Fuel Costs makes Union Contracts too Costly on Qantas’ International Flights

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 26th, 2012

Week in Review

There is an inverse relation between gas prices and driving distance on your summer vacation.  The higher the gas price the shorter your drive.  When gas is cheap you can travel across the country in a recreational vehicle.  When gas prices are high you may limit your drive to a single day.  Perhaps even a single fill up.  Because driving adds up.  If you fill up twice a day you may pay $150 at the gas pump.  If you drive two days out and two days back that’s $600 in driving costs.  Which you could put towards a nice hotel or some fun.  Or into your gas tank.  Which isn’t really a whole lot of fun.  Especially when you have some bored kids fighting each other in the back seat.

Fuel costs can make the difference between a nice vacation and a bad one.  And between a profitable operation and an unprofitable operation (see Australia’s Qantas to Split Business into Two by Reuters posted 5/22/2012 on CNBC).

Qantas Airways, said it plans to split its loss-making international and profitable domestic businesses, though Australia’s top airline was viewed by analysts as unlikely to spin off or sell the international operations…

The changes are part of a five-year turnaround plan aimed at shrinking costs and getting the international operations into profit…

The airline…is emerging from a bruising industrial dispute with unions…

Weak demand and high fuel prices are taking a toll on airline profits, pushing airlines across the world to cut costs and delay capital expenditure. 

The reason companies go through these bruising disputes with their unions is because of the good times when all other costs aren’t so bad.  When fuel was cheap the airlines were making some decent profits.  And it was affordable to be generous to their unions.  When they had little choice but to be generous.  For a strike during busy times is not good to the bottom line.  So they enter into these agreements that just cripple a company when fuel costs soar.

The international business is losing money because it takes a lot more fuel on those international routes.  And when demand is low it is very difficult to raise ticket prices.  Because even though Qantas is a quality airline there are other quality airlines out there trying to make it in an industry suffering from low demand.  And they are all trying to keep their ticket prices as low as possible to get the few passengers out there still flying.  It’s gotten so bad that some airlines are charging for things they’ve never charged for before. 

Such as carryon bags.  Which helps revenue in two ways.  It helps pay for fuel costs.  And it discourages passengers from carrying on luggage.  Which reduces weight and saves on fuel costs.  For an airline only puts into their fuel tanks the amount they need to fly.  They don’t top them off.  They count everything going onto that airplane and calculate the weight to add to the weight of the airplane and the weight of the fuel they carry.  The less the weight on that plane the less fuel they have to burn.

The short routes tend to be the more profitable ones.  There are more of them (one plane can make 2-3 round trips in a day).  And they burn less fuel.  That adds up to profitability.  Which is why Qantas is profitable on their domestic routes.  But not on their international routes.  And why the domestic business can pay the high union contracts.  While the international business can’t.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

China Spending less on Unprofitable High-Speed Trains, wants Private Investors to Lose Money Instead

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 26th, 2012

Week in Review

Governments everywhere want to build high-speed trains.  They like them because they’re very high profile and can stand as memorials to the politicians that gave them to us.  They like them because they are so costly, both to run and to operate.  Requiring higher taxes and lots of government borrowing.  They like them because they are so labor intensive.  Both to build and to operate.  This creates a lot of jobs.  Yes, they are all of these things.  But one thing they are not is profitable (see Railways try to get investors on track by Wei Tian and Xin Dingding posted 5/21/2012 on China Daily).

Experts predict lukewarm response as sector seeks private capital…

Zhou, who is chairman of the Wenzhou Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Development Association, represents a group of wealthy industrialists in East China’s Zhejiang province.

The railway authority in Wenzhou, he said, has been negotiating with entrepreneurs but so far the government is offering just 8 percent of the profits.

“Eight percent is not attractive,” he said. Railway programs require huge investment, the sector has suffered losses and entrepreneurs are cautious, he said.

According to data released by the ministry, its debt reached 2.43 trillion yuan ($384 billion) by the end of March, with a debt ratio of 60.6 percent.

The ministry also reported a loss of 6.98 billion yuan in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, fixed investment in railways was 89.6 billion yuan, 48.3 percent less than the same period last year…

…private capital is already involved in railway construction, he said, explaining that a 624-kilometer coal transport line, partially funded by the privately owned Xinjiang Guanghui Industry Investment Group, had begun construction in late March.

However, he warned that it will not be easy to attract private investors into industries that are no longer profitable.

Building these railways gave the government a huge debt.  That debt ratio (total liabilities divided by total assets) means lenders are not all that happy.  With over half the total assets of the railway programs paid for by debt and an annualized loss of 27.9 billion Yuan (4 X 6.98 billion Yuan) investors see these railway programs for what they are.  Investment losers.  They rack up debt and can’t operate at a profit.  Even the government doesn’t want to pay for them anymore and is trying to find private investors to throw away their money.

Railroads are so costly because there is infrastructure everywhere a train travels.  And the revenue from the train has to pay for this infrastructure.  From the first survey to the first grading to the first ballast to the first track to the first switch to the first signal there are nothing but high capital costs.  Followed by high operating costs to make everything work.  From maintenance crews to engineers to conductors to train crews to dispatch centers to ticket sellers.  High-speed passenger rail is the most expensive rail of all.  Because they’re typically electric which requires even more infrastructure wherever that train travels.  And no grade crossings.  So that’s more tunnels and bridges.

Only two high-speed lines earn enough revenue to pay both their capital and operating costs.  One in Japan.  And one in France.  Governments subsidize all other passenger rail.  Only the freight railroads are profitable.  Which is why companies in the private sector still own the freight railroads.   Why freight?  Because there is no more cost effective way to move containers or bulk freight.  Like coal.  Which is where private capital is currently going to in China.  Because coal is never an investment loser.  And there is no better way to move coal overland than by train.

The bidding process has come in for harsh criticism by the public after a crash involving two high-speed trains in Zhejiang province killed at least 40 people and injured more than 200 others in July.

According to the findings of an investigation announced last December, malpractice and illegal contracts were found in the bidding process administered by the Ministry of Railways and its subordinate bureaus, which resulted in the failure of a train control system that had never undergone field tests before launch, Xinhua reported.

The national auditor said in March that it had uncovered evidence of fraud, waste, mismanagement and irregular accounting and procurement totaling billions of yuan at the ministry’s flagship high-speed Beijing-Shanghai railway.

And here’s the other reason why politicians love high-speed rail.  It is so much easier to conceal fraud, waste and irregular accounting and procurement practices when the money amounts are so large.  It’s a sad thing that government is not very good at building and running trains but is very good at the fraud.  We should remember this the next time government wants to spend a fortune on high-speed rail.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FT119: “To save American jobs the Left tries to keep out low-priced Mexican imports but does little to keep out low-priced Mexican labor.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 25th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

The Left opposes Cheap Mexican Labor in Mexico but they like having it in the U.S.

One of the more interesting things about the political left is their inconsistency about their opposition to free trade.  They opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) because they said all the good manufacturing jobs would go south of the border.  They said Mexicans work too cheap.  And that was unfair to the American worker.  For the American’s generous wage and benefit packages could never compete with the Mexicans who are willing to work for so much less.  With NAFTA rich American capitalists would just screw their American employees and move their operations to Mexico.  Where they would exploit the poor hapless Mexican workers.  Forcing them to work at a fraction of the American wage and benefit package.

Of course that’s not the way the poor hapless Mexican workers see it.  They loved those manufacturing jobs.  Because those jobs had some of the most generous wage and benefit packages available in Mexico.  They flooded those factories.  And the lucky few to get those jobs did quality work.  The things they made in these Mexican plants were as good as anything in the U.S.  And they cost less.  Allowing the American consumer to buy more.  Which raised the standard of living for everyone.  The American consumer.  And the Mexican consumer.  The only ones who lost were the few working in those U.S. plants that closed.  Who became bitter.  And demanded the government impose tariffs on those low-cost imports.  To save American jobs.  While lowering the standard of living for the American consumer.  And the Mexican consumer.

So the Left opposes this cheap Mexican labor.  In Mexico.  They don’t seem to mind it so much, on the other hand, when it’s in the U.S.  The Left opposes building a wall on the border.  They oppose asking for proof of citizenship from anyone who looks Mexican in a region with a high concentration of illegal aliens.  They oppose requiring a photo I.D. to vote.  They oppose deportations of illegal aliens who’ve been living and working in the U.S.  While they are in favor of blanket amnesty for those here illegally.  And providing them a fast-track to U.S. citizenship.  Which is rather odd considering the way the Left feels about that cheap Mexican labor.  So why are they opposed to imports manufactured by low-cost labor while they are in favor of bringing that low-cost labor into the United States.  For either way it will displace a higher-paid U.S. worker from a job.

The Lost Tax Revenue from Abortion and Birth Control comes to about $155 Billion per Year 

 Yes, that is a good question, isn’t it?  Some, I’m sure, will say once those illegals become legals they’ll join unions.  Which would make them no longer cheap labor.  Perhaps.  But with the decline in U.S manufacturing there aren’t a lot of union jobs anymore.  It is more likely that they will go to where there are good manufacturing jobs.  In the nonunion South.  So it is likely they would add further pressure on those high union wages and benefits.  So why, then, would the Left want to grant citizenship to those here illegally while at the same time opposing cheap Mexican labor?  Two reasons.  Abortions.  And birth control. 

As it is in most things in life it’s about the money.  The Left likes to tax and spend.  Well, not so much like but love.  It’s what they live for.  They want to spend money to provide pensions.  Health care in retirement.  And now health care before retirement.  They want to spend money to end poverty.  They want to spend money to give everyone a college education.  They want to spend money to subsidize green energy.  They want to spend money for school lunches, childcare, art, public television/radio, birth control, abortions, etc.  If it’s something they can spend money on they want to spend money on it.  Of course to spend all of this money you need what?  That’s right.  Money.  And two of the Left’s defining issues have actually reduced the available money to spend.  Birth control and abortion.

According to Public Agenda the number of abortions increased during the Seventies until they totaled approximately 1,300,000 by the end of the decade.  They stayed at or above this level for a little over a decade and then started falling in the late Nineties.  Let’s take one year of these numbers and crunch some numbers.  If 1.3 million abortions didn’t happen and the women carried these babies to term and they earned the median income of $46,000 (and paid $7,530 in federal income taxes) today that would have come to an additional $8.4 billion in tax revenue per year.

According to the Guttmacher Institute there were 62 million U.S. women in their childbearing years (15-44) in 2010.  Approximately 62% of these women were currently using birth control.  Bringing the number of women using birth control in 2010 to 38,440,000.  If birth control was unavailable let’s assume 50% of these women would have stopped having sex.  And let’s assume the women who continued to have sex became pregnant and carried their pregnancy to term.  Bringing in 19,220,000 new babies into the world.  Based on the median salary of $46,000 they would have contributed another $145 billion in tax revenue.  Added to the lost tax revenue from abortion that comes to a grand total of $155 billion in lost tax revenue per year.  Over a decade that comes to $1.5 trillion.

Granting Amnesty to Millions of Illegal Aliens can make up for Lost Tax Revenue due to Birth Control and Abortion 

During the Obamacare debates the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected the cost of Obamacare over a 10-year period at $940 billion.  They have since revised that up to $1.76 trillion.  The opponents of Obamacare say it is too costly.  With a national debt of already $15.7 trillion we simply can’t afford to pay for Obamacare.  The proponents of Obamacare have been using questionable accounting practices to get that number down.  Such as collecting new taxes before paying any benefits in some of those years in that 10-year projection.  But the interesting thing to note here is that these discussions would be moot had it not been for birth control and abortion.  Which has cost the nation in tax revenue what Obamacare will cost.

These numbers are only crude calculations.  A more detailed mathematical analysis would have produced a far greater number in lost tax revenue.  Because the population would have also been expanding.  So the numbers used as constants in the 10-year projections above would have been growing larger in each year of that 10-year projection.  And producing larger amounts of tax revenue in each of those 10 years.  This is why Social Security worked so well for the first few decades.  There was a growing population.  And there was always far more new workers entering the workforce than leaving it.  What changed that was birth control and abortion.  And people choosing to have smaller families.  Not a bad thing in itself.  But this decision to have smaller families has doomed Social Security and Medicaid.  For they created those programs based on larger population growth rates.  That simply no longer exist.  And the only way to fix that is by having a lot more babies quickly.  Or for the baby boomers to die off quicker.  Which critics of Obamacare say Obamacare will help do via death panels.

Or you could try something else.  You can jumpstart the population growth rate by granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.  To make up for lost tax revenue due to birth control and abortion.  And what makes the illegals from Mexico so attractive to the Left is that many of them are devout Catholics.  Thanks to the Catholic Spanish Empire who brought their language, culture and religion to the New World.  And Catholics frown upon the use of abortion and birth control.  But this can be a risky bet for those on the Left.  Yes, they could really boost the population growth rate.  And they may get these new citizens’ votes in the early years out of gratitude.  But eventually the Left’s attacks on religion may eventually make these people vote Republican.  So they may get a large increase in tax revenue to spend.  Just as they lose power in Washington.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vengeance, Loyalists, Patriots, French, British, Indians, Frontier, Ohio Country, Massacres, Washington and Westward Expansion

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 24th, 2012

Politics 101

The American Colonists kept moving into the Interior of the Country into Indian Lands

History has shown civil wars to be the bloodiest of wars.  For when people you know and grew up with kill your friends and family, well, things get a little ugly.  They escalate.  And there are a lot of opportunities for revenge when people in towns and villages join different sides in the war.   When friends and family fall in combat people retaliate by attacking the families left behind.  Those who didn’t take up arms.  The women and children.  They destroy their crops.  Burn their homes.  Force them to flee for their lives.  Then these acts are met with new acts of vengeance.  They don’t force family members to flee.  They kill them.  Then these acts are met with new acts of vengeance.  Instead of killing they rape, torture and mutilate their bodies.

When the American Revolutionary War broke out it tore families and towns apart.  People remaining loyal to the Crown became Loyalists.  Those rebelling became Patriots.  It was not uncommon to find Loyalist and Patriot in the same family.  And they hated each other.  That hatred grew as the people they knew and loved suffered the horrors of war.  Hardening them into merciless killers.  The people you were fighting were not soldiers.  They were fighting the lowest of traitors.  So there was no need for honor.   The people they were killing were no better than feral animals threatening their peaceful lives.  They deserved to die.  And worse.  This was civil war.  This was part of the American Revolutionary War.  And it got worse.

During the French and Indian War (aka the Seven Years’ War) the French allied with the various Indian tribes against their long-time foe.  The British.  The Indians fought on the French side because it was the lesser of two evils.  The French were sticking to the rivers and had small colonies.  The British had larger colonies.  And they kept moving into the interior of the country.  Which the Indians wanted to stop.  And in trying they made the war on the frontier a bloody one.  And very cruel.  The word used in official correspondence of the time used to describe them was savages.  For the unspeakable cruelties they did to white men, women and children.  They did not fight European style with bands and grand formations on the field of battle.  They made people suffer and live in fear.  The way they have always fought.

The British, the Loyalists and their Indian Allies advanced out of the Frontier into the River Valleys

Well, there was another war on the continent.  This one between the British and the American colonists.  Both sides tried to get the Indians to fight on their side.  Some were friendly with the Americans.  Some remained neutral.  But a lot fought with the British because they saw them as the lesser of two evils.  The American colonists were expanding further into the interior of the country.  In violation of their British treaties that were to keep the Americans out of the Ohio country.  Something the British agreed to without consulting their American colonists.  Who had every intention of moving further west.  So once again the Indians made the war on the frontier a bloody one.  And very cruel. 

Not all the British were on board with this.  Edmund Burke denounced this policy.  As did William Pitt, Earl of Chatham.  Who said in the House of Lords, “What! to attribute the sacred sanction of God and nature to the massacres of the Indian scalping knife?  To the cannibal savage, torturing, murdering roasting and eating…Such horrible notions shock every precept of religion, divine or natural, and every generous feeling of humanity.”  Even the Americans had their reservations about using the Indians.  George Washington wrote to the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, “Gentlemen: You will perceive, by the inclosed Copy of a Resolve of Congress, that I am impowered to employ a body of four hundred Indians, if they can be procured upon proper terms.  Divesting them of the Savage customs exercised in their Wars against each other…”  Both sides were worried about using the unpredictable and uncontrollable Indians.  And for good reason.

The British had forts at Niagara, Detroit and Michilimackinac (on the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula).  From these strongholds they controlled the Great Lakes and the frontier.  They, the Loyalists and their Indian allies advanced out of the frontier into the river valleys.  The Allegheny, the Susquehanna, the Mohawk, the Schoharie, the Monongahela.  Into the Ohio country.  And the frontier of New York.  Leaving a path of devastation in their wake.  Smoldering homes.  Ravished farms.  And a lot of dead.  The Loyalists and their Indian allies killing and torturing fleeing soldiers.  Prisoners.  Civilians.  And taking scalps.  There was a growing list of these massacres.  Wyoming.  Cherry Valley.  German Flats.  Blue Licks.  In the end these massacres did not help the British.  They just made the war more savage.  And turned anyone on the frontier who were neutral or leaning Loyalists into Patriots thirsting for vengeance.

George Washington was no Better than King George and Parliament in Restraining American Expansionist Ambition

The Americans couldn’t control their Indian allies any better than the British could.  They, too, were embarrassed by these savage acts that went counter to the rules of war and Christian teachings they were trying to adhere to.  But their embarrassments were short lived as the Americans had fewer Indian allies.  And, therefore, fewer atrocities.  For it was the Americans that were trying to expand into Indian hunting grounds.  And it was the British trying to restrain that expansion.  So more of them fought on the British side.  And thus the British had more of this blood on their hands.  Which only served to hurt their cause.

The opening and closing of the American Declaration of Independence are familiar to many people.  The stuff in the middle is not as well known.  Which is a laundry list of “repeated injuries and usurpations” committed by King George against the American people.  Including, “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”  This British Indian policy was one of the items that pushed the Americans past reconciliation with the British.  And into open rebellion.

Fast forward to the Washington administration of the new United States of America.  Washington saw America’s relations with the Indians as a matter of foreign policy.  He spent more time trying to negotiate with them then he did with the Europeans.  For America’s future was in the west.  He wanted American expansion.  That would coexist with sovereign Indian lands.  Hoping in time that these lands would become future states within the new and growing union.  And the Indians would assimilate into the American way of farming and manufacturing.  Giving up their hunting and gathering ways that require such great tracts of land.  But, alas, that was not to be.  For he was no better than King George and Parliament in restraining American expansionist ambition.  The individual states ignored the new federal treaties with the Indians and negotiated their own treaties.  Or simply moved onto their land. 

Rather ironic, really.  Washington fought with the British against the French and Indians to secure American westward expansion.  He fought in the American Revolutionary War against the British to secure American westward expansion.  And the first major failure as president of the United States was over American westward expansion.  The subsequent treatment of the Indians would become what he feared.  A policy of confiscation that he worried “would stain the character of the nation.”  Which it has.  For the conflicts on the frontier were as violent and vicious as they ever were.  Forcing the Americans to send in troops to once again subdue these hostilities.  And to protect the Americans living on or near the frontier.  Which put the Americans and the Indians on the path Washington so wanted to avoid.  War.  Instead of conciliation.  And assimilation. 

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Famine, Crop Yields, Food Surpluses, Irrigation, Plow, Crop Rotation, Cultivars, Fertilizers, Pesticides, Tractor, Railroad and Ships

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 23rd, 2012

Technology 101

Because of Advances in Farming Fewer People could Grow more Food

Cold weather kills people.  A lot of people throughout history have died during winters as they exhausted their food supplies.  That’s why preparing for the winter was serious business.  You had to store enough food to carry you through the winter.  And if the fall harvests were poor it spelled big trouble.  And famine.  It’s hard to imagine what this was like.  A long winter ahead of you with an insufficient food supply.  It was scary.  For it meant some people would die before the spring came.  Hard to fathom this in a day where you can actually drive your car through a blizzard to your favorite greasy diner or fast food restaurant for a delicious hot meal to take off the chill of the coldest winter day.  It wasn’t always like this.

And it wasn’t only long winters that killed people.  Sometimes the long summers did.  Where there were insufficient rains.  And drought.  That destroyed crops and drastically reduced fall harvests.  You don’t hear much about famine these days in the U.S, Canada, Britain, France, Germany or other advanced nations.  But underdeveloped and impoverished nations suffer famine to this day.  Why?  Two primary reasons.  Improved crop yields.  And improved transportation.  The advanced nations have them.  The impoverished nations don’t.

Improved crop yields create food surpluses.  Key to civilization itself.  Food surpluses allowed a middle class to arise because everyone did not have to grow food.  Because of advances in farming fewer people could grow more food. Those who didn’t have to grow food could think about other things.  Including ways to further improve crop yields.  By creating better tools.  Better techniques.  Better food storage.  And when you do all of these things you not only have enough food for yourself and for your surplus you have enough to export.  To those who do not have enough food.  Even allowing people to live in areas that cannot produce food.  For they can trade for food.  Thanks to these surpluses available for export.

Food is so Plentiful and Inexpensive Today that the Problem in America is not Famine but Obesity

Early farms relied on the fertile soil of river banks.  The spring flooding of the rivers raised river levels.  When the water retreated it left behind fertile soil.  Eventually we learned how to take control of our water resources.  And used it to make fertile land away from river banks.  Using irrigation.  Bringing the water to the land.  Probably the next great development was the plow.  Which let us take control of the land.  We tilled the soil to aerate it.  To control weeds.  To mix in organic material.  Such as manure.  To prepare it for planting.  And we used irrigation to bring those crops to harvest. 

We then developed crop rotation to replenish nitrogen in the soil.  And to control pests.  Certain pests attack certain crops.  By rotating crops pest infestation couldn’t spread and return year after year.  Families of crops need certain nutrients.  Rotation prevents the depletion of any single nutrient.  Then we took control of the plants we grew.  By creating new plants.  Cultivars.  Using selective breeding to increase grain size, the number of grains per plant, improve disease resistance, etc. 

Then we turned to chemistry.  Creating fertilizers.  And pesticides.  These two advancements alone exploded crop yields.  Never before did so few grow so much with so little.  We maximized the agricultural potential of land year after year.  And then we mechanized the farm.  Introducing the tractor.  Allowing the same number of farmers to cultivate more land.  So not only did their existing lands yield more they added more high-yield lands to explode yields.  Creating huge food surpluses available for export.  And slashing the price of food across the board.  From the bread we make from wheat.  To corn-fed beef.  Food is so plentiful and inexpensive today that the problem in America is not famine but obesity.  Obesity is bad but it takes a lot longer to die from obesity than it does from famine.  And we enjoy all of those delicious things that are making us so fat.  While there’s nothing to enjoy when starving to death. 

We were able to Raise Crop Yields to such High Levels we have Food Available for Everyone in this World

As crop yields increased more food entered the market.  Good for people.  But bad for farmers.  Because they depressed crop prices.  Large farms that cultivated more land could still make a profit.  But the small farmer who didn’t cultivate more land just saw his revenue fall.  Until his revenue fell below his costs.  Leaving him unable to service the debt he incurred to mechanize his farm.  Causing bankruptcy.  Which happened a lot in the Thirties.  Causing all those bank runs during the Great Depression.

To fight this free fall in crop prices countries enacted tariffs and import restrictions.  The British Corn Laws kept out the less expensive foreign food so the landowning aristocracy could maximize their profits.  And when the British repealed the Corn Laws and adopted free trade everything the landowning aristocracy feared happen.  Food became inexpensive and plentiful.  In large part because of the United States.  Who was maximizing their crop yields.  And then using the railroad to ship their surpluses to the great rivers.  The Ohio.  The Missouri.  The Mississippi.  Where they loaded these surpluses onto steamships.  Where it traveled down the Mississippi to the Port of New Orleans.  Where they transferred it to ocean-going sail ships and steamers.  Bound for Europe.  And Britain.  Where this food fed hungry people.  And cut into the profits of the wealthy landowners.

But it wasn’t only in the United States.  Soon other great agricultural countries produced food surpluses that they shipped all over the world.  Winters still happen.  Droughts still happen.  But they don’t happen everywhere at the same time.  And because we were able to raise crop yields to such high levels we have food available for everyone in the world.  And truck, rail and ships can move that food anywhere it is needed.  Which is why we can drive to our favorite greasy diner or fast food restaurant during a blizzard on the coldest day of winter and enjoy a fresh glass of orange juice, coffee, eggs, hash browns and sausage.  No matter where you live.  As long as you live in a country that supports free trade.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mercantilism, Royal Navy, Napoleon, Pax Britannica, Corn Laws, David Ricardo, Comparative Advantage, European Union and NAFTA

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 22nd, 2012

History 101

Mercantilism gave Britain the Royal Navy which Ushered in the Pax Britannica

Great Britain had a rough go of it at the end of the 18th century.  They lost their American colonies in the American Revolutionary War.  A war that started over the issue of taxation to pay for the previous Seven Years’ War.  So instead of securing new revenue to pay down old debt they incurred new debt.  The French Revolution closed out the century.  Causing concern for some in Britain that their monarchy may be the next to fall.  It didn’t.  For the constitutional monarchy and representative government in Britain was a long cry from the absolute monarchy that they had in France.  So revolution did not come to Britain.  But war did.  As the French expanded their revolution into a European war.  Pulling the British back into war with their old enemy.

With a large conscripted French Army and the concept of total war France made total war.  Napoleon Bonaparte won a lot of battles.  Conquered much of Europe.  Even marched back and conquered Paris.  Proclaimed himself emperor of France.  And continued waging war.  Including an ill-conceived invasion of Russia.  Which marked the beginning of the end for Napoleon.  And the French Empire.  Weakened from war France saw her old nemesis, Great Britain, rise as the first superpower since the Roman Empire.  And like the Romans’ Pax Romana Britain entered a century of peace.  Pax Britannica.

The reason the British could do this was because of their mercantile past.  They set up colonies and international trade networks.  And they used the proceeds from that lucrative trade to finance the greatest naval power then in the world.  The Royal Navy.  And the Royal Navy would help keep the peace in the Pax Britannica.  She became the world’s policeman.  Making the world safe for trade.  Especially on the high seas.  But then something interesting happened.  She broke from her mercantile past.  Because they saw the shortcomings of mercantilism.  One of which produced wealthy landowners at the expense of a hungry population.

When the British repealed the Corn Laws in 1846 Food Prices fell and the Standard of Living Rose 

The British Corn Laws were a series of laws protecting those who grew cereal crops.  The stuff we grow that has edible grains.  Corn, rice, wheat, barley, etc.  What we call staple crops as they form the basic sustenance of humans everywhere.  We grow these in greater abundance than all other foods.  And when you look at the grain size you come to one realization.  It takes a lot of land to grow these crops.  And who owns large tracts of land?  The landowning aristocracy.  A small group of people with a lot of wealth.  And a lot of political influence.  Hence the Corn Laws. 

The Corn Laws were legislation with one goal.  To prevent the British people from buying less expensive food.  By either forbidding any importation of cheaper grains until the domestic price had reached a certain price level.  Or adding tariffs to the less expensive imports so the landowners could still sell their grains at higher prices.  Thus preserving their wealth.  And they made specious arguments about how lower-priced food was actually bad for the people.  For it was just a way for manufacturers to maximize their profits.  For if food was cheaper they could pay their workers less.  Being the greedy bastards that they were.  So the only fair thing to do was to keep food prices high.  To keep the living wage high.  To force manufacturers to pay their workers more.  You see, the only way to help the poor and middle class was to let the wealthy landowners become even wealthier.  By keeping the price of the food they sold high.

Opposition grew to the Corn Laws.  People studied the works of their fellow countrymen.  Adam Smith and David Hume (both Scottish).  And the Englishman David Ricardo.  All great economists and thinkers.  Who were all proponents of free trade.  Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage basically proved the case of free trade over the protectionism of mercantilism.  Eventually the political power of the landowners could not overcome the economic arguments.  Or a famine in Ireland.  And, in 1846, they repealed the Corn Laws and adopted free trade.  Food prices fell.  Leaving people with more disposable income.  To purchase the goods the Industrial Revolution was making.  Increasing their standard of living.  While small famers had to leave their farms being unable to farm efficiently enough to pay their bills at the prevailing prices.

The Success of NAFTA proves David Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage

Mercantilists and other opponents to free trade like to point at the human costs.  Small farmers losing their farm.  Just so they can preserve some semblance of privilege to protect the high prices in their industry.  But it was becoming more and more difficult to make the argument that the masses were better off paying higher prices.  Because they’re not.  Lower consumer prices increase the standard of living for everyone.  Higher living standards create healthier living conditions.  And reduces child mortality.   For the greatest killer of children in the world is poverty.

The British were both a military and an economic superpower during the 19th century.  But someone was chasing her.  The Untied States.  Who was feeling her economic oats.  Her economy would catch up and surpass the British.  Making it the mightiest economic power of all time.  How did this happen?  Two words.  Free trade.  The United States was the largest free trade zone in the world.  The economic advantages of all those states trading with each other freely across their state borders made Europe stand up and take notice.  And in response created treaties that ultimately led to the European Union and the Eurozone.  To replicate the large free trade zone of the United States.

Back across the Atlantic the Americans, Canadians and the Mexicans took it up a notch.  And created the North American Free Trade Agreement.  NAFTA.  Extending the free trade that existed in each of their countries across their international borders.  The mercantilist fought against this.  Because protectionism, restrictions and tariffs helped the privileged few protect the high prices in their industry.  In America they talked about a great sucking sound as all American jobs went to low-wage Mexico.  Some manufacturers did move to Mexico.  Primarily because like the small farmers in Britain after the repeal of the Corn Laws they could no longer sell at prices to meet all of their costs.  But it was not as the mercantilists predicted.  Yes, imports increased.  In 2010 they were up 235% from pre-NAFTA 1993.  But exports were up, too.  Some 190% for the same period.  Proving Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage.  By focusing on what we do best and trading for everything else all countries do better.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

« Previous Entries   Next Entries »