Vladimir Putin is running roughshod over International Law and the EU is addressing Coffee Makers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 19th, 2014

Week in Review

Vladimir Putin is running roughshod over international law.  He took Crimea.  And is threatening further parts of Ukraine.  Some think he will take Moldova next.  Or possibly one of the Baltic States.  And what is the European Union (EU) doing to protect democracy?  This (see EU lays down the law on coffee making by Edward Malnick posted 4/19/2014 on The Telegraph).

Filter coffee machines will have to turn off automatically to help save energy, under new European Union rules.

All of the devices on sale for domestic use from next year will be required to go into “standby mode” after brewing the drink, the Sun reported.

The European Commission said the changes would save money on electricity bills and were “supported by consumer and industry organisations” as well as member states including the UK.

However campaigners claimed the rules would leave many people with “cold coffee”…

Those machines with non-insulated jugs will have to go on standby after no more than 40 minutes.

Really?  Coffee makers?  That’s the threat to Europe?  Not Vladimir Putin running roughshod over international law.  I guess the EU has a different set of priorities.

All right, let’s look at the cost savings for the average EU consumer.  In America we typically brew a pot of coffee and let it sit on the warmer for maybe 2 hours.  After that it gets a little strong.  So let’s look at two hours.  Assuming a typical 600 watt heating element and an electrical cost of $0.15/kilowatt-hour the cost savings comes to $0.12.  If we brew a pot every morning that comes to a cost savings of $43.80 per year.  Of course, people will have to warm up their tepid coffee after the coffee maker automatically shuts down.  And the most likely way will be in a microwave oven for about 30 seconds.  You do this for three cups of coffee and you’re not going to consume much electric power.  But you’re going to put a lot of wear and tear on your microwave oven.  Which cost more than the $43.80 savings in electric power.  Not to mention the inconvenience of having to run your microwave when you want another cup of coffee.

You know what can keep that coffee warm without stressing your microwave oven?  The coffee maker.  For only $0.12 a day.  There are people that won’t stoop to pick up a coin if it’s less than a quarter.  So do you really think the people are going to appreciate paying more for a coffee maker (that now must include a timed shutoff mechanism) so they can go through microwave ovens quicker just to save $0.12 a day?  Probably not.

This is the problem with a nanny state.  Which the EU is.  The worst part is that these people are paid by taxes to come up with these brilliant ideas no one needs.  Something taxpayers may be more in need of is a way to stop the law-breaking ways of Vladimir Putin.  For Vladimir Putin probably poses a greater risk to Europe than coffee makers.

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Henry Ford, Bill Hewlett & Dave Packard, Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak, Howard Schultz, Ray Kroc and Richard Branson

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 25th, 2014

 History 101

(Originally published May 8th, 2012)

Capitalism allows Entrepreneurs to bring their Great Ideas to Life

Entrepreneurs start with an idea.  Of how to do something better.  Or to create something we must have that we don’t yet know about.  They think.  They create.  They have boundless creative energies.  And the economic system that best taps that energy is capitalism.  The efficient use of capital.  Using capital to make profits.  And then using those profits to make capital.  So these ideas of genius that flicker in someone’s head can take root.  And grow.  Creating jobs.  And taxable economic activity.  Creating wealth for investors and workers.  Improving the general economy.  Pulling us out of recessions.  Improving our standard of living.  And making the world a better place.  Because of an idea.  That capitalism brought to life.

Entrepreneurs Risked Capital to bring Great Things to Market and to Create Jobs

Henry Ford established the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899.  Which failed.  He reorganized it into the Henry Ford Company in 1901.  Ford had a fight with his financial backers.  And quit.  Taking the Ford name with him.  And $900.  The Henry Ford Company was renamed Cadillac and went on to great success.  Ford tried again and partnered with Alexander Malcomson.  After running short of funds they reorganized and incorporated Ford Motor Company in 1903 with 12 investors.  The company was successful.  Some internal friction and an unexpected death of the president put Ford in charge.  Ford Motor built the Model A, the Model K and the Model S.  Then came the Model T.  And the moving assembly line.  Mass production greatly increased the number of cars he could build.  But it was monotonous work for the assembly line worker.  Turnover was high.  So to keep good workers he doubled pay in 1914 and reduced the 9-hour shift to 8 hours.  This increased productivity and lowered the cost per Model T.  Allowing those who built the cars to buy what they built.  In 2011 the Ford Motor Company employed approximately 164,000 people worldwide.

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard established Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 1939.  In a garage.  They raised $538 in start-up capital.  In that garage they created their first successful commercial product.  A precision audio oscillator.  Used in electronic testing.  It was better and cheaper than the competition.  Walt Disney Productions bought this oscillator to certify Fantasound surround sound systems in theaters playing the Disney movie Fantasia.  From this garage HP grew and gave us calculators, desktop and laptop computers, inkjet and laser printers, all-in-one multifunction printer/scanner/faxes, digital cameras, etc.  In 2010 HP employed approximately 324,600 employees worldwide.  (Steve Wozniak was working for HP when he designed the Apple I.  Which he helped fund by selling his HP calculator.  Wozniak offered his design to HP.  They passed.)

Steve Jobs had an idea to sell a computer.  He convinced his friend since high school, Steve Wozniak, to join him.  They sold some of their things to raise some capital.  Jobs sold his Volkswagen van.  Wozniak sold his HP scientific calculator.  They raised about $1,300.  And formed Apple.  They created the Apple I home computer in 1976 in Steve Jobs’ garage.  From these humble beginnings Apple gave us the iPad, iPhone, iPod, iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro and iTunes.  In 2011 Apple had approximately 60,400 full time employees.

Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker opened the first Starbucks in 1971 in Seattle, Washington.  About 10 years later Howard Schultz drank his first cup of Starbucks coffee.  And he liked it.  Within a year he joined Starbucks.  Within another year while traveling in Italy he experienced the Italian coffeehouse.  He loved it.  And had an idea.  Bring the Italian coffeehouse to America.  A place to meet people in the community and converse.  Sort of like a bar.  Only where the people stayed sober.  Soon millions of people were enjoying these tasty and expensive coffee beverages at Starbucks throughout the world.  In 2011 Starbucks employed approximately 149,000 people.

Ray Kroc sold Prince Castle Multi-Mixer milk shakes mixers to a couple of brothers who owned a restaurant.  Who made hamburgers fast.  Richard and Maurice McDonald had implemented the Speedee Service System.  It was the dawn of fast food.  Kroc was impressed.  Facing tough competition in the mixer business he opened a McDonald’s franchise in 1955.  Bringing the grand total of McDonald’s restaurants to 9.  He would go on to buy out the McDonald brothers (some would say unscrupulously).  Today there are over 30,000 stores worldwide.  In 2010 McDonald’s employed approximately 400,000 people.

Richard Branson started a magazine at 16.  He then sold records out of a church crypt at discount prices.  The beginning of Virgin Records.  In 1971 he opened a record store.  He launched a record label in 1972.  And a recording studio.  Signing the Sex Pistols.  And Culture Club.  In 1984 he formed an airline.  Virgin Atlantic Airways.  In 1999 he went into the cellular phone business.  Virgin Mobile.  In 2004 he founded Virgin Galactic.  To enter the space tourism business.  His Virgin Group now totals some 400 companies.  And employs about 50,000 people.

The Decline of Capitalism and the Rise of the Welfare State caused the European Sovereign Debt Crisis

And we could go on.  For every big corporation out there will have a similar beginning.  Corporations that use capital efficiently.  Bringing great things to market.  Introducing us to new things.  Always making our lives better.  And more comfortable.  One thing you will not find is a great success story like this starting in the Soviet Union.  The People’s Republic of China (back in the days of Mao Zedong).  East Germany (before the Berlin Wall fell).  North Korea.  Or Cuba.  No.  The command economies of communist countries basically froze in time.  Where there was no innovation.  No ideas brought to life.  Because the government kind of frowned on that sort of thing.

There is a reason why the West won the Cold War.  And why we won that war without the Warsaw Pack and NATO forces fighting World War III.  And why was this?  Because we didn’t need to.  For the communist world simply could not withstand the forces of living well in the West.  Whenever they could their people escaped to the West.  To escape their nasty, short and brutish lives.  In the command economies of their communist states.  Where the state planners failed to provide for their people.  Even failing to feed their people.  The Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and North Korea all suffered population reducing famines.  But not in the West.  Where we are not only well fed.  But our poor suffer from obesity.  Which is not a good thing.  But it sure beats dying in a famine.

Sadly, though, the West is moving towards the state planning of their one time communist foes.  Social democracies are pushing nations in the European Union to bankruptcy.  Japan’s generous welfare state is about to implode as an aging population begins to retire.  Even in the United States there has been a growth of government into the private sector economy like never before.  Which is causing the Great Recession to linger on.  As it caused Japan’s lost decade to become two decades.  And counting.  As it is prolonging the European sovereign debt crisis.  With no end in sight.  The cause of all their problems?  The decline of capitalism.  And the rise of the welfare state.  Which just kills the entrepreneurial spirit.  And the creation of jobs.  Which is one cure for all that ails these countries.  And the only one.  For only robust economic activity can pull a country out of recession.  And for that you need new jobs.  And the entrepreneurial spirit.  In short, you need capitalism.

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The Nanny State wants to know what we’re Doing in our Bathrooms

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 2nd, 2013

Week in Review

The American left is hell-bent on forcing national health care onto the American people.  Just like the European social democracies have.  Why?  Power.  They want to micromanage people’s lives.  Just as the European socialists want to do.  Because they are so much smarter than we are.  And know what’s best for us.  But it’s a slippery slope.  Today it’s our health care.  Tomorrow it may be our poop (see The Euro-flush: European Union to standardize toilets’ flush, set maximum volume of six litres by Bruno Waterfield, The Telegraph, posted 10/30/2013 on the National Post).

The European Union will unveil rules next week to standardize the flush on toilets, despite the admission that there are “very significant variations” on flushing habits across Europe “including cultural aspects…”

The EU standard follows almost three years of work by civil servants and difficulties in the workability of a one-size-fits-all rule for drains that vary greatly across the continent.

Do we really want people running our health care system that spent almost three years studying the optimum amount of water needed to flush poop?  What’s next?  Regulations defining the maximum permissible amount of toilet paper squares for wiping per defecation?  It sounds silly.  But you know there is a liberal somewhere thinking about it.  Sheryl Crow thought about it enough to make a joke about it.

Crow has suggested using “only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required”.

So it’s coming if we keep sliding down this slippery slope.  The potty police.  Once they dictate the amount of water we may use to flush with they’ll be mandating a new toilet paper dispenser that will issue only one square per poop.  Perhaps with an Internet connection to the IRS for enforcement.  A subdivision of the Obamacare taskforce.  Whose motto will be ‘one poop one square’.  And woe to anyone who dares use a second square.  For they will feel the full wrath of the IRS.

Low-flow toilets are a top priority for the nanny state.  To save the environment.  By reducing our use of water.  But the solution of one problem leads to a new problem.  One of the unintended consequences liberals are so well known for.  Low-flow toilets use more water.  Because of multiple flushes.  For sometimes one flush just isn’t enough.  So what then?  A new toilet.  Perhaps one that that only allows three flushes per person per home.  One flush not enough?  Too bad.  Unless you can get someone else to give up one of their flushes. Or you want to pee in the backyard to save your flushes to keep your house from smelling like a backed-up toilet in a filthy public restroom.  You know there is a liberal somewhere thinking about this.  For they are studying the optimum amount of water needed to flush poop in the European Union.  And everything the European socialists do American liberals want to do, too.

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The Problems in the Eurozone may Influence Scottish Voters in their Independence Referendum

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 27th, 2013

Week in Review

During the Roaring Twenties the American economy was giving the economies of Europe a run for their money.  The Europeans, accustomed to running the world for so long, looked at the economic prowess of America with concern.  And began to talk about a United States of Europe to compete with the economic juggernaut across the pond.  But when Calvin Coolidge chose not to run for a second term the progressives got back into power.  And Herbert Hoover put an end to that surging economy.  Causing a stock market crash.  And throwing the country into recession.  Which FDR turned into the Great Depression.

So there was no United States of Europe.  But there would be a European Union one day.  And after that, a currency union.  The Eurozone.  To compete against the economic prowess of the United States.  But a currency union without a political union.  Without a single fiscal and monetary policy to support that currency union.  Which turned out to be a problem.  For without that political union the currency union was only as strong as its weakest state.  In the Eurozone that state was Greece.  Whose unrestrained government spending caused a debt crisis that threatened to bring down the entire Eurozone.  Unless the other members stepped in to bail out Greece.  Which they have.  But the crisis hasn’t gone away.  For the central governing authorities can only ask Greece to cut their spending.  Which there is a lot of opposition to in Greece.  Putting a lot of pressure on the Euro.

Greece isn’t the only problem.  There was Ireland.  Spain.  Portugal.  And Cyprus.  All sovereign nations.  Sharing a common currency.  Making it all but impossible to maintain a uniform fiscal policy throughout the Eurozone.  Like they can in the United States.  Because the United States of America is a political union.  With one central government.  One central fiscal authority.  And one central monetary authority.  Making it hard for any one state to undermine the currency.  (Though California is making a valiant effort.)  Which is the problem they’re having in the Eurozone.  Many of the states are threatening to undermine the common currency.  Making a very strong case against future currency unions without a political union.  Which is something they are considering with an upcoming referendum on Scottish independence (see UK says “no clear reason” to let independent Scotland use the pound by David Milliken posted 4/23/2013 on Reuters UK).

The euro zone’s experience of countries sharing a currency but not a government shows there is no clear case for an independent Scotland to use the pound, the Treasury said on Tuesday.

The nation of 5 million will hold a referendum on September 18 next year to decide whether to split from the United Kingdom, at the instigation of the Scottish National Party that runs the country’s devolved government.

Pro-independence campaigners want Scotland to keep sterling, at least in the early years of independence, and then to decide later whether to switch to its own currency.

But in a report on Tuesday, the Treasury said there was no clear case for the United Kingdom to agree to a formal currency union with an independent Scotland, which would have an economy of a similar size to New Zealand’s…

“The recent experience of the euro area has shown that it is extremely challenging to sustain a successful formal currency union without close fiscal integration and common arrangements for the resolution of banking sector difficulties,” it added.

Scotland and England have a long history.  Not all of it good.  But if we’ve learned anything from history it is that large economic blocs do better than smaller counties.  As the United States demonstrated.  And as the Eurozone tried to duplicate with their currency union.  But as that experiment showed us a currency union without a political union is a recipe for disaster.  If Scotland breaks from the United Kingdom they will have to go all of the way.  And leave sterling.  Which will make independence more difficult.  Having to set up a new currency with everything else they will have to do.  (Such as dealing with separating their military forces from the UK’s.  And providing for their own defense.  Or forming a military union with the UK.  Which will tie them closely to the UK.  Something many Scots no doubt will consider before voting in the referendum.)

Of course if they do and they devalue their new currency it would make their exports cheaper to those nations with a stronger currency.  But that weak currency will make anything they import more expensive.  As Scotland exports and imports a lot of stuff they won’t get a clear advantage in devaluing their new currency.  So they may peg their new currency to sterling.  The next best thing to keeping sterling.  Which will tie them closely to the UK.  Something many Scots no doubt will consider before voting in the referendum.  Perhaps choosing to stay in the UK.  As Quebec chose to stay in Canada in their past referendum.  Who had less in common with the rest of Canada than the Scots have with the UK.  For they don’t even speak the same language.

They could join the Eurozone.  But recent events in the Eurozone does not make that option as appealing as setting up a new currency.  Or staying a part of the UK.  It would probably be best for the rest of the world if Scotland remained part of the UK.  For the world will need at least one strong reserve currency.  As the Euro is making itself less attractive by the day.  The U.S. dollar may hit the wall soon with the amount of debt the Americans are racking up.  And the Chinese are likely to go the way of Japan before the decade is out.  And have their own Lost Decade with all their malinvestments.  The ultimate cause in the fall of state-capitalism.

Now the UK has its problems.  But their decision to stay out of the Eurozone was clearly sound as a pound.  And pound sterling may grow even more attractive as a reserve currency as these other countries continue to rely on easy credit and debt to pay for their burgeoning welfare states.  And/or their malinvestments.  But one thing the UK is doing that none of these other bloated states are doing is making real cuts in spending.  Even in their venerated NHS.  Giving the UK the edge in responsible governing these days.  And really making a strong argument against Scottish independence at this time.  Even for those who hate England.  For it is better to deal with the devil you know than the devil you don’t.  Especially during uncertain times.

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The EU will have to find another way to Confiscate Private Sector Wealth because the ETS is Kaput

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 20th, 2013

Week in Review

The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was the European Union’s (EU’s) way of combating global warming.  By making carbon emitters pay for their carbon emissions.  But Europe is mired in recession.  And the Eurozone is suffering a sovereign debt crisis.  Which hasn’t helped to pull Europe out of recession.  And it appears that the economic reality in Europe is dooming the ETS (see If Carbon Markets Can’t Work in Europe, Can They Work Anywhere? by Bryan Walsh posted 4/17/2013 on Time).

But the ETS—and carbon trading more generally—is not doing well, and its problems are taking some of the green shine off of Europe. Since its launch the ETS has struggled, with the price of carbon falling as the 2008 recession and overly generous carbon allowances undercut the market. In the ETS business are given free allowances to emit carbon—too many free allowances mean they don’t need to reduce their carbon emissions much, which erodes the demand for additional carbon allowances on the market and causes the price to drop. Prices fell from 25 euros a ton in 2008 to just 5 euros a ton in February. There was a way to fix this—take 900 million tons of carbon allowances off the market now and reintroduce them in five years time, when policymakers hoped the economy would be stronger and demand would be greater. As anyone who’s taken Econ 101 would know, artificially reducing the supply of carbon allowances in such a drastic way—something called “backloading”— should force the price back up.

But on April 16, the European Parliament surprised observers by voting down the backloading plan. In turn, the European carbon market collapsed, with the price of a carbon allowance falling by more than 40% over the day. “We have reached the stage where the EU ETS has ceased to be an effective environmental policy,” Anthony Hobley, the head of climate change practice at the London law firm Norton Rose, told the New York Times. The ETS is a mess.

Backloading failed because even in very green Europe, economic concerns seemed to trump environmental ones. European Parliamentary members worried that any action that would cause the price of carbon to rise would add to European industry’s already high energy costs.

This should make China happy.  For there was no way no how they were going to pay for the carbon emissions from their airplanes entering European airspace.  In fact they warned they would cancel their Airbus orders and give them to Boeing if the Europeans tried to force them to help bail out the Eurozone in their sovereign debt crisis.  For this was what the ETS would ultimately do.  Transfer great amounts of wealth from the private sector to the public sector.  Which would have gone a long way in helping the Eurozone to continue to spend money they don’t have.

The ETS was nothing but a new tax on business.  Cloaked in the guise of making the world a better—and greener—place.  But the EU is suffering economically.  A large part of the sovereign debt crisis is due to having less economic activity to tax.  So the EU needs to improve the economy.  So they can generate more tax revenue from the current tax rates.  But increasing taxes on the carbon emitters will not help businesses.  It will only increase the cost of business.  Increasing their prices.  Making them less competitive in the market place.  Reducing their sales.  And killing jobs.  Which will generate even less tax revenue from the current tax rates.

The problem in the EU is not global warming.  Or insufficient tax revenue.  They have a spending problem.  This is what caused their deficits.  That gave them their soaring debt.  Just like every other nation that ever suffered a debt crisis.  Including the U.S.  Trying to fix a spending problem with more taxes just doesn’t work.  Only a cut in spending can fix a spending problem.  It’s not like the old chicken and egg question.  Excessive and unsustainable spending always comes before a debt crisis.  Always.

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China to Punish Airbus and EU Airlines if the European Union Proceeds with their Emission Trading System

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2012

Week in Review

Fighting global warming is one thing.  But hurting aircraft sales is another.  Which will happen if the EU goes ahead with their Emission Trading System.  So Airbus is begging the EU not to ruin the aviation industry (see Airbus ministers seek EU CO2 plan delay: Hintze by Maria Sheahan and Victoria Bryan posted 9/14/2012 on Reuters).

Aerospace officials of the European countries where Airbus (EAD.PA) makes its planes will push for a suspension of the European Union’s Emission Trading System (ETS) for airlines to avert retaliation from China, an official said on Tuesday…

Michael Fallon, new business minister in Britain, said at the ILA Berlin Air Show on Tuesday: “Airbus has left us with no doubt that the threat of retaliatory action is a clear and present danger to its order list.”

There is harsh opposition to the ETS from European air travel companies and countries outside the EU such as the United States, Australia and Brazil that have said they want a global agreement to curb carbon emissions rather than a European law that extends to non-EU companies.

Which is a nice way of saying they should scrap the whole ETS.  But if they said that the environmentalists would say they hate the planet.  That they’re global warming deniers.  And that they, of course, hate children.   So by saying we should have a global system instead of just a European one sounds like they believe in global warming.  While at the same time knowing there will never be a global system because the world can’t agree on anything.  And that China is not going to fall for any of this nonsense.  Because they play hardball.

China has threatened retaliation – including impounding European aircraft – if the European Union punishes Chinese airlines for not complying with its emissions trading scheme (ETS), intended to curb pollution.

The dispute between China and the EU froze deals worth up to $14 billion, though China signed an agreement with Germany for 50 Airbus planes worth over $4 billion during Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Beijing last month.

If the dispute is not resolved, Airbus will have to cut its production target for the A330 “pretty soon”, Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier said late on Monday.

Cancel billion dollar orders AND impound European aircraft?  That’s right.  The Chinese don’t take crap from anyone.  Especially from a bunch of whiny global warming alarmists.  Airlines everywhere are thanking China (behind closed doors, of course) for playing the heavy here.  So they can act like they really want to do what is right for the planet.  Without losing billions in business.

The airline industry has said the ETS distorts competition, forcing European carriers to pay more simply because of the fact they are based in the EU.

“We feel we are being discriminated against,” Hintze said. “We demand a global solution from an industrial policy point of view because we could otherwise put ourselves at a disadvantage in major markets…”

Airbus sales chief John Leahy suggested at a separate news conference on Tuesday that one possible solution could be that all airlines around the world pay a tax to ICAO for carbon emissions, regardless of where they are based.

The ETS is nothing but a way to generate revenue for a cash-strapped European Union.  For what will they do with the money they raise from their ETS?  Pretty much anything they want.  And one of the things they most desperately want is to close their budget deficits.  And the EU thought they had a real winner in the ETS.  Collect money from EU members.  And collect money from non-EU members.  Effectively transferring some EU costs onto nations outside of the EU.  It was perfect.  Except for one thing.  It required other countries to voluntarily pick up the tab for some EU spending.  And some are choosing not to no matter how worthy the cause.

A global carbon tax payable to the ICAO?  The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization?  And what, pray tell, will the UN do with that money?  Spend it on grants to green manufacturers to see if they can make jet fuel out of sea weed?  The aircraft manufacturers are doing everything they can to reduce jet fuel consumption because a plane that burns less fuel is a plane that sells better.  They don’t need a grant to do that.  Planes are carrying and burning less fuel per passenger mile than they ever have.  And they still have an incentive to reduce that even more.  Without any grants from the UN to improve fuel efficiency.

As countries around the world are suffering through economic problems the last thing they need is a new tax.  If anything they need a tax cut.  So the ETS should be the last thing we should be doing.  The earth will get by just fine without it.  In fact, it might even do better.  For the rise in global temperatures interestingly correspond to the time we began to fight global warming.  Back in the days when industry, trains and home furnaces belched coal smoke, soot and ash into the air we didn’t have a global warming problem.  Our cities were covered with coal smoke, soot and ash but the temperatures were just fine.  Perhaps a little more of the same would reverse this warming trend.  Say, encouraging our airplanes to burn a dirtier fuel so they put more emissions into the atmosphere that can block those warming rays from reaching the earth’s surface.  It works with volcanoes.  Perhaps it’ll work with manmade emissions, too.

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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.

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Henry Ford, Bill Hewlett & Dave Packard, Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak, Howard Schultz, Ray Kroc and Richard Branson

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 8th, 2012

History 101

Capitalism allows Entrepreneurs to bring their Great Ideas to Life

Entrepreneurs start with an idea.  Of how to do something better.  Or to create something we must have that we don’t yet know about.  They think.  They create.  They have boundless creative energies.  And the economic system that best taps that energy is capitalism.  The efficient use of capital.  Using capital to make profits.  And then using those profits to make capital.  So these ideas of genius that flicker in someone’s head can take root.  And grow.  Creating jobs.  And taxable economic activity.  Creating wealth for investors and workers.  Improving the general economy.  Pulling us out of recessions.  Improving our standard of living.  And making the world a better place.  Because of an idea.  That capitalism brought to life.

Entrepreneurs Risked Capital to bring Great Things to Market and to Create Jobs

Henry Ford established the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899.  Which failed.  He reorganized it into the Henry Ford Company in 1901.  Ford had a fight with his financial backers.  And quit.  Taking the Ford name with him.  And $900.  The Henry Ford Company was renamed Cadillac and went on to great success.  Ford tried again and partnered with Alexander Malcomson.  After running short of funds they reorganized and incorporated Ford Motor Company in 1903 with 12 investors.  The company was successful.  Some internal friction and an unexpected death of the president put Ford in charge.  Ford Motor built the Model A, the Model K and the Model S.  Then came the Model T.  And the moving assembly line.  Mass production greatly increased the number of cars he could build.  But it was monotonous work for the assembly line worker.  Turnover was high.  So to keep good workers he doubled pay in 1914 and reduced the 9-hour shift to 8 hours.  This increased productivity and lowered the cost per Model T.  Allowing those who built the cars to buy what they built.  In 2011 the Ford Motor Company employed approximately 164,000 people worldwide.

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard established Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 1939.  In a garage.  They raised $538 in start-up capital.  In that garage they created their first successful commercial product.  A precision audio oscillator.  Used in electronic testing.  It was better and cheaper than the competition.  Walt Disney Productions bought this oscillator to certify Fantasound surround sound systems in theaters playing the Disney movie Fantasia.  From this garage HP grew and gave us calculators, desktop and laptop computers, inkjet and laser printers, all-in-one multifunction printer/scanner/faxes, digital cameras, etc.  In 2010 HP employed approximately 324,600 employees worldwide.  (Steve Wozniak was working for HP when he designed the Apple I.  Which he helped fund by selling his HP calculator.  Wozniak offered his design to HP.  They passed.)

Steve Jobs had an idea to sell a computer.  He convinced his friend since high school, Steve Wozniak, to join him.  They sold some of their things to raise some capital.  Jobs sold his Volkswagen van.  Wozniak sold his HP scientific calculator.  They raised about $1,300.  And formed Apple.  They created the Apple I home computer in 1976 in Steve Jobs’ garage.  From these humble beginnings Apple gave us the iPad, iPhone, iPod, iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro and iTunes.  In 2011 Apple had approximately 60,400 full time employees.

Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl, and Gordon Bowker opened the first Starbucks in 1971 in Seattle, Washington.  About 10 years later Howard Schultz drank his first cup of Starbucks coffee.  And he liked it.  Within a year he joined Starbucks.  Within another year while traveling in Italy he experienced the Italian coffeehouse.  He loved it.  And had an idea.  Bring the Italian coffeehouse to America.  A place to meet people in the community and converse.  Sort of like a bar.  Only where the people stayed sober.  Soon millions of people were enjoying these tasty and expensive coffee beverages at Starbucks throughout the world.  In 2011 Starbucks employed approximately 149,000 people.

Ray Kroc sold Prince Castle Multi-Mixer milk shakes mixers to a couple of brothers who owned a restaurant.  Who made hamburgers fast.  Richard and Maurice McDonald had implemented the Speedee Service System.  It was the dawn of fast food.  Kroc was impressed.  Facing tough competition in the mixer business he opened a McDonald’s franchise in 1955.  Bringing the grand total of McDonald’s restaurants to 9.  He would go on to buy out the McDonald brothers (some would say unscrupulously).  Today there are over 30,000 stores worldwide.  In 2010 McDonald’s employed approximately 400,000 people.

Richard Branson started a magazine at 16.  He then sold records out of a church crypt at discount prices.  The beginning of Virgin Records.  In 1971 he opened a record store.  He launched a record label in 1972.  And a recording studio.  Signing the Sex Pistols.  And Culture Club.  In 1984 he formed an airline.  Virgin Atlantic Airways.  In 1999 he went into the cellular phone business.  Virgin Mobile.  In 2004 he founded Virgin Galactic.  To enter the space tourism business.  His Virgin Group now totals some 400 companies.  And employs about 50,000 people.

The Decline of Capitalism and the Rise of the Welfare State caused the European Sovereign Debt Crisis

And we could go on.  For every big corporation out there will have a similar beginning.  Corporations that use capital efficiently.  Bringing great things to market.  Introducing us to new things.  Always making our lives better.  And more comfortable.  One thing you will not find is a great success story like this starting in the Soviet Union.  The People’s Republic of China (back in the days of Mao Zedong).  East Germany (before the Berlin Wall fell).  North Korea.  Or Cuba.  No.  The command economies of communist countries basically froze in time.  Where there was no innovation.  No ideas brought to life.  Because the government kind of frowned on that sort of thing.

There is a reason why the West won the Cold War.  And why we won that war without the Warsaw Pack and NATO forces fighting World War III.  And why was this?  Because we didn’t need to.  For the communist world simply could not withstand the forces of living well in the West.  Whenever they could their people escaped to the West.  To escape their nasty, short and brutish lives.  In the command economies of their communist states.  Where the state planners failed to provide for their people.  Even failing to feed their people.  The Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and North Korea all suffered population reducing famines.  But not in the West.  Where we are not only well fed.  But our poor suffer from obesity.  Which is not a good thing.  But it sure beats dying in a famine.

Sadly, though, the West is moving towards the state planning of their one time communist foes.  Social democracies are pushing nations in the European Union to bankruptcy.  Japan’s generous welfare state is about to implode as an aging population begins to retire.  Even in the United States there has been a growth of government into the private sector economy like never before.  Which is causing the Great Recession to linger on.  As it caused Japan’s lost decade to become two decades.  And counting.  As it is prolonging the European sovereign debt crisis.  With no end in sight.  The cause of all their problems?  The decline of capitalism.  And the rise of the welfare state.  Which just kills the entrepreneurial spirit.  And the creation of jobs.  Which is one cure for all that ails these countries.  And the only one.  For only robust economic activity can pull a country out of recession.  And for that you need new jobs.  And the entrepreneurial spirit.  In short, you need capitalism.

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The Europeans try to Shake Down the World with their Emission Trading Scheme but China, Russia, India and the US fight Back

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 18th, 2012

Week in Review

The European Union thought that they had struck gold.  Their little Emission Trading Scheme.  Which would force foreign governments to fund a large portion of their chronic budget deficits.  By forcing them to buy permits to emit carbon in their airspace.  As well as other nations ‘ airspace.  Even in airspace over the high seas.  A bold scheme their Emission Trading Scheme.  Though not strictly legal.  And requiring a submissive airline industry that has no problem saying “make me your bitch” to the Europeans.   Which doesn’t look to be the case (see U.S. sides with China against airlines emissions tax by Tim Devaney posted 3/15/2012 on The Washington Times).

The European Union’s plan to impose a tax on international airlines for their carbon emissions has run into fierce head winds, with the Obama administration joining China, India and other powers in a growing global drive to force the EU to back down…

“It’s a tricky one: Fight a trade war with the entire world, or back down,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Virginia-based Teal Group. “I’m thinking they’re going to back down.”

China is one of the biggest opponents of the plan, which would tax airlines for their carbon outputs for flights to or from Europe. The controversial part of the tax, which has drawn complaints that the fee is illegal under international trade law, is that it is assessed based on the entirety of the flight distance, not just the part spent over European airspace.

Hitting back at Europe where it counts, China has canceled plans to purchase 55 jets worth $14 billion from Airbus.

On Thursday, it suspended a purchase of 10 Airbus A330s, a move made just days after Airbus complained to European politicians about China having put off buying 10 A380 superjumbos and 35 A330s.

China and Russia have said their airlines will not comply with the emissions charge, which could keep their carriers from traveling to Europe altogether. Congress has considered a similar measure.

At a meeting last month in Moscow, almost 30 countries adopted a resolution threatening Europe with eight forms of retaliation they would consider if the charge is not scrapped. Among those measures are bringing legal cases before international trade forums, not granting European carriers landing rights and routes, and new levies against EU national airlines…

Airlines aren’t necessarily opposed to paying for their emissions in European airspace, which is unquestionably under EU jurisdiction, but chafe at being charged for emissions over other parts of the world. For example, European airspace takes up only 9 percent of a flight from San Francisco to London, according to Airlines for America. The rest is over the U.S., Canada and the high seas, but airlines would be charged for the entire 5,371-mile trip.

Money talks and a silly Emission Trading Scheme walks.  Or soon will.  Unless the Europeans want to take on the whole world.  Plunging the international economy into a trade war.  Could they be so arrogant?  Well that’s a silly question.  Of course they can be.  But will they put their silly environmentalism where their economies are?  And do they think the world is so ignorant not to see that this is just a way to get others to pay for their chronic budget deficits?  The world is betting they’re not.  And will back down.  Which they’d be wise to do.  For if they thought they had deficit problems before an international trade war directed at them they ain’t seen nothing yet.

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The Europeans move forward with Carbon Taxes and Costly Carbon Dioxide Capture Facilities

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 25th, 2012

Week in Review

To save the climate the DECC plans to kill the trees.  And economies (see Government files plans to build carbon capture plants by Karolin Schaps and Gerard Wynn posted 2/24/2012 on Reuters).

Calling for proposals for a wide range of engineering projects for CCS, including construction of a power plant, gas storage and pipelines, the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) notice of contract was published in the European Union’s official journal.

“DECC’s current intention is for the projects to start demonstrating the carbon dioxide capture, transport and storage by 2016-2020,” the document said.

Interestingly, carbon dioxide (CO2) is what makes the trees grow.  And pretty much anything green that grows.  So as they pull this CO2 out of the atmosphere the trees will have less CO2 to breathe than they have now.  Poor trees.  Even the people that are supposedly trying to protect them are killing them.

The government cancelled plans to fund a CCS demonstration project in October as costs spiralled higher than expected, leaving CCS developers concerned about where the 1 billion pounds ($1.59 billion) set aside by the government for a CCS pilot project would end up…

The European Union plans to raise money soon through the sale of 300 million carbon permits called EU Allowances (EUAs) to fund CCS or renewable energy projects through its New Entrant Reserve 300 (NER300) programme…

DECC also said in the notice document that it expected CCS projects could be built without government support from the early 2020s onwards as its power market reform proposals to reward low-carbon electricity production will allow CCS to compete with other technologies. ($1 = 0.6306 British pounds).

First the government will support them by taxing everyone.  Then the market will fund these by taxing businesses (by making them buy carbon permits allowing them to emit carbon which will be nothing more than carbon taxes).  And raising prices for everyone that buys from these businesses.  But will this happen in China?  India?  Brazil?  Or any of the other export countries?  Probably not.  Meaning their trees won’t be the only thing they’ll be killing.  They’ll be killing their economies, too.

So if they’re going to kill their trees and their economies why are they doing it?  I refer you to the European sovereign debt crisis.  These governments need lots of money to support their burgeoning social democracies.  And they can’t see anything beyond these new taxes they hope to collect.  And I say ‘hope’ because the resulting fall in economic activity from these new taxes will decline tax revenue overall.  Giving them nowhere near what they hope to collect in the end.

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