Archive for September, 2009

I have some things to share with the 7 or so people who might read my website:

Why I am apolitical:

I’ve always stated that I am apolitical, neither democrat, nor republican, nor centrist, nor libertarian.  But I have strong ideas about politics and the role government can have in our lives…very strong ideas.

So as I watch the bailout of the financial system and the endless debate on healthcare reform everyone agrees in theory needs to happen…..I ask myself:  Why am I  not more political?  Here is why: because there is no substantive difference between the democrats and republicans.

We think of them at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, but they are not.  They argue loudly about small difference they make seem big while rarely addressing anything substantive.

I’ll use the example of the financial system bailout:  Both the republicans and democrats wanted to bailout the financial sector; they just argued about the amount (both amounts being very large) and how to spend the money.  The Republicans started the bailout and then the Democrats inherited it, and continued the same basic policy.  Neither party addressed why it happened in the first place; no one (except maybe Ron Paul) wanted to discuss the structural issues of a monetary system based on debt and a fiat money controlled by unelected officials making decisions behind closed doors (the Fed).  Neither party has addressed the “too big to fail” issue (not only that, but the big financial companies have used the bailout money to buy up the smaller companies that failed during the crisis; they’ve actually become bigger).

Here is another example:  9/11.  Both parties wanted retribution.  No party was brave enough to say:  ” 2993 died today in a terrorist attack.  6,744 people die a day on average everyday, so to put that in perspective, America is not under attack.  This was high profile and a great tragedy, but to upend our way of life, to start long costly (very costly) wars on foreign soil with unclear means of success in which more men and women will certainly die… restrict and lose, in the name of increased security, the very freedoms and civil liberties we would claim to go to war to protect…..this is not acceptable.  If this is our response to terrorism, then certainly we have already lost.”

This brings me to my next point.

Why Republicans want healthcare reform to fail:

I do not think the Republican’s opposition to healthcare reform is 100% genuine and in the interest of their constituents (even if you include the healthcare companies as their constituents). Republicans want healthcare reform to fail because if the Democrats pass the reform the people want, the Republicans may not see the inside of the White House or a majority in Congress for a generation.

The point, is that neither party has a genuine interest in doing what is best for us….they have an interest in getting re-elected.  They pass laws based on that and little else.  Democracy works because the two can definitely overlap; if you pass laws people want, you get re-elected…..but their are other ways to go about it as well:  money can also get you re-elected (so pander to companies); being less-bad than the alternative can also get you re-elected (just bash the other party and say great things about yourself).  In short, there are alternative ways to get re-elected.

This brings me to my next point.

Why I want to go back to school:

I’ve been kicking around the idea of going back to school to get a PhD in Economics.  In the long term, its a good life to be a college professor, and in the short term it would allow me to follow these ideas to their natural conclusion.


People are neither good nor bad; they act, en masse, according to the situation in which they find themselves.  Modify the incentives and you modify behavior.

I would like to study some form of behavioral economics that would allow me to construct a system of incentives to help people avoid all these situations.

The economic system in which we operate works together with government/law to create the set of incentives that control our lives.  I would like to draw lines in the sand, to establish some facts and some subtlety:

The free-market can fail to reach optimal outcomes. We must accept that these textbook perfect market conditions don’t exist in the real world, and even if they did they would still produce monopolies, corruption, inequality, price fixing, etc.

Economy doesn’t exist w/o government….therefore government has a role to play…not as a spender of money, but as a regulator, a system-maker.  We need to accept that the invisible hand of capitalism produces anxiety, inequality and pits us all against ourselves.  This produces crime, mistrust and ill-health.  We don’t want to live in a country like that.

GDP is a horrible measure; lets replace it:  It promotes over-consumption, doesn’t differentiate between types of spending, and you can’t subtract from it.  Here is an example:  The US has the largest economy in the world with a GDP of 12 trillion (per year).  I can turn the tiny nation of Uruguay (or any country for that matter) into the largest economy in the world:  Let them borrow 13 trillion dollars from someone and spend it all on rat poison next year.  They will be horribly in debt and have a country full of rat poison…..but they will have a 13 trillion dollar GDP.  You might be thinking “that’s not how it works, surely!?!?!”…..but oddly enough, it is.

Monetary policy is the basis of our society, because money controls/influences most of our actions.  Fiat money created by debt is the structural issue that has caused our current crisis, and yet few seem to understand that (so no one addresses it).  Money systems fail (and empires fail with them).  To create a lasting society, you have to create a lasting money.  Our current system is unsustainable; it allows the government to confiscate our wealth through inflation.  Taxes are cheap in comparison.

I would like to clarify these ideas, to write my own Das Kapital; furthermore to elaborate it using agent-based computer modeling so that it isn’t all theory, you could potentially model changes to law/monetary policy to see the potential effect.  It would be akin to what weather forecasters use; imprecise, but better than nothing.

What do you think?  Quit my job and go back to school or continue as is?

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Obi Wan said he felt a great disturbance in the force when Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star.  He was right; however, he was also a movie character and a Jedi bad-ass.  Real people can’t sense stuff like that, but they do occasionally get a feeling they haven’t felt in years, like Vader did when Obi Wan was on the Death Star.

I have wondered often what makes someone old; why do people grow up?  They obviously age physically, but what happens that makes them think about things as an adult.  There are advantages to being an adult, and some to being an eternal adolescent as well.

Today I was transported backwards about 15 years for a few minutes.

I sat there for a second and went…..”wow, so this is what it feels like to be young”.  Young is full of anxiety and anticipation.  It is uncertain.

Adulthood is more self-assured, less explosive, wiser.  I think wisdom is often just the realization that everything is dependent on time; the answer today is not always the answer tomorrow….and yet we must still have answers.

Adulthood is repetitive.  Youth hasn’t had time to be yet.

Youth creates your pains.  Adulthood is learning to live with them.

Youth dreams and dreams are quick.  Adults do things, and that takes a lot longer.

Youth is subsidized by adults.  Youth is not-sustainable for this reason.  Adults realize that nothing gets done unless they do it.  Youths are mistaken in the amount of effort it takes to make life happen.

Youth is beautiful and beauty is very powerful.  Adulthood realizes beauty is persuasive, but not always useful.

Youth burns.  Adults realize nothing burns completely.  Be careful what you burn.

Youth lives in a world of ideas, since they have little yet of life to fill their heads.  Adults live in a more concrete world, as reality tends to swamp idealism as the years stack up.

Adulthood is overly cautious.  Youth is rash as it doesn’t yet realize how fragile and precious life is.


The point is that today I felt young again for a second as something old was made current and I was transported backwards in time.  What an odd feeling…like it was happening to another person.

My distant past (before Atlanta and grad school, those years when I traveled, and before)……is so far removed from my present life that I remember it like a movie.  That person I was no longer exists.  But he did for a few minutes today.

I can’t say much was better about the former Elliott, except that he was younger, better looking, more full of himself, and had more hair….I guess not everything is better now 😉

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Hard work always wins.

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