Randoms

Jim has a great paragraph:

You are probably also familiar with Moldbug’s theory that when Stalin was running the US state department, the US state department was also running Stalin, that the various wars that the US was involved in were not only proxy wars with the Soviet Union, but were in large part proxy wars between the Pentagon and the State Department, wars in which the Pentagon’s contractors have frequently come very close to shooting State Department employees, and have with great regularity shot state department contractors, that the reason that the State Department was so comfortable with Stalin’s agents was that they believed, in part correctly, that Stalin was their agent, that the reason that the CIA was so reluctant to believe the Soviet Union was falling is the same reason that NASA was so reluctant to believe the Challenger Space Shuttle was about to explode.

He also has some thoughts on Japan’s solvency, which I disagree with. Japan is solvent, because when push comes to shove, the Japanese will tighten their belts, honor their obligations and endure whatever hardships are necessary to do so along the way.

Why isn’t this chart racist?

Progress in economics seems to consist entirely of suggesting that governments become more irresponsible. Maintaining balanced budgets, sound currencies and sustainable policies are now considered barbaric. How can this chain possible continue without destroying itself?

Aretae says that working for bosses sucks. As usual, he’s generalizing to a point of absurdity. Working for bad bosses sucks. But there’s not much better than a good boss. The former fact does not negate the latter.

Larison on books and libertarians. Interesting issue.

Handle is creating a list of contradictions among the leftist coalition – see if you have any to add.

Yglesias channels Steve Sailer by pointing out that poor people aren’t too poor to afford lots of stuff, they’re just too poor to afford to live far away from other poor people.

Jim Grant:

The "fiat" dollar, he adds ruefully, "is one of the world’s astounding monetary creations. That a currency of no intrinsic value is accepted as money the world over is an achievement that no monetary economist up until not so many decades ago could have imagined. It’ll be 40 years next month that the dollar has been purely faith-based. I don’t believe for a moment it’s destined to go on much longer. I think the existing monetary arrangements are so precarious, so ill-founded and so destructive of the economic activity they are supposed to support and nurture, that they will be replaced by something better."

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16 Responses to Randoms

  1. “Japan is solvent, because when push comes to shove, the Japanese will tighten their belts, honor their obligations and endure whatever hardships are necessary to do so along the way.”

    The zombie bankers should have honorably committed suicide in 1991. Japan, like the west, is suffering moral decay. Yesterday’s Samurai are today’s herbivores.

  2. Simon says:

    Japan doesn’t have a strong enough heritage to fall back on; it will continue its slide into irrelevance.

  3. samsonsjawbone says:

    Couldn’t disagree with you more, F. Working for *anyone* is inherently demeaning, degrading and not really okay at all.

    • Eumaios says:

      What if the boss is a type of Christ, Samson?

    • Foseti says:

      I think it’s totally backwards that people like teachers but don’t like bosses. A good boss is the best teacher you’ll ever have.

      • globalsteve@hotmail.com says:

        Great observation. Most people who work for themselves spent a good portion of their early years learning it from someone else. The world is too complex to have to re-invent everything, every generation.

    • rightsaidfred says:

      There is a bit of the casino problem here, where “good” bosses tend to lose out economically to “bad” bosses.

    • aretae says:

      And I wasn’t kidding, or exaggerating.

      Working for yourself is 10x better than working for the best boss imaginable on SO many different dimensions.

      Right now, I work for myself…turn down work if I don’t want to do it…opt to work (by my choice) 80 hours a week when I want cash, and opt to take a month off work when I don’t need cash. Entirely in my decision space. There is NO possible boss that is better than that. There’s no possible boss that can even pretend to compete with that. Having a boss SUCKS. All of them. All the time. Bad bosses are hideous. Great bosses are simply bad. No boss (but reality) is incredible.

      I had a very good boss when I was working for someone else. One of the best in the company, I think. And I got even better treatment as a superstar with extra skills. And it’s still incomparable to working for myself.

      The ONLY reason to work for someone else is because you (a) don’t like bearing risk yourself, or (b) for many skills, you can get paid better in a company than working for yourself. However, working for yourself is so better on so many dimensions, that just a higher pay rate isn’t usually worth it. Risk-aversion MIGHT make enough of a difference.

  4. bjk@km.com says:

    If I have a paper currency backed by gold and can go off the gold standard at any moment, isn’t that exactly the same thing as a paper currency? I think it is. If Jim Grant wants to put money on his “not much longer” prediction (is that months? next five years?), I would be glad to take his money.

  5. Handle says:

    1. Japan will be fine – though it’s true they have an enormous amount of domestically-held Yen-denominated debt, but that it expected to peak and unwind as the population continues to age and contract.

    As a factoid – the Yen is now at an all-time high vs. the dollar (up 56% in 4 years). A neighbor of mine who goes there at least annually is there now and says the prices of things in dollars is now nearly prohibitive for him. As a result, in current dollars, Japan’s economy has been growing at over 4% a year for a decade. (See this per-capita table from the IMF).

    That will eventually make their products less competitive and erode their trade surplus and bring it back into balance, but they have a giant $1 Trillion dollar reserve of US bonds (15% of GDP) to unwind to pay the bills for their old folks.

    Oil has seemed to rise rapidly in the US for the past few years, but it’s flat against the Yen – so the Japanese hardly notice.

    2. I don’t know if that chart’s racist or not, but I will say that I pity the fools in the lower-left corner.

    3. The boss thing is both a matter of taste and depth of experience. I’ve had both awful and awesome bosses, and the experiences are so different it makes commentary on “having a boss” in general seem absurd. One should also think of it from the boss’ perspective. I’ve also had awful and great subordinates, and, again, one could never say “Having subordinates is X in general” – the variance just completely overwhelms the mean. I mean, you could say, “Feeling pressured, trapped and financially compelled to remain in a socially-uncomfortable situation is an awful experience”, but that’s obvious. Though, isn’t that the same feminist argument for laws against sexual harassment and no-fault divorce with mandatory support?

    4. Larison, as almost always, is totally right (someone put him in charge of US foreign policy, please), except, like with abortion, it’s hard to see what could have been done about it because it’s untrumpable court interpretation of the Constitution. The line of Supreme Court cases that established the Amazon loophole is National Bellas Hess (1967), Complete Auto Transit (1977), and Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992). These are all silly and wrong, but what can you do about it? Libertarians and fellow-travelers should be appalled at what is clearly a distortionary and discriminatory rent-seeking scheme arising out of a government-rule-created opportunity for tax arbitrage.

    It’s also economically wasteful and inefficient. Amazon has to go to great lengths to optimally position their fulfillment distribution facilities in states where the sales-tax bite will be smallest but the shipping radius benefit is largest. It might lower costs and increase net social welfare if Amazon could put a warehouse in Illinois, but they won’t because of the sales tax rule, and so they’ll put it in Plainfield, Indiana instead. Consumers may think they’re getting a break, but their states will just tax them in other ways to make up for that lost money, and meanwhile, all their local retailers have gone belly-up, shrinking the tax base further. The whole thing is an awful mess, and it gets applause.

    • aretae says:

      There are bad commutes (light rail with screaming children), and good commutes (the quiet car with a good book). But compared to NO commute, they all suck badly. That’s the claim with respect to bosses. Bosses are like commutes…you could think you like the good commutes because they’re so much better than the bad ones…until you don’t have a commute at all, and you realize that commuting is itself a shitty deal….with some being exceptionally bad.

      • Handle says:

        This precise example just goes to illustrate how diverse people’s preferences are, and why it’s very difficult to make universal assertions about “what is best in life”.

        I once had a 5-minute “commute” which was from my home, on a little-used 3 mile, rolling-hills, stretch of road with no stops or lights and through some old growth forest, the other end of which deposited me right on the worksite.

        Now, I’m one of those people who prefers, and is much more productive, working from an office than from my home – so I prefer some commute to no commute. When I was at a desk at this site – this particular way to get to it was wonderful, with fresh cool winds, the shade of the trees, the sounds of nature, and that little bit of solitude as probably the only car around so I could take it all in. I looked forward to it everyday, and I miss it now, even though I’m not commuting. One day I hope to go back and commute that way again.

        Having a boss is like having a wife. When they are good, it’s great, when they are bad, it’s awful. (Having subordinates is a lot like having teenaged children, and the same rule applies). Now some people prefer to live alone or play the field, and not deal with kids, and so to them, the whole notion of family existence and being responsible for others is inferior to raw independence. Other people, like myself, love our family lives and the solitary life isn’t for us – and so the question for us is what makes that life best, and not whether we should have it at all or avoid it like the plague.

      • rightsaidfred says:

        We’ve always got a boss, even if it is a metaphorical one, such as the market.

        I’m bossless in the Aretae sense, but I still have to eat, fix the house, bath, etc. I’m a slave to these things. Free me, oh Libertarians!

      • Foseti says:

        I thought you were a fan of education. Everything that you’re saying of bosses could be said of teachers, except that no one forces you to go to work and bosses can be fired . . .

      • rightsaidfred says:

        The world has benefited materially from the hierarchical structure allowed by “bosses” and the division of labor. I suspect Aretae has benefited from such and wouldn’t really want to live in a world without bosses.

        Another example of Libertarians talking micro and thinking it applies macro.,

  6. jmanon says:

    On that chart, I wonder which way the arrow runs. If you’re well hung, you wouldn’t need to make as much $ to succed with the ladies

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