The following is a list of books I’m trying to get through from now until Fall (July-September) in order of current priority. Strike through text indicates the book has been read and likely blogged:
- Becoming A Manager by Linda A. Hill
- Human Action by Ludwig von Mises
- The Great Deformation by David A. Stockman
- The Entrepreneurial Mindset by Rita Gunter McGrath
- Civilization & Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, vol. 1, The Structure of Everyday Life by Fernand Braudel
- Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent
- The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden
- The Beginnings of Western Science by David C. Lindberg
- The Theory of Money and Credit by Ludwig von Mises
- An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method by Morris R. Cohen
- The Generalissimo by Jay Taylor
- The Mystery of Capital by Hernando de Soto
- Max Stirner: His Life and His Work by John Henry Mackay
- Asian Godfathers by Joe Studwell
Posted in Business, Economics, Philosophy
Tagged Asia, books, capitalism, child birth, China, civilization, credit, egoism, entrepreneurialism, fiscal policy, guanxi, history, logic, Ludwig von Mises, management, Max Stirner, monetary policy, money, Nathaniel Branden, politics, psychology, scientific method, self-esteem, self-improvement
Book Blogs are notes about books I’m reading, as I read them. They may or may not be followed up by wholesale reviews in traditional format.
The Great Deformation, by David A. Stockman published 2013 (buy on Amazon.com)
David Stockman was the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from 1981 through 1985 until he resigned in frustration from the Reagan White House. The desire to set the record straight on a failed political crusade (“The Reagan Revolution”) by a knight who feels betrayed by the politics of the crusade itself is strongly felt throughout Stockman’s polemical revisionism of the Reagan years and the regimes that set the stage for this period and whose stage was set in turn by Reagan’s failed policies.
In Part II, Stockman asserts that the Reagan defense budget process resulted in an unprecedented commitment to real top line growth that was arbitrary in calculation and resulted in almost no creation of additional anti-Soviet nuclear deterrent capability which was the stated need for the top line increase. Instead of getting more nuclear subs and nuclear-tipped ICBMs (which Stockman insists weren’t needed anyway), the Reagan spending was used to greenlight hundreds of billions of dollars worth of conventional military purchases on DoD shopping lists ranging from naval carrier groups to attack helicopters to tank fleets and front line soldiery. Not only was the supposed Soviet nuclear buildup non-existent due to the Soviet Union’s own decrepit economic system and ill envisaged forays into places like Afghanistan, but this conventional force build-up could do nothing to stop a Soviet nuclear first strike and in time proved to be good for nothing other than projecting American imperial might across the globe via conventional military conquest and occupation of targeted nations. The spending increase accomplished little more than to further exacerbate the problem of federal deficit finance and the future financial bubble of the late 90s and 2000s because the increase in spending was not offset with additional tax increases.
Stockman also challenges the idea that Reagan cut back on welfare entitlements. Stockman argues that he tried but then gave up under political pressure during the failed “Schweicker” gambit. This resulted in Republican acknowledgement that federal welfare entitlements such as the Social Security Administration were political sacred cows, committing the government to continued and growing structural deficits related to their funding and concluding in the short term with a Republican administration stewarding a thinly veiled payroll tax increase under the Greenspan solvency plan. Stockman suggests this was a critical political turning point for the Republican party which led them to shed their last fiscal conservancy feathers in favor of a more Keynesian stance of attempting to juice the economy through periodic tax cuts and business subsidies rather than by imposing fiscal rectitude on the government’s programs by cutting spending.
Now an obvious question at this point is, why didn’t all this spending and deficit finance create hyperinflation in the US as the Fed balance sheet tripled and bank credit expanded by an even greater multiple? Stockman’s answer is that when Nixon screwed the monetary pooch by deciding the freely float the US dollar, he ended up getting a free pass because the major trading partners of the US, especially in Asia (read: China and Japan) engaged in competitive currency devaluation to maintain their currency pegs. And the reason they did this is because their governments and local politics were dominated by mercantilist beliefs and export-oriented structures. Letting their currencies and interest rates rise against the US dollar would have caused painful adjustments to occur in home markets and industries that the various political regimes had no interest in making. The end result is that Nixon’s arbitrary gaming of the US economy via direct monetary manipulation in order to secure an economic boom as he approached reelection did cause problems and inflationary pressures at home (including unprecedented jumps in peacetime cost of living indexes and a commodity price boom) but it did not get completely off the rails because global central banks, guided by their home regimes, wouldn’t let it.
Again, Stockman argues that this was not only a short term economic disaster for the country, but it was also a long term political disaster because the fact that this happened under a Republican administration and was signed off on by the biggest “free market economists” of the day after the meeting with Nixon at Camp David meant that going forward there would be no real political or intellectual resistance to the agenda of perpetual deficit finance and continuous bubble-making in the economy that such a fiscal regime allows for.
Posted in Economics
Tagged Camp David, commodity bubble, David Stockman, fiat money, fiscal deficits, inflation, politics, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, sound money, warfare state, welfare state
“The councilman is coming! The councilman is coming!”
This comes courtesy of a Los Angeles, CA-based reader:
After the city destroyed our front strip while putting in a totally unnecessary crosswalk to appease the theater next door, it sat barren for multiple months, collecting trash and dog shit. But now that a city councilman is coming on Monday to dedicate the senseless crosswalk, the city has had a crew working non stop the past two days on beautifying it. Apparently one of the workers told Mr. G– that it couldn’t look that way for the councilman; somehow we mundanes survived living with it, though the suffering was no doubt immense.
Mr. G– adds:
Don’t forget they are taking down our no parking signs that have graffiti and then putting them back up after the douche bag leaves.
From “Remarks on the Stoics” by Allen Thornton (link):
Suppose that you were the only person in the universe. You could exist in the most perfect paradise without reflecting on your good fortune. You could suffer hunger, thirst, and pain and not complain about the “unfairness” of existence. Notions of good and evil, just and unjust, cannot exist unless there are other people and other lives. When we judge these matters, we usually look no further than our neighbors. Americans call people poor whose standard of living would be considered quite high in China. They take for granted luxuries that were unimaginable 200 years ago. A time may come when our descendants will consider our lives horribly brutal and short, but we do not complain so long as we live about as well as those we see frequently or know about.
It would be simple to understand the Stoics’ view of reality if we didn’t have to deal with other people. But people can steal from us, make demands on us, depend on us, and interact with us in thousands of ways. The question of our relations with other people is the most complicated one in any religion or philosophy. Epictetus explains how a Stoic can maintain his serenity in the face of obviously predatory people. He cites the case of a thief who steals your clothes. “Do not admire your clothes and then you will not be angry with the thief. Do not admire the beauty of your wife, and you will not be angry with the adulterer.” He reasons that the thief “does not know wherein man’s good consists, but he thinks that it consists in having fine clothes, the very thing which you also think.” The Stoic knows that a man’s good is in his will and character and not in anything external to him.
His logic is an example of a greater truth: Inequality leads to harmony; equality leads to conflict. We are constantly told that the opposite is true, but we should consider the relations between people. Trade and commerce depend on the fact that individuals place a different value on money. If the grocer didn’t value the bag of flour less than the customer, he wouldn’t sell it. Suppose the bag were worth a dollar to the grocer and a dollar to the customer; then the grocer would have no incentive to sell it. But the grocer values the bag at less than a dollar and so both the grocer and the customer can increase their wealth by the trade of one dollar for one bag of flour. Or suppose a rich man wants to hire a person for a job and two qualified applicants apply. The applicants are not in conflict with the rich man but with each other. Or suppose a man is in love with a beautiful woman. He is in harmony with other women and with homosexuals because they do not value the woman the way he does. Their feelings toward her are completely different from his. He feels the most hatred and ill-will toward another man who also loves the woman. Conflict is in direct proportion to equality. Of course, politics turns everything on its head. Groups of similar people with similar values combine to exert pressure to achieve political ends. But even in this case, the group is simply trying to obtain something from the government at the expense of other groups who want the same thing.
Posted in Economics, Philosophy
Tagged commerce, equality, ethics, fairness, inequality, libertarian philosophy, outside observations, politics, stoicism, subjective value theory, voluntary exchange
Just two days ago in a conversation with friends I used Russell Brand as an example of what might be described in common parlance as a “disgusting, worthless human being.” Of course, I don’t abide by such attempts at objective value judgments these days but nonetheless I wanted it to be clear that I didn’t think Brand’s… brand… met my needs in any meaningful way, and I was additionally suspicious of his ability to meet the needs of many others.
It’s worth reconsidering that point now. I value the reservation of my right to reconsider and change my mind on something and here is a wide avenue with which my foot could journey into my mouth. In other words, he still isn’t perfect as far as meeting my needs go, but this little consideration shows me maybe he’s a bit more of a right old chap in my eyes than I could first see (The Gaurdian):
Noel once expressed his disgust at seeing a politician at Glastonbury. “What are you doing here? This ain’t for you,” he’d said. He explained to me: “You used to know where you were with politicians in the 70s and 80s cos they all looked like nutters: Thatcher, Heseltine, Cyril Smith. Now they look normal, they’re more dangerous.” Then, with dreadful foreboding: “They move among us.” I agree with Noel. What are politicians doing at Glastonbury and the GQ awards? I feel guilty going, and I’m a comedian. Why are public officials, paid by us, turning up at events for fashion magazines? Well, the reason I was there was because I have a tour on and I was advised it would be good publicity. What are the politicians selling? How are they managing our perception of them with their attendance of these sequin-encrusted corporate balls?
We witness that there is a relationship between government, media and industry that is evident even at this most spurious and superficial level. These three institutions support one another. We know that however cool a media outlet may purport to be, their primary loyalty is to their corporate backers. We know also that you cannot criticise the corporate backers openly without censorship and subsequent manipulation of this information.
The long lead up to this revelation I find to be hysterical. The best comedy, such as that of George Carlin, typically offers such a treatment to deathly serious subjects such as the inanity of fascism.