Sunday, July 31, 2022

I'll Catch Ya Later

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  

Glossary 

Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device 

"I shall return." -Douglas MacArthur


Dear Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

I'm spending the summer in a cabin on a beautiful lake somewhere in the Swiss Alps, working on my memoirs, and trying to decide if this column will resume post-Labor Day. The market has found me wanting; I'm buying most of my own coffee just now. So be it, I remain an unrepentant supporter of capitalism. 

My big brother Eddie is currently my only financial patron so I'm starting to feel like Van Gogh... without the world-class talent, but with both ears. I'm also considering publishing only when the spirit moves me. Cranking out columns week after week, while enjoyable, is hard work — well, intellectually speaking — at least for me. 

{It sure ain't roofing or the like you whiney b...}

In the meantime, I'll be republishing mostly gently (but occasionally heavily) edited columns with updated statistics and fun facts in [brackets].


Aw, the hell with it.

This column is supposed to be The History of the World Vol. 6, part of a multi-column series originally published in 2016. But I'm pulling the plug, for now at least, on this blog/column. I've decided to not wait for pseudo-Labor Day. I've also decided, like the Terminator, that I will be back — eventually. 

{Pseudo-Labor Day?}

Wikipedia: "Labor Day is a federal holiday in the United States celebrated on the first Monday in September to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States."

Reality check: Labor Day is a three-day weekend, one of a handful of holidays that have morphed into three-day weekends, some by law. Many laborers, particularly those employed in the service industries, have to work on Labor Day or the Labor Day weekend. They labor to serve people who don't.  

Irony abounds. 


Anyway, both volumes 6 and 7 were primarily devoted to pointing out how the more or less free markets of the West have created the unprecedented prosperity of the modern world. Even the Chinese "Communist" Party has embraced, sorta/kinda, capitalism. 

However, their version, and unfortunately ours to a lesser but growing degree, is a form of crony capitalism that's devolving into a hybrid, Neofeudalism. The Fedrl Gummi, the Oligarchs, and the Clerisy on the one hand — the rest of us, the neopeasantry, on the other. 

Neofeudalism, as explained by Joel Kotkin in a great article, Newfudalism and its new legitimizers, that you really should read, neatly sums up my thoughts on the matter. 

Unfortunately, what I've come to believe about supposedly free markets since originally writing parts six and seven require that they be significantly revised, and for myriad reasons, including some health issues that have recently reared their ugly head, I'm currently not up to the task. 

So, the hell with it.. for now. But like the Terminator, I'll (likely, hopefully) be back in some form or fashion. Keep an eye on the headlines. 

To be continued...

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day


Scroll down to share this column/access oldies. If you enjoy my work, and no advertising, please consider buying me a coffee via _____ card or PayPal.    

Feel free to comment and set me straight on Cranky's Facebook page. I post my latest columns on Saturdays, other things other days. Cranky don't tweet.
  

  





















Friday, July 22, 2022

The History of the World, Vol. 5

A multi-column series originally published in 2016

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  

Glossary 

Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device 

"The historian is an unsuccessful novelist." -H.L. Mencken


Dear Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

I'm spending the summer in a cabin on a beautiful lake somewhere in the Swiss Alps, working on my memoirs, and trying to decide if this column will resume post-Labor Day. The market has found me wanting; I'm buying most of my own coffee just now. So be it, I remain an unrepentant supporter of capitalism. 

My big brother Eddie is currently my only financial patron so I'm starting to feel like Van Gogh... without the world-class talent, but with both ears. I'm also considering publishing only when the spirit moves me. Cranking out columns week after week, while enjoyable, is hard work — well, intellectually speaking — at least for me. 

{It sure ain't roofing or the like you whiney b...}

In the meantime, I'll be republishing mostly gently (but occasionally heavily) edited columns with updated statistics and fun facts in [brackets].


By the year 1776 after hundreds of thousands of years of most H. sapiens just scraping by and often killing each other while simultaneously avoiding being killed by a somewhat bloodthirsty Mother Nature, two really cool things happened. The American experiment was launched (see parts three and four) and Mr. Smith published a book.

Adam Smith was, and is, a well-regarded absent-minded professor type with a first-rate mind. He gave up his day job, as a popular professor at Glasgow university in 1764, to tutor and travel with a young Scottish nobleman (road trip!). They spent a couple of years touring continental Europe and met several leading thinkers of the day (i.e. Benjamin Franklin) and Mr. Smith was given a life pension by the grateful nobleman that enabled him to spend the next ten years or so working on his magnum opus, “An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.”

In other words, he set out to discover the best policies a given nation should pursue so that everyone could make a buck.

Warning: do not try to read The Wealth of Nations unless you enjoy the writing style of 18th-century academics (I’m thinking this is a relatively small group of folks) and you’re much smarter and more patient than I am (I’m thinking this is a relatively large group of folks). The commas and semicolons seemingly reproduce themselves as you try and decipher the text. Find a commentator or two that you trust to render Mr. Smith’s ideas into modern English.

In Mr. Smith’s defense, it ain’t easy to be one of the founders of a field of study (modern economics). Also, I must warn any kneejerk anti-capitalists that beating up on Mr. Smith because you think he was just another greed-head will make you look goofy as he’s well known for his belief that accumulating wealth and material goods won’t make you happy.

Before inventing modern economics, his thing was exploring morality and ethics, figuring out how we should treat each other, how we could all get along. He wrote a book entitled The Theory of Moral Sentiments that is still highly regarded. Incidentally, both it and The Wealth of Nations were best sellers in their day and literally changed the world.  


He wanted to figure out what the optimal system was for a free people to attain whatever level of economic security they thought was necessary and appropriate to keep the wolf from the door. He also warned the world about crony capitalism and rent-seeking, two of the monsters currently attempting to strangle America to death. And although he was financially quite successful, he quietly and discreetly gave away most of his money and lived simply. I highly recommend P.J. O’Rourke’s, "On The Wealth of Nations.” Mr. O’Rourke is not an economist, which is not necessarily a bad thing. He is, however, very smart, very funny, and lives in the real world.

“Economic progress depends upon a trinity of individual prerogatives: pursuit of self-interest, division of labor, and freedom of trade,” says O’Rourke, stating the fundamentals of Smith’s thought. That’s it? That’s all it takes for a country to be prosperous?  Everdamnbody? Yup. Well, more or less. The rule of law is also an essential component if you think that it’s important that everdamnbody should have to play by the same rules and bullies should be spanked.  

Disclaimer: I’m an unrepentant wild-eyed free marketeer and I don’t care for the word capitalist because of the tendency of well-meaning, progressives, socialists, and communists to frequently use it as an epithet. Also, I describe myself as a sorta/kinda or bleeding heart libertarian, primarily because I’m all for a rationally designed safety net and many libertarians think that’s wrong-headed or impossible.

Aside: Communism, in spite of its adherent's claim that it would work if ever done properly, is an obvious dead end, often literally. Socialism is a great idea, all we have to do is change human nature first and lock up all the screwballs like me that are obsessed with personal freedom. Progressivism and/or democratic socialism, or how to have your cake and eat it tooism, is the current flavor of the month for the utopianists of the world. Many people want the benefits of a free market combined with a big, juicy welfare state with millions of rules and unionized bureaucrats, but someone else, preferably the evil rich, should pay the bill. Unfortunately, there aren't nearly enough of them. More on the resulting mess later.


Back to Adam Smith. Smith’s work contradicted a widely held belief of his time, mercantilism. This is the belief that a nation’s wealth is determined by how much gold, silver, cash, ginormous televisions, etc. it can accumulate, after all, there’s only so much wealth to go around. Therefore, you should export for the cash and block, or at least penalize, imports. This view of the world, which currently is enjoying a comeback, leads otherwise clear-thinking people to believe in the Boarding House Pie Fallacy.  

Say you're living in a boarding house. It’s dinner time and Mrs. McGillicuddy is serving up her famous apple pie for dessert. Since there’s only so much pie to go around, and fat Frank is at the table, it behooves everyone to employ a strategery that will ensure an equitable portion of pie. Mr. Smith’s insight (not to be confused with Mrs. Smith's pies), and he’s not alone, was that boarding house wisdom has limited applicability. There’s an easier and more effective way to get what you want that has the added benefit of not having to impose high tariffs (which begat high prices) and over-regulate anyone — the pursuit of self-interest, division of labor, and freedom of trade. Skilfully employed these three ensure that everyone can have their own pie. Stay tuned for details.

To be continued next week...

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day


Scroll down to share this column/access oldies. If you enjoy my work, and no advertising, please consider buying me a coffee via _____ card or PayPal.    

Feel free to comment and set me straight on Cranky's Facebook page. I post my latest columns on Saturdays, other things other days. Cranky don't tweet.


 

Friday, July 15, 2022

The History of the World, Vol. 4

A multi-column series originally published in 2016

Image by Ingi Finnsson from Pixabay 

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.  

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  

Glossary 

Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device 

"History is a vast early warning system." -Norman Cousins


Dear Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

I'm spending the summer in a cabin on a beautiful lake somewhere in the Swiss Alps, working on my memoirs, and trying to decide if this column will resume post-Labor Day. The market has found me wanting; I'm buying most of my own coffee just now. So be it, I remain an unrepentant supporter of capitalism. 

My big brother Eddie is currently my only financial patron so I'm starting to feel like Van Gogh... without the world-class talent, but with both ears. I'm also considering publishing only when the spirit moves me. Cranking out columns week after week, while enjoyable, is hard work — well, intellectually speaking — at least for me. 

{It sure ain't roofing or the like you whiney b...}

In the meantime, I'll be republishing mostly gently (but occasionally heavily) edited columns with updated statistics and fun facts in [brackets].


The invention of the USA: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  

Or...

The natural state of man of male and female H. sapiens is that although we’re all unique in how we look, how smart we are, and what innate talents we have, nobody is born automatically better than anyone else. We are entitled to live as long as biology and fate permit, we’re free to pursue our own path and discover what it is that will keep getting us out of bed in the morning until we can’t (or won’t) get out of bed in the morning. I maintain that this is obvious (self-evident) to any more or less well-adjusted kid on the playground. I also maintain that this is obvious to any emotionally healthy, clear-thinking grownup. I maintain that any well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) king, cleric, or bully (even politically correct bullies) that maintains otherwise is delusional and needs to be dealt with appropriately.

Obvious?

Yup. Well, sorta/kinda. It’s obvious to those of us that have grown up fortunate enough to take the concept for granted. The, um, traditional way was the way of the alpha male. A method of social organization still in vogue in more than a few places.    

We have two choices. The traditional way — the way of the alpha male, the way of the bully, king, high priest, etc or the way of the (at least superficially) rational person. Rational people employ reason. Wikipedia: “Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying practices, institutions and beliefs based on new or existing information.”  

And yes, I used the word superficially. Rationality is a buggy, crash-prone app still in beta testing. For the (mostly) dead white males that invented the USA, fortunately for us, reason was a thing, a very big thing. We got lucky. They were the 1% of their day, but back in their particular day, something that came to be called the Age of Enlightenment was rockin’ the world. A new meme was going around.

If you decided that the traditional way of doing things only worked well for a tiny group of people and you could rewrite the rules, using reason, to set up a new system that benefited everyone equally (at least in theory), what would you do?

What they did, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, was set up the USA. The wailing and gnashing continued, and continues, as it should in a democratic republic. Fortunately, the new system includes built-in mechanisms to fix and/or change what the people decide needs fixed and/or changed. It ain’t easy to change, and it shouldn’t be, considering how thin the veneer of rationality is.            

Emotionally healthy, clear-thinking grownups realize they’re not the only kid on the playground and that just enough rules are necessary to ensure everyone has fun but has to share the equipment and that bullies are not allowed. This is called government and it requires that a few conditions be met in order that the people remain as free as realistically possible. First, we the governed, get to decide what the rules are. Second, the rules should be as few in number as possible so that individuals remain as free as possible. Third, great care must be taken to avoid the potentially huge, honking, downside of democracy, the tyranny of the majority.

If a majority of the kids on the playground get together to ban little Timmy from the premises just because of his unfortunate tendency to pick his nose, even though he’s not breaking any rules, a grownup (the rule of law) must step in to protect not only Timmy’s right to be there but also make sure he isn’t bullied. This is the why and what of the U.S. constitution. It’s called the American experiment because no one else in history had managed to pull off anything quite like it and many thought we wouldn’t either. Some still don’t, and there’s no guarantee that it will ultimately end well.


Now, just because we’re lucky enough to have been born into the species that sits at the top of the food chain, in the most prosperous nation the world has seen (so far at least) we still live in a dangerous, hostile world that guarantees nothing but our eventual death. It’s up to us to come up with food, clothing, and shelter and defend ourselves from those that want to kill us for fun and/or profit.

I once heard a nurse that was the head of some organization or other declaring with passion and conviction that, “Healthcare is a right!” in a radio interview.

No, it’s not.

Life, freedom, and the pursuit of whatever it is that keeps us getting out of bed are the fundamental rights everyone obviously should get. But even these natural, fundamental rights are a reality, not just a potential reality, only for those fortunate enough to be born into a culture that acknowledges and defends them. You may have noticed there’s no shortage of thugs that look at things a bit differently. Everything else that you think you’re entitled to depends on what you and/or your fellow citizens are prepared to work your bums off for. If you don’t believe this, try performing the following experiment.

Have yourself stranded on a desert island without a crew from a reality television show. Raise your fist to the sky and DEMAND! food, clothing, shelter (and healthcare), then wait and see what happens. Oh, and make sure you don’t let your situational awareness chops get rusty while you’re waiting because mother nature is notoriously oblivious to our rights. Like any good mom, if she has a favorite, she’s keeping it to herself, and she doesn’t seem to lose any sleep when her kids eat each other to stay alive.

Also, please note that you don’t even have to ask nicely for life (however temporary), liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Self-evidently, unless Gilligan and company show up and turn out to be evil, drug-addled crazies (which would explain a lot), you’re about as free as you can be within the physical limitations of life on Earth. And unless one or more of the zany castaways has brought a trunk full of meth, you could stay as free as possible (all things considered) simply by agreeing to respect each other's unalienable rights. Next, on to the original Mr. Smith.

To be continued...

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day


Scroll down to share this column/access oldies. If you enjoy my work, and no advertising, please consider buying me a coffee via _____ card or PayPal.    

Feel free to comment and set me straight on Cranky's Facebook page. I post my latest columns on Saturdays, other things other days. Cranky don't tweet.