Friday, March 8, 2024

The History of the World, Epilogue

Image by JJ Jordan from Pixabay

This weekly column consists of letters written to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now and haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." -Charles Dickens

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),

From the Department of Fun Facts: In 1790 most Americans lived on farms; about 90% of our predecessors used a rooster for an alarm clock. 

But then, between 1870 and 1920 roughly 11,000,000 people said goodbye to Ma and Pa and moved to cities to take advantage of industrialization and 25,000,000 (legal) immigrants joined them. Obviously, this was a really big feckin’ deal that changed everything. 

Yes, Virginia, we are a nation of immigrants. 

We’re currently in the midst of a hi-tech/communications revolution that is also changing everything that started late in the last century and continues apace. The more things change, etc.

By the late 1970s, the seemingly unstoppable post-World War Two American economic boom collided with a booming global economy. What seemed like suddenly at the time (trust me, I was there) the American steel industry, which actually had been gradually declining, more or less collapsed. In short order, it was followed by a general hollowing out of the American industrial base. 

The rust belt started rusting and we’ve been arguing over who and/or what the cause was and what should’ve been/should be done about it ever since. 

Jimmy Carter made us feel like it was game over but Ronald Reagan made us feel like it was a new season and we were bound to come out on top. 

The roaring nineties, the result of the rapid spread of the internet and the seemingly endless possibilities for new ways to make money, made us think Regan may have been right. It was only a matter of time before all those economic refugees from the factories and the mills would be reabsorbed into the economy, just like the unemployed buggy whip makers eventually were after the last time something like this happened. 

The whole world was going to prosper by adopting the aforementioned pursuit of self-interest, division of labor, and freedom of trade. The American way (a phrase that I suspect most of my younger gentlereaders may not truly appreciate the meaning and significance of) had triumphed. It was The End of History and the good guys (us) had won.  

Big BUT...

China’s been doing its level best to prove that economic freedom (well, more or less) is perfectly compatible with draconian restrictions on political and personal freedom powered by cutting-edge technology — much of which they purchased or stole (and continue to steal) from the Western Barbarians.

The Pooteen is doing his level best to prove that history's not over and that bloody wars of attrition haven’t gone out of style, particularly for the dick-tater class. 

Meanwhile, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, it turns out that you can’t print money and accumulate massive debt without unleashing the inflation dragon after all. 


Ya’d think this would call attention to the possible long-term effects of a cumulative 2% inflation rate, that’s now regarded as the minimum price we should/must pay for fiat money that’s backed by nothing much, would be getting more attention. 

{I’ll bite, why should we care about that?}

It’s the reason we have to play/are at the mercy of the stock market. Living within your means and saving up your dough is nowadays a suckers bet. You have to bet on the stock market and pray the value of your house (of cards) doesn’t collapse before you do. 

I’m not going to explore the fighting of endless wars… or the fact the Democratic Party has been taken over by relatively tiny groups of Wokies, Greenies, and folx on the sexual fringe… or that the Republican Party gave us the Donald, a gift that just keeps on giving… or that both parties are incapable of compromise on issues normal, everyday Americans would like to compromise on and then move on… or mention that Hollywood, academia, certain corporations and much of the mainstream media, have chosen sides and pursue their agenda like the devoted members of a cult. Or…

{Could we move on, please?}

Point taken, Dana. I’m primarily concerned about the Woke folx, many of them the postmodern versions of Lenin's useful idiots, who think they are changing the world but are actually controlled by duplicitous tech oligarchs with the help of a corrupt clerisy. Folx that take their salaries and bennies for granted, and sneer at the beliefs and lifestyles of people with blue collars who built (and maintain) America. 

Having gleefully “disrupted” millions of people out of a job they’re now working their bums off building robots and developing artificial intelligenci to disrupt millions more. 

I’m concerned that no shortage of techies are telling us that it’s only a matter of time before our machines and technology will be smarter than we are and might decide to delete our dim, inefficient, species -- yet keep working to make it happen. 

I’m concerned that irregardless, millions of us will be out of work and that this will finish off the middle class.

{On the bright side, that could solve the climate change thing.}   

I hope I’m wrong, but this jaded old man has a new reason for getting out of bed in the morning. I'm hoping to live long enough to see if I’m wrong (yet again) before I’m deleted. 

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

Scroll down if you wish to share my work or access my golden oldies.   

I post links to my columns (and other stuff) on Facebook so that you can love me, hate me, or lobby to have me publicly flogged.  


Friday, March 1, 2024

The History of the World (Condensed), Ch. 8

Image by JJ Jordan from Pixabay

This weekly column consists of letters written to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now and haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

“The past does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” -Mark Twain

{Hey, you used that quote already.}

This is true, Dana, but I think it's perfect given that the world-changing events we’re currently in the midst of are as dramatic as the Industrial Revolution.

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),  

The stage was all set. The United States of America was born, smack dab in the middle of the Northern half of the Earth's Western Hemisphere. Most of the country was not too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.

{That sounds vaguely familiar for some reason...}

Although both North and South America had been populated, more or less, for as long as the rest of the planet they were what a modern-day property developer would describe as radically underdeveloped, a viewpoint also held by the Europeans who "discovered" it.

The H. sapiens who called it home at the time begged to differ. 

Unfortunately for them, some Europeans proved that if one were to sail far enough west from Europe one would neither be killed by sea monsters nor fall off the edge of the world — as had been predicted by some very intelligent people, the Earth turned out to be round. 

Also unfortunately for those who were here first, the European's technology for killing other people (a practice that many of the locals also enthusiastically embraced) was far superior to that of the locals. They firmly believed that God was on their side and that this justified all sorts of barbaric behavior (as it did back home) and they also brought all sorts of diseases with them that the locals hadn't been cursed with but were about to be.

But after no end of false starts here, there, and even over there, they cobbled together a country theoretically based on the freedom to pursue happiness as each citizen so defined it as long as they avoided stepping on each others toes as much as possible. 

They thrived and prospered like nobody's business despite the fact they were as flawed as H. sapiens still are and despite no shortage of bad behavior and hooge mistakes. 

H. sapiens will be H. sapiens. 

{Hold up there, Sparky. Your so-called history of the "world" can be summed up by saying that for thousands of years, all sorts of stuff happened all over the globe but it was all a mere prelude that led up to the establishment of the U.S. I don't think that...}

Balderdash. I've clearly pointed out that all sorts of stuff happened that somehow/fortunately eventually begat Western Civilization which somehow begat the USA (the best the world's done so far) despite the fact H. sapiens are naked apes that frequently behave accordingly. 

I've never claimed that other cultures haven't done/continue to do all sorts of cool stuff from which all naked apes have benefited greatly. However, I maintain that overall, America is as good as it's gotten. My bias has been abundantly clear from the very beginning and I've pointed out that while we should be proud we should also be humble, to which I would add, we should also be grateful.

Now, where was I ... "They thrived and prospered like nobody's business despite the fact they were as flawed as H. sapiens still are and despite no shortage of bad behavior and hooge mistakes. H. sapiens will be H. sapiens." -me


Big BUT...

Native Americans were, and still are, treated abominably.

Slavery was and still is the nation's original sin.

Women were considered by many to be second-class citizens and didn't get the right to vote in America till 1919.

These are merely, in my semi-humble opinion, the three biggies. There are literally thousands of other documented injustices. But slavery, the suppression of women, and the exploitation and slaughter of a given indigenous population by foreign invaders was and still is, in no shortage of locales the rule, not the exception, since forever. 

I maintain that some dramatic progress has been made in America since 1776 but there is, and always will be, a long way to go given the nature of the game and the creatures who play it.   

History is fascinating and illuminating but these are dangerous times, apparently even more than usual given recent developments so we need a little less relitigating of the past and a lot more of looking the present in the eye just now.

We don't have to wait and see if the Artificial Intelligenci will end us. 

We have perfected the technologies we use to kill one another in that we now can kill everyone if the nukes are launched or the right/wrong micro-cooties escape/are released from the labs. There's a Woke Mind virus loose in the world that's causing more than a few people who are products/beneficiaries of Western Civilization to promote cultural suicide.

{That's a lot of something/something elses in the same paragraph... are you/we done?}

Not quite. Next week is an epilogue, Ruh-Roh!, and then I'm/we're done.


Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

Scroll down if you wish to share my work or access my golden oldies.   

I post links to my columns (and other stuff) on Facebook so that you can love me, hate me, or lobby to have me publicly flogged.

Friday, February 23, 2024

The History of the World (Condensed), Ch. 7

How we got so rich
Image by JJ Jordan from Pixabay

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny  the Stickies — to advise 'em now, haunt them after I'm deleted.

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC-65: Sexy Seasoned Citizens   



Featuring {Dana}Persistent auditory hallucination and charming literary device 

History is a set of lies agreed upon." -Napoleon Bonaparte

Dear Stickies (and gentlereaders),  

This is a looong chapter. 

For the record, I've been told by people whose opinion I trust that my columns should be shorter... or longer... or that I should start a podcast or make YouTube videos since nobody reads anymore and I'm wasting my time. Or that...

Well, I'm stickin' with writing columns that are roughly 750 to 1,000 words (not this time though) and have no plans to change since I've reached a point where I'm pretty sure I'll not make any money for my efforts no matter which direction I take so I write to please myself and my biggest fan, my big brother Ed, while I'm waiting to wake up dead. 

Theo was to Vincent as Ed has often been to me.

This is why I've abandoned all the various and sundry ways that exist to "monetize" my work, none of which have gone anywhere. I write for me, Ed, Arletta, and anyone else out there who might enjoy my work and the slight chance the Stickies will benefit from it. 

That said, Chapter 7 is the longest one yet. If you'd like to save some time and get on with your day permit me to summarize: A democratic republic and a more or less free market have made us a very rich and more or less free country.   

Macroeconomists, like all social scientists, are much better at explaining things (or at least trying to) afterward than at making predictions. Why? Variables. Just like your favorite weatherperson, they have to deal with myriad known unknowns, not to mention the unknown unknowns. 

That is to say, they try to make predictions about systems that are so complex in nature that an educated guess is as good as it gets.

This is why a minimally regulated market works better than a highly regulated market. This is why when you go to the supermarket most of the thousands of competitively priced products they carry are usually in stock — literally millions of specialists pursuing their own self-interest and freely trading with each other. 

This is why communism and strict versions of socialism don't work, it's physically impossible for politicians and bureaucrats to efficiently do what the market does effortlessly, and if we’re truly free, we’re free to trade. Common sense suggests that both sides in a given transaction are getting something they want out of it or it wouldn’t happen. 

Life on Earth is what it is in spite of what we would like it to be. There’s no guarantee the result of a given transaction is going to be completely fair and equitable for both sides. Let the buyer beware, but let the buyer buy —if they want to. Prosecute the weasels, enforce the contracts, read Consumer Reports and ask Dad, Mum, or your Dutch uncle what they think. 

Then secure your _____ and jump.

You’ll win some, you’ll lose some, and some will have mixed results. Take comfort in the fact that when you win one the other side may hate and resent you, or at least be thoroughly depressed, often without even having ever actually met you. The entrepreneur that went bankrupt because you didn’t think their world-changing product or concept was worth your money comes to mind. 

There are no unemployment checks for failed entrepreneurs. 

Of course, if you fail on a large enough scale The Fedrl Gummit may step in and save your bum. And that’s not fair — unless of course, your job or business is on the line. But that’s not how it’s supposed to work, and you can’t count on it.

Adam Smith said, “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.”

In other words, the cut-throat competition in the marketplace usually ensures that the customer wins. The hooge-honking downside is that any given producer — including owners, management, and labor — is subject to being destroyed by its competition.

“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups,” -Henry Hazlitt. Notice the use of the word art, not science.

{Oh yeah,? Well, that’s all well and good but NAFTA screwed everything up and now they want...}

Whoa there cowboyperson, obviously anyone who lost a job because of NAFTA may understandably be reconsidering not only the wisdom of free trade agreements but capitalism in general. This was probably on their minds while they were driving to job interviews in their "American" made car that’s chock full of parts manufactured all over the globe (as practically everything is).

Yes, people lose jobs when a trade agreement is implemented and/or a tariff is eliminated. Other jobs are created or expanded, but unfortunately, this is virtually impossible to document with anything resembling precision, which is why both sides can plausibly argue their position. 

Economists disagree on all sorts of things but most agree that free trade will, overall, generate at least as many jobs in a given country as it erases. Also, the consumer (that is, everyone) almost always wins. The producers (and by extension, their employees) may win or lose. We all want good, secure jobs. But we also all want lots of food, toys, and fun — for which we wish to pay as little as possible.

Finally, the Reality Checks, Caveats & Premises department has it on good authority that the global economy is a fact, not a possibility. Adapt or get run over like a cute little bunny that’s incapable of grasping the potential impact of an 18-wheeler passing through the neighborhood.

After WW2 ended America was the beneficiary of a boom that lasted for roughly 35 years during which you could drop out of school and still get a job that would provide a good living, and maybe even a pension. The rest of the world, having been more or less trashed by WW2, watched and learned.

This was a sort of temporary golden age that hadn't been the case before the war and hasn't been since.

More than a few of our fellow Earthlings thought they might also enjoy eating regularly and being able to seal the couch in plastic to keep it nice. Liberty might be nice too but that proved to be a lot harder and much more complicated. Life on Earth being what it is, instead of what we would like it to be (a phrase that bears repeating), there are always gonna be bullies that embrace their inner chimpanzee — and bullies need victims.

Nowadays, the US buys more stuff from the rest of the world than it sells to the rest of the world, but it exports more services than it imports. As of 2022, if you add total imports to total exports you discover that the total is almost $4,000,000,000,000. As of 2022, the GDP of the USA was $25,462,700,000,000. 

We're talkin' trillions, with a t, dude.

Our 35-year-old bubble of prosperity hasn't so much popped as gotten comparatively smaller, so far at least, because the rest of the world is blowing its own bubbles. We export more than we ever have in terms of dollar value even allowing for inflation and because of productivity gains we can do this with far fewer people than would have been needed in the past.

Our GDP would be even higher, but we're simultaneously dealing with labor shortages in certain industries and people dropping out of the workforce. As to exactly why the economists (of course) disagree. My guess is as good as yours, in fact, yours may be better.

Ever wonder if all those um... "undocumented" refugees fleeing political and economic corruption in certain politically and economically challenged countries south of the Rio Grande are responsible for certain other people's wages being lower than they might otherwise be?

Ever wonder if all those women who have flooded into the workplace since the women's liberation movement hit its stride are responsible for depressing wages for everyone who hasn't disproportionately benefited from a truly global economy?

I do, but I have no idea. Believe it or not, the experts don't agree on that either. Shocking, I know. Consult the worldwide web of all knowledge to find the answer you prefer.

And if that ain’t bad/confusing enough, now we have to deal with a communication/high-tech revolution. It’s like the industrial revolution on steroids (and there still isn’t much work for buggy whip makers) in that the rules of the game keep changing and nobody on the rules committee has a clue what the final draft is going to be.

And if that ain’t bad enough it turns out there is no rules committee, there are just H. sapiens hoping it all works out somehow, and that civilization-ending-sized asteroids keep missing the mother ship. 

It may be the best of times, but it might be the worst of times. As noted, not even the "experts" can be relied upon to accurately tell us what's next. Also, they’re acutely aware that throwing the wrong economic lever at the wrong time, considering how complex and interconnected the global economy is, can easily set off a cascade of unexpected and unwelcome consequences.

(To be continued...)   

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

Scroll down if you wish to share my work or access my golden oldies.   

I post links to my columns (and other stuff) on Facebook so that you can love me, hate me, or lobby to have me publicly flogged.  

{With a buggy whip?}