Alex Tabarrok on how ideas trump crises | Video on TED.com

Alex Tabarrok: How ideas trump economic crises — a surprising lesson from 1929

via Alex Tabarrok on how ideas trump crises | Video on TED.com.

About this talk

The “dismal science” truly shines in this optimistic talk, as economist Alex Tabarrok argues free trade and globalization are shaping our once-divided world into a community of idea-sharing more healthy, happy and prosperous than anyone’s predictions.

Almost as good as the talk, which is embedded below, are the comments. At the moment my mind is open to his premise, but I worry that his economic globalization parallels the troubling “one world order” that is a continuing undercurrent in America’s national and international policy.

From a Republic to Oligarchy

Are we there? Note some definitions of an oligarchy:

ol·i·gar·chy (ŏl’ĭ-gär’kē, ō’lĭ-) n. pl. ol·i·gar·chies
Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families.
“oligarchy.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 27 Apr. 2009. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/oligarchy>.

OR

Oligarchy (Greek Ὀλιγαρχία, Oligarkhía) is a form of government where political power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family, military powers or occult spiritual hegemony. …
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligarchy

There is a very interesting article in the May 2009 edition of “The Atlantic” which is introduced with the following premise

The crash has laid bare many unpleasant truths about the United States. One of the most alarming, says a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, is that the finance industry has effectively captured our government—a state of affairs that more typically describes emerging markets, and is at the center of many emerging-market crises.

America was founded as a representative republic (not a pure democracy, although most people unfortunately blur this most important distinction). Citizens were to go to the seat of a limited government and, especially in the House of Representatives, serve a short while and return home. The notion was they were close to the people, would represent the people’s best interest, and return to their communities. Accountability was automatic.

Now we have professional politicians, people who not only have made governing their life’s occupation and many of whom have known no other calling for the majority of their adult life. They don’t return to their communities in any real sense of the word. Accountability is difficult, almost nonexistent if you think of the recent hue and cry of the people against bailouts and incurring debt to solve a problem created by excessive debt. “They” live by rules far different from those imposed upon the people they were sent to Washington to represent.

Read the article:  Simon Johnson, The Quiet Coup – The Atlantic (May 2009).

The author was economist (see bio snippet below) at the International Monetary Fund — the entity that makes loans to struggling third world countries and emerging markets. What does that have to do with the current conditions in the United States you ask? The author describes desperate debt-laden counties with political systems that increasingly allow the foolish and risk-taking components of the economy to push their problems onto the public section — the people, you and me — due to their political interconnectivity.

Sound familiar?

The argument can be made that while Congress has 535 members, it and the Executive, in concert with critical influences in our economy, have become a small governing group and America has become

a form of government where political power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family, …

In other words:  an oligarchy. Consider the following quote

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Benjamin Franklin (1706–90).

The response is attributed to BENJAMIN FRANKLIN—at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation—in the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention.

via 1593. Benjamin Franklin (1706-90). Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

Can we keep it? Or have we already lost it?

Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, was the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund during 2007 and 2008. He blogs about the financial crisis at baselinescenario.com, along with James Kwak, who also contributed to this essay.

Understanding terms: deficit and debt

Talk about federal budgets can be confusing. Most states (including Texas, thankfully) have constitutional requirements for balanced budgets each year. Therefore, states don’t go into debt like the federal government does. The feds can run deficit budgets and therefore increase debt, and that is what happens year after year. A budget, and the resulting deficit, is a one-year-at-a-time proposition, yet we often hear people use the term deficit and national debt interchangeably — which they are not. The national debt is a cumulative figure and, sadly, often ignored in the discussion.

The debt figure is important for the fact that it accrues interest — increasingly payble to the Chinese and other foreign governments — and is an ever-increasing burden building into the future. Here are two charts that demonstrate (a) the medium term effect of current deficit budget proposals and (b) the effect on the resulting debt from the deficits. Frame those for your children and grandchildren.

Medium-term deficit projections
Medium-term deficit projections
... and here is the resulting debt ...
... and here is the resulting debt ...

50% off Sale — First Raise the Prices — Your Fiscal Policy at Work

The problem is not just the spending supposedly needed for the current economic emergency. Obama claims that he will cut the deficit in half, to $533 billion, by the end of his first term. Two problems: 1) The Congressional Budget Office says the more likely number is $672 billion, and 2) that is 46 percent more than the deficit in 2008. Worse yet, the CBO says the deficit will then resume its upward trajectory, reaching $1 trillion by 2018 and nearly doubling the national debt over the next decade.

via Steve Chapman : The Truths Behind the Tea Parties – Townhall.com.

Scary thoughts indeed. The writer first makes a point that is encouraging about the real meaning of the ‘tax day tea parties’ which I hope is true.

So why did people rally across the country when they should have been planning how to spend their tax refunds? Because their true dismay is about the mushrooming of federal outlays, which the demonstrators regard as a future tax increase in the making. Which, of course, it is.

Marxism at it’s best?

Marx envisioned the “withering away” of the state under mature communism. Instead, Eberstadt writes, the world may be witnessing the withering away of Russia, where Marxism was supposed to be the future that works. Russia, he writes, “has pioneered a unique new profile of mass debilitation and foreshortened life previously unknown in all of human history.”

via George Will : The Incredible Shrinking Russia – Townhall.com.

This is an amazing article by George Will. It describes Russia in a rapid downward spiral in its population and productivityas the result of Marxism. The article starts off as a criticism of President Obama’s arms control approach to Russia but it’s far more interesting as a view of that country that as a pre-teen in the 1950’s I learned to fear as the state devil incarnate.

Should the Government Control Internet Standards? – ReadWriteWeb

One role of the government is to protect the country and make its citizens feel safe through policy and regulation. But in today’s digital era, policy making is moving to the people, and we are witnessing individual corporations – be they for profit or not – getting more involved in Internet standards.

via Should the Government Control Internet Standards? – ReadWriteWeb.

If you read this snippet, either on my blog or on Facebook, you have a stake in this discussion. Facebook in particular is discussed in the article. The big players in the future of the internet are squabbling over how your browser will work with different sites and how you will log in on the sites you visit. The article is only moderately “geeky.”

7 Trials, But He Was Innocent — Jesus under the law

This day, Maundy Thursday 2009, may be an interesting point in the Christian calendar to remember not only the facts of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus, but to analyze the extensive perversion of the legal system that was required to put him to death. The linked file is an analysis of those events from the viewpoint of a lawyer and judge and may give you a different perspective of this Easter season. The preamble in the paper:

About 2,000 years ago, there occurred the central events of Christian history which we observe and celebrate during the Easter season, events which principally exist in our minds as the cornerstone of our Christian faith:  the death and resurrection of a man called Jesus.  For a trial lawyer or judge however, these events are foreshadowed, though not overshadowed, by the trial that took place before his execution.

We talk about the trial of Christ — in fact, he was tried within both the Roman and Hebrew judicial systems and scholars debate whether there were in fact two full trials. I believe that there were no full trials because of the subversion of all the rules, and that there were seven trials in all.

I hope that you find this paper to be interesting whether your faith is Christian, Jewish or otherwise.

PDF file:  Trial of Christ from a Judge’s Point of View

Pedal Power fundraiser for Hill Country Childrens Advocacy Center

This meets all categories: fun, hobbies and serious. A group is escorting the bicycle ride which is a fundraiser for the HCCAC. See http://hccac.org/howhelp/pedalpower/ for details. Jennifer and I, together with Ralph Mann and Mike Atkinson left Atwoods about 7:45AM after a delicious breakfast and had a “breezily fresh” morning ride to the starting point — the pavilion in the LBJ State Park near Stonewall, Texas.

We ended up riding a total of 178 miles portal to portal , a little over 100 of that being on the bicycles routes themselves. In addition to Mike and Ralph and ourselves, we had extra help from some San Antonio riders: John Long, Jerry Squier and Rob Naylor.  Everyone pitched in and did a great job.  We’re told the riders had lots of kudos for the SAG/support sweeps we made and we were able to call in help for a number of riders.

Here is the start pedalpowerstart

and here are some riders leaving the Willow City Loop to enter Texas 16 going North after which they will re-enter the Loop, headed for The Hill which is quite a surprise for the flatlanders who don’t realize where the Hill Country got its moniker. After THE Hill, then they know. Riders

Much of the route goes through some honest-to-goodness ranching country complete with livestock. One section in particular can be quite treacherous in wet weather due to what I think to be an odd habit for sheep and goats to poop in the pathway, as it were. Did you know that stuff is really slippery when wet?

Today the weather was great and we did not have to contend with the “stuff.” The goats were out though, and Jen got a shot of a couple of especially cute ones (her term).

Yield to goats

We were especially touched by the fact that HCCAC dedicated the first mile of the ride to our friend Vogey who passed away recently, and to a rider who was killed recently in a traffic accident.  Vogey — Robert Voglino — had assisted us in the escorting for many years and in 2007 organized the escorts when I was elsewhere.  I’ve written about Vogey elsewhere on this blog. There was a photo of each of these men in that first mile and a bulletin board presentation as well. Vogey