Change: Liberal v Conservative

Change is constant and inevitable. Being “for change” is meaningless and childish w/o explaining what change you want & exactly how you hope to achieve it. Some people don’t understand that society is a complex system. Disturbing one thing, even a bad thing, will have unexpected consequences throughout the system.

Take a concrete example of a man dying of thirst. If you just give him as much water as he wants to drink, you probably will kill him. His body can process about a liter every hour, no more. You can make changes but not on your timetable. And the most direct and "obvious" action may not be the most appropriate.

The general rules are that abrupt changes create strong reactions. There are many things you cannot have, at least at the same time, and the time lags are important in any decision.

Liberals talk a lot about change. Conservatives talk less but create more effective & sustainable change; at least this has been the case since the 1960s. Ronald Reagan (Ironically, Reagan essentially played the FDR role to Carter’s Hoover.) and Newt Gingrich were catalysts to more change than any modern liberals. I say catalysts because that is often the best way for government to effect change. It allows the people themselves to decide the details and do the actual innovating. The nation and the state are not the same things. Conservatives recognize that most effective and constructive change comes from citizens, scientists and entrepreneurs, less often from command and control of politicians and bureaucrats.

Politicians outline tidy programs that purport to create comprehensive and well-planned solutions. The untidy fact that they often choose to ignore is that when people are free to pursue happiness the usually do not want the same things the planners think they should.

The private sector is the source of almost all innovations. Here I have to point to the difference between innovation and basic research which often depends on government resources and rightfully so. Basic research creates options. Innovation involves taking those options and packaging or developing them into something people want. The process is not automatic. There are many examples of societies possessing some great knowledge and never creating the innovations that put it to practical use.

(Of course government can innovate within government when there is a similar competitive environment for those sorts of ideas. In the ancient world, we had Greek city states, with their various mixes of democracy, oligarchy, monarchy and tyranny. In our times, U.S. states are good examples.)

The ancient Romans had the basics of things like steam engines, engineering skills and water power networks, but never made the jump to the industrialization. In the late 18th Century, the Chinese had the requisite skills to make intricate machines, but used those skills to make mechanical novelties for the Mandarins. Getting innovation out of the lab, into the workshop and out in the market is not easy and it is not been the most common thing in world history.

What often seems to be the common denominator is that a powerful centralized state, w/o significant competitors, stifles innovation. Conversely, messy, contentious and competitive systems with loose connections produce innovation.

The United States has been extraordinarily innovative following this general pattern. Our states have been the laboratories of democracy. Good innovations are copied; bad ones are limited. Our free market welcomes ideas, and for most of our history people, from around the world. Foreigners often brag that their particular former citizens create so much innovation in the U.S. The interesting question is why they had to come to the U.S. to do that.

We have enjoyed this wonderful system for a long time now. Nevertheless, it is possible to screw it up.

So when some politician promises change, it might be a good idea to inquire re the type of change he is proposing AND the mechanism he plans to use to achieve it. Emperors in Rome and China (as well as lots of other places) were confident in their ability to order change. As a result, not much changed in these places over the course of hundreds or thousands of years. If you were the emperor, life was okay. The guy covered in sh*t using the same basic technologies for a thousand years was probably less enthusiastic.

Change directed from the top was not the change they could believe in.

Adam Smith published the “Wealth of Nations” in 1776. He was not so much advocating an ideal system as describing the one that was emerging in the Atlantic world. It was the beginning of the market system where diverse communities were linked by an emerging world market, where governments did believe they had the right to regulate every aspect of life and the economy, as they had in most places whenever they could since the dawn of history. For the first time in history, a large number of people came to believe that THEY owned the government rather than the other way around and an autonomous private sector was developing. It was a new paradigm, which conveniently coincided with the birth of the novus ordo seclorum that same year.

Even after 233 years, the old paradigm dies hard. It is very difficult for most people to thing systemically. We are accustomed to thinking in terms of hierarchy where somebody is in charge. In a market economy, lots of people have influence, in a state of constant change, but nobody is in charge.

We perhaps can understand it better now that we have things like Internet and Wikis. Who commands those things? I read an interesting book “The Starfish and the Spider” where the author talked about investors demanding to see the “President of the Internet.”

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus used to say that everything flows (πάντα ρει) and graphically illustrated his point by explaining that nobody could step twice into the same river. Flowing water is an excellent way to understand change, the time it takes and the unexpected consequences of making changes. You shore up one bank with rocks, only to find that the current undercuts someplace else. You clear a channel and find two weeks later that you have changed the course of the stream a half mile UPstream. How can that happen? The simple direct solution is usually wrong and often the person who seems most in charge isn’t. He just talks the loudest - a good lesson for those who want to mess with markets.

You CAN make changes to a system like a market, just like you can to a stream. The trick is to make haste slowly. It is usually better to remove obstacles than to try to push more of your own energy into the system with direct solutions. With this approach, you often do not get what you expected. Usually it is better.

Posted by Jack at June 16, 2008 10:15 AM
Comments
Comment #255732

Jack,

Many demagogues promise change. Remember when in high school the candidate for student body president promised a “coke machine in every room” and a juke box in the cafeteria?

Same thing here with one notable exception.

Our form of government with 3 seperate but equal branches ensures radical change will not happen quickly. The old adage “it will take an act of Congress” comes to mind…which in one way is good, and in other ways is not so good.

Let me give you a fairly accurate recitation of a political cartoon I saw recently.

Congress:
1973 - “Drilling in the ANWR
1978 - will not help
1982 - us become energy
1989 - independant for
1995 - a long time
2000 - in the future
2004 - even if we
2008 - started drilling today.

Change is only promised and the hope for that change is good. There’s nothing wrong with optimism for the future. You must realize, however, that promising is one thing and delivering is entirely something else.

Posted by: Jim T at June 16, 2008 11:15 AM
Comment #255744

Jack said: “Change is constant and inevitable.”

Is it?

Does kindness to another person change as a good and appropriate act?

Is war ever to be preferred over peace when their is a choice and option for keeping peace?

Are starvation, death, and disease ever positive events to be exploited and used for personal gain?

No, Jack, Change is not constant and inevitable in all things. Some things should never be allowed to change and should never be allowed to be perceived as inevitable.

Start off with appropriate and defensibly defined premises and the likelihood of arriving at appropriate and defensible conclusions is better assured.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 16, 2008 12:58 PM
Comment #255749

David obviously likes to argue with anyone or everyone about anything or everything. How does one go from “Change is inevitable” to “starvation, death and disease”.

Posted by: Jim M at June 16, 2008 1:32 PM
Comment #255750

Jack, the rule of laws is what must apply to non-hierarchical human systems. Amazing that after 232 years of American history, the Founding Fathers wisdom on this issue is still lost to you and Republicans in general.

Republicans like Jack want readers to accept the inevitability of greed and avarice being balanced by the invisible hand of market corrections like the one we are now experiencing with oil and mortgages and falling home valuations. Why? Because it protects the hidden players violating rules of ethics and fair play in the name of wealth and profits who are causing these market corrections that harm millions upon millions of regular citizens.

Republicans believe in hierarchies, make no mistake. They just believe in hiding them so they don’t make as ready targets for backlash as consequences of their actions. Hence, the Invisible Hand which Republicans utterly fail to understand and comprehend as its author intended. The Invisible Hand in the Wealth of Nations was defined by Adam Smith in the Theory of Moral Sentiments as Enlightened Self-Interest.

Enlightened Self-Interest meant looking to one’s interests in the long term and holistically, within a moral and ethical framework that insured that what benefited one’s own self-interests also assured the benefit of other’s self-interests; or at the least, doing them no harm. Failing that, those others deprived by one person’s greed, will eventually take the rewards of greed back as sure as the concept of justice shall ever be sought by people everywhere, the more so, when the actions of one harm many.

Jack’s Invisible Hand of the marketplace touted by Republicans and conservative trickle down economics is based on a gross distortion and failure in comprehension of the work they cite to justify their greed. That work was Wealth Of Nations, the Author Adam Smith, and the work NEVER read by Republicans defending conservative economics is Theory of Moral Sentiments also by Adam Smith, which lays out the definitions and constructs of moral and ethical behavior in ALL human interaction, whether that be the marketplace, the neighborhood, or one’s home.

As is typical of Republicans, they cherry pick from Adam Smith’s work, to cloak and hide and defend their reverence for Greed and Avarice at the expense of others, which Adam Smith ABSOLUTELY advised against due to its obvious self-defeating results.

And man, was Adam Smith ever right. What is happening to the GOP today is concrete evidence of that. They proved to be the party of making the wealthy and greedy ever more wealthy and passing the costs for it on to the workers of future generations, impoverishing the non-wealthy working people’s children with a national debt nearly doubled in the two terms of GW Bush.

But, Adam Smith explains, such greed and avarice will not be long tolerated amongst people of sound moral and ethical sentiment for whom justice is a concept strengthened by poverty, deprivation, and diminishment. This understanding of Adam Smith explains why aristocracies and feudal systems did not prevail as posterity’s preferred systems of national leadership and economics.

Conservatives ever seek to conserve the aristocracy and feudal system paradigms, and explains why conservatives over time shall remain the minority party’s in democratic nations of Adam Smith’s future generations.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 16, 2008 1:34 PM
Comment #255752

“Change is constant and inevitable.”

Jack

You should have stopped your blog after the first sentence. The rest is hogwash. You want to create the notion that the Republican Party is the party that can create positive change. But you try to do so by distorting the past. You cannot point to our present president as an example of this. So you are trying to rewrite history by blaming Carter for the stagflation that occurred in the 70’s and in the early 80’s.

You are always quick to add that President’s are too quickly blamed for the situation they inherited, and that I believe is certainly true in the case of Carter. But if you want to ignore what you previously advocated, why not discuss the unemployment rate that existed in Reagan’s second and third year in office. Or the deregulation initiated by Carter that was applauded by your own Milton Friedman. Why not mention the two-oil crisis that occurred during Carter’s term or the national debt inherited by Carter.

The point is, we have a Republican President, who has been fully supported by the Republican Party, and no matter how you twist it. They do not represent change in any shape or form.

Posted by: Cube at June 16, 2008 2:09 PM
Comment #255755

Jim M, wouldn’t answer the questions I posed to Jack, so you critique the messenger instead of the message? How typical.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 16, 2008 2:47 PM
Comment #255756

David

I wrote re change and you talk about greed. Maybe you should consider what Emerson said about world outlooks.

There is a difference between should and is. Change is inevitable, whether or not you want it or like it.

If you want to say that your morality is unchanging no matter the changing circumstances, I don’t have an opinion about that. That falls into the category of faith. It is admirable if you can be that way. It is certainly true, however, that sometimes good intentions can lead to bad results.

Re the greed etc, I really have no idea what you are talking about. Giving people the most freedom possible to make choices does not imply greed. If people are greedy, they are greedy no matter the system. You evidently believe that the state must control people’s behavior more than I do.

I have said on many occasions that the rule of law is necessary for the functioning of society and – BTW – for the functioning of a market economy.

I do not support greed, avarice, selfishness, meanness, mendacity, dishonesty or any of those other bad things. I recognize that they exist in others and in myself. I work to control my own bad impulses and I expect those with whom a voluntarily associate to do the same. These things are all red herrings. They have nothing to do with support for a freer market or for greater government intrusion.

Why do you believe it is more virtuous to demand that the authorities spend other people’s money to accomplish social goals you consider important rather than do it yourself with your own resources?

It is easy to be free with other people’s money, but that is not generosity.

A variety of studies show that conservatives are more generous than liberals; the volunteer more often and they even give blood more often. Here is one of the more famousI suppose it is possible to argue that these studies are flawed, but there is no indication that the reverse is true.

BTW the interesting story included: “If I’m ever hit by a car, I sure as hell hope that the next guy to come along will be a conservative.” I asked him why. “Simple. A liberal will blame the unsafe conditions of the highways, blame budget cuts and keep driving. A conservative will get out of his car and help.”

Nobody argues for zero government or for complete government control. We are talking degrees of participation. I believe that to the largest extent possible, people should be free in their associations and their business. I prefer not to politicize decisions unless absolutely necessary. Politics is a zero or negative sum game. I prefer positive – win/win situations whenever possible.

Market economies are a relatively recent development. Life is better as a result. Before that time almost everybody was miserable. Slavery was tolerated and even praised from the dawn of history until it was outlawed in Western market economies. Greed is nothing new, neither is oppression. Market economies mitigate them to a greater extent. If you look at the list of free v unfree economies, it is unmistakable where the trend goes.

Re aristocracy and feudalism – tell me one thing. Are these market economic systems? On the contrary, they are highly regulated systems based on extensive government enforces rules that specifically limit the economic freedom of most people and give extraordinary economic freedom to others. Feudal systems, like modern liberals, divide society into groups and give differential status depending on group membership.

Posted by: Jack at June 16, 2008 2:54 PM
Comment #255761

Cube,

So, it’s ok to blame Bush for the issues of 2001-2006 when there was a Republican president and a Republican congress, but not ok to blame Carter for the issues of 1977-1980 when there was a Democratic president and a Democratic congress. You point out the issues that Carter had to deal with and ignore things like 9/11.

And in your mind that is ok?

Seems like a partisan mind to me… I personally dislike both of them as presidents for a variety of reasons, trying to defend one and attack the other seems a bit duplicitoius to me.

Posted by: Rhinehold at June 16, 2008 3:16 PM
Comment #255769

“Seems like a partisan mind to me… I personally dislike both of them as presidents for a variety of reasons,”

Typical Rhinehold retort; Anybody that has read this blog for any length of time, knows you spend a quite a bit of time defending Bush and his policies. Your qualifier therefore rings a dull note.

Second, where in my statement do I hold Bush responsible for the economy? As always you fill in what you want to read. But my statement merely pointed out that when Democrats talk about change, a lot of it is meant as change from how the current administration conducts business.

Posted by: Cube at June 16, 2008 5:05 PM
Comment #255770

Jack’s comments in italics:

I wrote re change and you talk about greed.

Your wrote the universal comment that Change is constant and inevitable. I take exception. The definitions of good and justice and greed and avarice DO NOT CHANGE, Jack, nor is changing those definitions inevitable. Think about it. Be ‘good’ for you.

There is a difference between should and is. Change is inevitable, whether or not you want it or like it.

I reiterate: What constitutes good and just as definitions does not change, Jack. Methods to cloak evil and injustice in the appearance of good and just, changes, but, Good and Just don’t change, Jack. I know you have read Plato, Jack. Try reading Plato for what is true and valid in his writings instead of cherry picking from what he wrote that is not applicable today as true.

If you want to say that your morality is unchanging no matter the changing circumstances, I don’t have an opinion about that.

I wasn’t discussing my morality, Jack. Where did you get that? The definitions of Good and Just don’t change, Jack. But, I repeat myself, yet again.

That falls into the category of faith.

No, Jack, it doesn’t. It falls into the category of definitional language which is set down in dictionaries for all to reference in their attempts to communicate with each other with common understanding of the words used.

It is admirable if you can be that way. It is certainly true, however, that sometimes good intentions can lead to bad results.

Irrelevant, as good intentions is neither the topic of discussion nor the definition of the word ‘Good’.

Re the greed etc, I really have no idea what you are talking about.

Doesn’t surprise me.

Giving people the most freedom possible to make choices does not imply greed.

Freedom is good. Greed as a freely made choice to the detriment of others is not good, by definition.

If people are greedy, they are greedy no matter the system.

True enough.

You evidently believe that the state must control people’s behavior more than I do.

You don’t believe in law enforcement or justice via the courts, Jack? They are there to control people’s behavior through guidance and consequence. You don’t believe in these most basic functions of government, Jack? Not surprising given Republicans contempt for law and justice these last 8 years.

I have said on many occasions that the rule of law is necessary for the functioning of society and – BTW – for the functioning of a market economy.

Yet, you claim above that I appear to believe in government controlling people’s behavior more than you do for upholding the institutions of law and enforcement of that law. What does this say about your respect for rule of law in the society or economy, Jack? Your comments appear conflicted on this issue.

I do not support greed, avarice, selfishness, meanness, mendacity, dishonesty or any of those other bad things.

Then you recognize that these are bad things and the definition of these as bad things does not change, right? Or do these definitions change for you depending on whether or Republican or a Democrat, Green or Libertarian, finds their actions categorized thusly under the definition of law?


I recognize that they exist in others and in myself. I work to control my own bad impulses and I expect those with whom a voluntarily associate to do the same. These things are all red herrings. They have nothing to do with support for a freer market or for greater government intrusion.”

Is not law enforcement government intrusion upon freedom to choose ill and evil, Jack? On the one hand you speak in support of the rule of law. On the other you speak of a free market without intrusion by government. Is the free market not to be intruded upon when it violates the law or the definitions of what is Good and Just? And if you believe the Free marketplace IS to be subject to the rule of law and consequences thereof, then is it not, by definition no longer a Free market, but one governed and constrained by the intrusions of government in its law enforcement capacity?

Again, your comments appear very conflicted on this issue, Jack.

“Why do you believe it is more virtuous to demand that the authorities spend other people’s money to accomplish social goals you consider important rather than do it yourself with your own resources?”

That is an argument for Anarchy, Jack. Are you an anarchist? Your comment above argues it is more virtuous that each person fend for themself rather than delegate authority and money to a collective effort which carries vastly more capacity to accomplish things an individual’s efforts alone cannot.

A military for example. A military can protect my family from invasion of those who would take from me and mine, far better than I could as an individual. I can use my arms to defend my family against invasion. But, I choose instead to pay taxes to my government to coordinate and organize defense vastly superior to that which my individual resources and efforts could provide for.

It is easy to be free with other people’s money, but that is not generosity.

You refer of course to government’s receipt of taxes, here and their use of those taxes. No, it is not generosity, it is duty and obligation by representation and rule of law, Jack. If the government’s use of people’s taxes fails the people’s expectation for the use of those taxes, voluntarily voted and approved of, then the people have the responsibility and obligation to change the representatives charged with the collection and use of their tax dollars.

That is the American political and governing system, Jack. Do you not support our American political and governing system, Jack? Are you an anarchist who would choose to keep your money and use it to build your own personal roads, bridges, defense and armaments, and grow your own food, regulate your own commerce, and issue forth your own currency regulated by the relative value of your own personal resources, Jack? Is it government in general you resent Jack, which imposes itself through rule of law upon individuals such as yourself, or just the government of the representatives of these last many years?

Nobody argues for zero government or for complete government control. We are talking degrees of participation. I believe that to the largest extent possible, people should be free in their associations and their business.

Curious. It appeared your comments above were heading dead on in that direction.

“I prefer not to politicize decisions unless absolutely necessary.”

Understandable. If I were a Republican today, I would feel exactly the same way :-)

Politics is a zero or negative sum game. I prefer positive – win/win situations whenever possible.

Politics is NOT a game, Jack. Your comment is radically illogical. Politics is the competition between differing perspectives as to what policies shall be enacted. Given elections, intrinsic to our American system, Politics Jack, IS a Zero Sum game. Given the outcome of elections, certain policies voted for will be enacted, and other competing policies not represented by the election, will NOT be enacted.

By definition, Jack, politics IS a zero sum game.

It is important that one not confuse politics with governance. Governance, depending on the circumstances being addressed and problems dealt with toward solution, can result in positive sum, negative sum, or zero sum outcomes.

In addressing economic issues, again, by definition of the word economics, the management and distribution of finite resources amidst infinite demands for those resources, ALL economic solutions and actions will be zero sum, or negative sum if the economic resources are shrinking.

In addressing foreign policy issues, positive sum solutions are always possible. Diplomacy and discussion are geared toward positive sum solutions. Militaristic solutions will nearly always be negative sum, save in the rare circumstances of detente or Mutually Assured Destruction constructs that all parties back away from enacting.

Market economies are a relatively recent development.

No, they are not. The Greeks 300 years BC had developed market economies. The Chinese outside the reach of the Emperor, had developed myriad local market economies based on barter and community sharing, many thousands of years ago, Jack.

Perhaps you meant to refer to modern industrial and international economies based on banking and regulated exchanges of currencies. (Note the word ‘regulated’, as in ‘not free’.)

Life is better as a result. Before that time almost everybody was miserable.

What an absolutely prejudiced comment. Did the Amish of the 18th century love, laugh, work, and share with a greater miserability index than the Amish today, Jack?

Were the Buddhist monks of the 15th century less enlightened, less nourished, less happy than Buddhist monks today deciding to alight their bodies in flames in the hopes of altering the course of exploitation of their fellow human beings?

You may want to rethink that comment, Jack. It presumes that quality of life is dependent upon numismatic based economies of modern times. Quality of life, is not nearly so geared to economics as to a state of mind and perception. Some have been imprisoned the better half of their adult lives and found as a result, qualities and nobility and purpose for existence far beyond that which a free life could have provided. Nelson Mandella for example.

Buddhist monks live in a state contentment few others can know, and their entire economic existence is predicated on owning nothing more than a few garments, a bowl and a cup and the humility of asking for sustenance from the generosity of others which, fills their spirit with appreciation and love for their fellow man.

Slavery was tolerated and even praised from the dawn of history until it was outlawed in Western market economies.

There is something to be said for social evolution, Jack. Can’t argue with you there.

Greed is nothing new, neither is oppression.

Do you mean they are unchanging, Jack? Are you not contradicting the opening sentence of your article, Jack?

Market economies mitigate them to a greater extent. If you look at the list of free v unfree economies, it is unmistakable where the trend goes.

That is a misconstruction of ideas, Jack. All economies are regulated. Whether they be communist economies or capitalist economies. It is the grossest of misnomers call any economy ‘free’. Whether it be a king, a feudal lord, a politburo, or a central bank, all economies are regulated and therefore not free of constraints upon participation and rules of someone’s making.

The sooner conservatives face that reality, the sooner their discourse will begin to elevate to that plane of the logical and rational.

Re aristocracy and feudalism – tell me one thing. Are these market economic systems? On the contrary, they are highly regulated systems based on extensive government enforces rules that specifically limit the economic freedom of most people and give extraordinary economic freedom to others.

Laughable, Jack. Of course they were market economies, just like our Treasury, Federal Reserve Banking, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Interstate Commerce Commission “highly regulated systems based on extensive government enforced rules that specifically limit the economic freedom” and choices of individuals.

All economies have their rule givers and enforcers. Different economies have differing rules limiting choices for differing sets of participants in differing types of transactions.

Reality can’t be found in partisan economic theory books, Jack. One has to find reality in the actions and interactions in the real world.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 16, 2008 5:09 PM
Comment #255774

“Slavery was tolerated and even praised from the dawn of history until it was outlawed in Western market economies.”

Jack wasnt it the market economy that kept slavery going for many additional years in this country? The southern landowners didnt suddenly free the slaves here in this country because market conditions dictated such. They were forced to free the slaves after an emancipation proclamation and resulting civil war, not a trade agreement.

You confuse our system of government with our economic system and then give gredit to our economic system when credit is due to the system of government we have.

Posted by: j2t2 at June 16, 2008 6:08 PM
Comment #255776

Change is inevitable. Yes it is. Home is where the heart is. A cat in a room full of rocking chairs is jumpy. All true. All slogans with some truth and little significance.

Jack offers another slogan in deprication of Obama’s change theme. McCain knows what it means, he just doesn’t like the message. Unfortunately for him Americans know what it means. They are tired of being screwed by politics as usual, and in particular, Republican BS.

Change has no meaning except in context. Jack and Republicans don’t like the context, so they twist the words, just like they always have, and don’t get that Americans are on to the game. They won’t get it until they lose horribly in the election.

Posted by: googlumpus at June 16, 2008 6:44 PM
Comment #255777
Being “for change” is meaningless and childish w/o explaining what change you want & exactly how you hope to achieve it.
Change is the only constant.

What is of concern is change for the worse, due to these 10+ abuses… causing these 17+ deterioriating economic conditions.
The problem is not that we lack for ideas and solutions.
The problem is that do-nothing Congress is where good ideas go to die.
However, not even do-nothing Congress can stop change.
Eventually, voters will change Congress when failing to do so finally becomes too painful.
Eventually, enough voters will finally question the habit of repeatedly rewarding irresponsible incumbent politicians with perpetual re-election, and finally do the same thing most unhappy voters did in year 1933 (during the Great Depression), when voters ousted a whopping 206 members of Congress (39% of 531 Congress persons in 1933, or 44% of the 467 up for re-election in 1933)?

Posted by: d.a.n at June 16, 2008 6:50 PM
Comment #255789

Jack,
Why changing the game from Liberal vs. Conservative seem like a good idea during the time the Political Winds of Change are blowing; however, unless the Left and Right of Society are willing to concede to the Center of Society. I do believe that it has to be more than a solgan.

For why you can build a dam in a stream and totaly stop the flow of water or just build up the shore lines and reroute the water flow. Nature and the Natural Course of Human Events will govern the outcome not Man. Because why the Mid-West braces for the worst floods in a 100 years, I have to ask myself if the same thing was not said in 1993. And I am pertty sure that it has not been a hunderd years since the last time Iowa was flooded.

However, you may be surprised to find that I agree with part of your statement. For why the Barons of Society may have the means, money, and motivation to directly effect the Business of Government and Society. Have you every wondered why Developer has to bring his idea to Market before he can go speak directly with the Consumers on what they see is a need of their Communities?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at June 16, 2008 9:59 PM
Comment #255801

David

Plato! Plato! – yes I have read Plato. In Greek. A long time ago. I do not hold with most of his ideas about justice, the nature of life or the concept of reality and I suspect a lot of people would be less impressed IF they actually read Plato in context. He is perhaps the greatest philosopher hardly anybody had read.

Plato was a great thinker – back in the 5th century BC. We have indeed moved beyond his ideas. If Plato was alive today, and advocating an updated version of his philosophy, we would probably call him a fascist or at least you would complain re his aristocratic leanings.

Ideas of justice and good are constant in the main, but they vary greatly around the edges. Beyond that, no human can apprehend the true concept of good and justice (here I do hold with Plato). We can only come up with approximations, as with shadows in a cave.

So in the ethereal world of theoretical philosophy, some things never change. Down here on the earthly sphere, change is constant and inevitable.

One more thing about Plato. You can divide Greek philosophy into the pre-Socratic and the post-Socratic. Plato, of course, is Socratic. The Platonists made a special effort to destroy and denigrate the works of philosophers such as Heraclites, who I mentioned above.

But that wasn’t the point. I said nothing re greed. I talked about practical change. The fact that you jumped from change so quickly to greed is interesting.

Re law enforcement – how many times do I have to repeat that I believe in the rule of law, but that I don’t believe the state (and the law) should be concerned with every possible human interaction. The law should be something that keeps people from harming each other in fairly obvious ways, but a good law will be one a decent individual rarely notices. You don’t need a law to keep me from killing or stealing.

Re zero sum game – I am just using game in the way the way theories of strategy use the term. I don’t mean a game as the kind you play.

Politics is generally zero sum. If you make a rule for everybody to follow, you limit choice. Sometimes you need to do this. Keep it to a minimum and everybody can make the choices that make him most happy and we all are happier.

Re market economies – Market economies in the sense of being largely free of state control are recent. You allude to that fact yourself when you say Chinese markets outside the reach of the Emperor. When political authorities COULD interfere with markets, they did. Often they would end up executing or imprisoning those who had the audacity to buy and sell w/o their permission or at market prices.

Re quality of life – I am talking about options. Today if you want to live a simple life you have that option. Most people who claim to want a simple life really don’t, BTW, but they can. In the past, you didn’t have the options.

Re greed and oppression – they are always present but they certainly are not unchanging.

I perceive we have a difference in philosophy. I am pragmatic. I judge by what things do, not what they call themselves or claim as goals. That is why I cannot be a Platonist. I don’t believe there are any pure forms of anything on this earth. I do not reject the notion of absolute truth, but I don’t have a precise opinion on that since it is unknowable.

Re Feudalism and aristocracy – they are much more in line with the social democracy advocated by liberals. Economic activity in these systems is heavily regulated. If you look at something like the index of economic freedom, these kinds of systems would be classified as unfree.

J2t2

Slavery in a free market economy becomes something of a burden. In 1776 the North & the South were similarly developed. By 1860, the South had fallen seriously behind. One big factor was slavery.

Slavery hung on longer than it should have in market economies. But when you consider that it had been a part of all organized societies from their inception until that time, it is interesting that it began to disappear almost at the same time market economies emerged.

Posted by: Jack at June 17, 2008 2:03 AM
Comment #255806

Jack said:

Slavery in a free market economy becomes something of a burden. In 1776 the North & the South were similarly developed. By 1860, the South had fallen seriously behind. One big factor was slavery.

Slavery hung on longer than it should have in market economies. But when you consider that it had been a part of all organized societies from their inception until that time, it is interesting that it began to disappear almost at the same time market economies emerged.

Does slavery become a burden in a free market economy? It seems to me China and Walmart use slave labor quite well in the free market. The disparity in the North and South just might be explained by the difference between manufacturing and agriculture, the way most historians explain it.

Did slavery disappear? Well, certainly slave ships no longer are packed with humans crossing the Atlantic. Today, Semi’s and containers filled with humans are driving the roads of Texas traveling northward.

Are people whipped and beaten into submission? Well, except for a few prostitutes, no. We’re much more sophisticated these days. We place them in jail.

Do people subsist in shacks hidden from view of the elegant elite society they support? Well, except for the barrios and colonias, no. Of course, prison labor is hidden behind walls, mostly.

Posted by: googlumpus at June 17, 2008 6:33 AM
Comment #255807

Google

My father used was an ordinary worker. He used to complain that the fact that he HAD to work every day at a job he disliked made him a slave.

You can extend the definition of slavery a long way if you want. Basically I think you have to stick with a general condition where forced labor is officially sanctions and has the weight of the law behind it.

The treatment of the illegal workers you mention and even their employment is … illegal. I regret that conditions in their home countries are so bad that they break our laws to come here to work illegally and I support stronger programs to stop additional illegal workers and to punish employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.

Re agrarian south. The question is why it became and stayed agrarian. Alexis de Tocqueville commented on the change of vitality as you crossed the Ohio River, which separated slave from free. Maryland and Virginia are not so different from Pennsylvania or New Jersey today. When you cross from Ohio into Kentucky today, you do not pick up a drop off in vitality. The presence of slave labor saps the vitality of a society because it cheapens labor and stifles innovation.

There is a very definite correlation between economic freedom and freedom of other kinds. I am sure the causality is mixed, but they are definitely in some sort of reinforcing loop. Remember that throughout human history bondage (to use a broader term that includes serfdom etc) was accepted as natural everywhere. It was only in conditions of general freedom that it was banned. The British beat us to it, perhaps because their system was a little more “liberal” in the old sense, than ours.

Posted by: Jack at June 17, 2008 7:07 AM
Comment #255822

Jack-
Good change and bad change, right?

I think I can speak to this in simple terms: we need a great deal of good change in order to get over the great deal of bad change that’s not only occurred during the Bush Administration, but over the course of the last couple generations as well.

McCain is invested in things as they are now. He wants free trade as it is now. He wants Bush’s tax policy, as it is now. He wants Iraq, as it is now. He would not be the first person to start reining in the business community, nor would he be the best person to start taking care of the healthcare crisis or mortgage lending crisis. He’s literally working with and for many of the people whose best interests are not served by the government doing something about these problems.

McCain’s problem at this moment is that he’s trying to sell status quo to a nation that’s screaming for somebody to take matters in hand and undo the damage.

People want change, and not because some guy came a long and made it the latest fad. Folks are genuinely ticked off, genuinely dissatisfied with things, and the Republicans, so long invested in their conservative movement have not registered the depth nor the breadth of their paradigm’s failure. 2008’s election will demonstrate just how deep the dissatisfaction runs.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 17, 2008 2:17 PM
Comment #255826

Stephen

I suppose folks are ticked off — because they are spoiled.

We live in just about the best of times. We earn more. Our environment is cleaner. There have been no other terror attacks in the U.S. since 9/11. We live longer than ever and we are healthier while we live.

I know this telling the truth will not make my popular on this blog on in the whining nation we have become. I also understand that we can still point to real hardship - but less than almost any time before.

We have a serious problem in our country with expectations. We have become rich too fast and this goes for almost all of us. We forgot what hard times really are.

I expect a rain of comments written by comfortable people on computers with power not even Howard Hughes could afford in the 1970s. We cry about our 5.5% unemployment rate and the fact that we are ALMOST in a recession or that our houses are worth only 33% more than they were in 2000.

If an American wants to see real poverty, he probably has to leave the country. Somebody should organize poverty tours.

We are among the luckiest people in the history of the world and we have become a country of spoiled rich kids. OMG, I cannot buy everything I want today!

Stephen, I remember when unemployment and inflation were both in double digits. I remember not being able to swim in Lake Michigan because of the pollution, not the cold, and the air smelled like a mixture of steel and coal in my house. A RIVER in Ohio actually started on fire and Lake Eire was declared biologically dead. I can still picture the half mile long lines for gas. I remember when serious pundits said we were on the brink of nuclear war.

And those were also times of great prosperity compared with most others. My father told me about growing up in the great depression. His father told stories about living with the Tzar. Things sure have improved.

Americans used to be resiliant. We used to stand up and do things for ourselves. Many still do. BUt it is hard to concentrate with all the crying going on.

Posted by: Jack at June 17, 2008 3:37 PM
Comment #255827

The thing that concerns me most about Obama is the fact that he is a far left, or radical progressive liberal. He has loudly and proudly proclaimed many times that he is strongly in that “progressive” camp.

And you can see that according to how he has voted and what he has said and who he has associated with for years. And if you listen to him carefully in recent months you hear things like “Bitter clinging Christians” “We need to pay more for gas” ” we need more government programs” “We need to punish big business” “illegal aliens should have this right or that right”, etc etc.

Then, when talking to the middle class general voters what does he promise? Change. What will that change be? Silence.

I think it’s the things he was talking about when he felt the general election voters weren’t listening. Support for terrorist against Israel, anti Free trade, Anti big business, higher taxes, more entitlements, opposition to our friends and understanding for our enemies. I think it’s destructive change but you can’t get him to lay it out because that would make it very clear it’s not the change many voters really want.

Uniter? One often things of a uniter as one who meets in the middle and brings about moderation and compromise. To me, Obama represents not moderation by activism, and extreme, a hard turn to the left, not to the middle. Not to compromise and moderation and solutions that most of us really want. I think if he gets in and gets the votes he needs in the senate….things are going to get very ugly here and abroad.

Posted by: StephenL at June 17, 2008 3:51 PM
Comment #255839

StephenL, your biased comment is so full of logical inadequacies as to be laughable.

First, please quote the source of Obama’s so called quote: “We need to punish big business”. You made that up and it conflicts directly with Obama’s plans to lower taxes on corporations while increasing them on individuals of great wealth.

Second, and this is choice, You say when asked what change there will be, Obama has nothing but silence to offer. But in the preceding paragraph you roll out a list of details of changes you say He is quoted as offering. Silence, or the changes you list as his proposals?

You can’t logically both claim Obama is silent on changes AND provide a long list of detailed changes you THINK you heard him offer.

That completely diametrically opposed statements of yours destroy any credibility in your comment. That and your comment’s inventions and projections of what you may wish Obama would say so he would lose.

He is obviously far more logical and smarter than to display in a public venue any vulnerabilities in logic and veracity as your comment proffers.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 17, 2008 4:42 PM
Comment #255840

Jack said: “I suppose folks are ticked off — because they are spoiled.”

Wrong! Ticked off at being lied to, disappointed often and regularly, and for having been suckered into voting for a President on par with, with, with, …no there is comparison. The American public generally knows what America’s ideals and potential are, and they are ticked off that they have witnessed a near full retreat from those ideals and potential.

Your supposition makes for clever sophistry, but, rings hollow as an empty metal under-road drainage pipe.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 17, 2008 4:46 PM
Comment #255841

Jack said: “We live in just about the best of times. We earn more.”

What propaganda. Who is ‘we’, Jack? From the middle of WWII until the 1970’s one blue collar wage earner could provide a middle class quality of life for his or her family, with a house, car, health insurance, and savings for at least one kid’s college education.

Today, for about the same percentage of blue collar workers, it now takes two full time wage earners to maintain that middle class station.

Sure, there are more wealthy persons today than ever before. But, they are still a very, very small minority of working Americans Jack, and doesn’t tip the scale away from the two wage earner requirement for middle class standing.

Would you call working twice as hard and as many hours for the same pay, moving up in the world, Jack? You may say so, but, it wouldn’t ring true for the rest of working Americans.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 17, 2008 4:53 PM
Comment #255842


Jack said: “Ronald Reagan (FDR) and Newt Gingrich were catalists to more change than any modern liberal.”

It’s not often that truer words are spoken but, what kind of change are we talking about? A return to Ronald Reagan’s Golden Age of Capitalism before FDR’s new deal or the huge attack on unions and their middleclass wage base?

“Take a concrete example of a man dying of thirst. If you just give him as much water as he wants to drink, you probably will kill him.”

On the other hand, if you control the distribution of water, you can deprive the man of water until he agrees to work really hard for just enough water to keep him alive and working.

You can force him to build you a castle. You can make him build you a beautiful garden with water falls, brooks, ponds and water fountains. You can get him to build you a swimming pool. You can have him build your dogs a swimming pool.

After that, you can have him build you a bungalow on the beach with separate quarters for the butler, the maid and the servants three. While your at it, don’t forget to have him build you a ski resort in Aspen.

David Remer said: “Republicans believe in hierarchies, make no mistake. They just believe in hiding them so they don’t make as ready targets for backlash as consequences of their actions.”

Republicans certainly believe in and support the hierarchies but, they really don’t try hard to hide the fact. As a matter of fact, they are prowd of that support. They claim that’s the way it’s supposed to be and that the world won’t work any other way.

Democratic elitists who control the Party believe in hierarchies, make no mistake about that. They just try harder to hide the fact. They claim they are trying to balance out the damage caused by the greed of the Republican hierarchies. They enjoy the benefits of the pecking order. However, in order to maintain the facade that they aren’t peckers and that they feel the pain of the peckies, they like to throw an insignificant bone of hope at those peckies every now and then.

Jack said: “Change is inevitable, whether or not you want it or like it.”

This is very true but, you can safely bet your bottom dollar that the peckies are going to pay every dime of the cost of change, bear every negative aspect of change on their backs or their spatula holding, hamburger flipping hands. That’s the way the Peckers like it, the way the Peckers have said it must be.

Oh, how envious some of those peckies are of the way it has to be.

Jack said: “The presence of slave labor saps the vitality of a society because it cheapens labor and stifles inovation.”

One of the primary defensive arguments made by southern slave owners was that their black slaves endured easier working conditions, a better diet and a healthier and longer life span that the norther white factory workers. While that argument was, for the most part, true, so what. That was a stinging condemnation of the northern wealthy hierarchy rather than a ringing endorsement of slavery.

The southern slave owners knew that their economy and their way of life would be destroyed without slave labor. As a matter of fact, it took nearly a hundred years for the southern economy to truely recover and begin to catch up to the economy of the north. Even then, it was based in part on Right to Work, anti-union laws.

The Romans built a great empire on the backs of slaves and their military might. That empire didn’t fall because it was overran by barbarian hordes. It fell because it rotted from the top down, from the core out.

Can we expect a different outcome for our empire that has been built primarily by the labors of slave wage earners, just because we grant more freedom to those with the abilities to go for the gusto, when it is rotten at the top and rotting from the core.

WalMart recently opened what they claim is the largest Super WalMart in the world in my backwoods (no competition) community. All of their employees, with the exception of management, enjoys the thrill of a low wage, benefitless, 24 hour work week. Of course, these workers are free to drag up stakes and move to the big city where they might be able to get a job in a WalMart that provides a few more incentives to maintain a workforce.

Here, McDonalds pays the minimum wage. McDonalds has to pay more in the big city. Of course, it costs more to survive in the big city.

Jack said: “When you cross from Ohio into Kentucky today, you don’t pick up a drop off in vitality.”

Actually jack, it really depends on where you cross the Ohio river. If you cross at Ironton, you see a significant increase in vitality in Ashland.

If you cross the river at Portsmouth, there is a marked decrease in vitality in South Shore and that’s saying a lot considering the fact that the vitality of Portsmouth was destroyed by and has never recovered from the Great Depression. Before the Great Depression, Portsmouth was a booming river city of 70,000 plus, with many factories and businesses. The river trafic dried up, the factories went away, the businesses were boarded up and the population has steadily dwindled to about 20,000 today.

If you cross the river at Aberdeen, there is a slight increase in the vitality in Maysville.

If you cross the river at Cincinnati, your in the heart of Greater Cincinnati suburban bliss.

What good is civilization if it’s primary purpose has always been the preservation of the statis quo of wealth has the power to do as it pleases?

What good is civilization if it’s ability to create wealth is based on the promotion of a hedonistic, consumptive lifestyle for all that can afford it?

What good is civilization if the wealth that it produces can’t provide, for all, a lifestyle free of poverty, hunger and need?

What good is civilization if in it’s entire existance, it has never been sucessful at curbing human greed and the ensuing need for war after war after war?

Posted by: jlw at June 17, 2008 4:56 PM
Comment #255848

Jack-
I’ll remember this comment when you next bring up Obama’s supposed elitism.

From my own personal memory, I saw my father’s job security become an open question, time and again, like many working class people. His father, though, worked most of his life at the same place. Yes, you call them spoiled.

From my own personal memory, I remember a time when drugs were more affordable, when you could go to a doctor and actually get something done for what ails you. Yes, how spoiled we were.

I remember a time when we weren’t in such a hurry to export every critical industry overseas.

I remember a time when gas prices were actually sane, and so was our energy policy.

I remember a time where we had learned the lesson of Vietnam, and weren’t heading into dozens of wars with vague ambitions of spreading Democracy and dim understanding of who we were spreading it to! I remember a time when talking and negotiating with enemies wasn’t equated to giving more territory to a conquest hungry dictator in hopes of avoiding war, when we had fresh memories of Reagan talking with Gorbachev, and the first Bush dealing successfully with, not alienating, our allies.

Maybe some dangers were greater, but the exact things you talk about us being spoiled by are the things that undid the messes you spoke of.

You talk about five percent unemployment, but you have to remember that being jobless and unemployed, by the definition of those doing statistics in the department of labor, are two different things. In reality, 12% of those who are working wage or more are not working, and many are underemployed.

We are still resilient, Jack, but you have to stop imperiously declaring that all the problems we’re dealing with are just a matter of moral weakness on our part. The very mechanisms by which people once weathered economic downtimes, like savings and government assistance, are no longer as great now as they once were, and your people have weakened the strength of those who once stood up for them.

You’re not going to win any elections declaring us a nation of whiny children.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at June 17, 2008 5:24 PM
Comment #255849

Jim M, wouldn’t answer the questions I posed to Jack, so you critique the messenger instead of the message? How typical.
Posted by: David R. Remer at June 16, 2008 02:47 PM

Yes David, I am typical…I answer questions addressed to me, not Jack. Do you realize how silly your statement is?

There are 12 percent more households earning in excess of $100,000 than 20 or so years ago. And those making less than $30,000 have not increased. So virtually the entire “decline” of the middle-class group has come from people moving up the income ladder, not down. (Source, editorial, U.S. News and World Report June 23rd)

William Robert Fogel, the Nobel Prize-winning economic historian said, “In every measure that we have bearing on the standard of living…the gains of the lower classes have been far greater than those experienced by the population as a whole.”

Posted by: Jim M at June 17, 2008 5:27 PM
Comment #255864

Jim M, but you responded to my comment to Jack. Do you realize how hypocritical that makes your last comment? :-) Toodles!

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 17, 2008 7:37 PM
Comment #255873

Ah yes, CHANGE.

I attended the Obama rally last night in my “hometown” of Detroit (I actually live in a suburb about 50 minutes north of city - having moved from the city about 15 years ago)

For the first time in my life I actually “participated” in a political event. Sure, I’ve attended before but this time I carried a banner. It said -

CHANGE! Vote Republican in Michigan!

On the backside it said -

CHANGE! Granholm / Kilpatrick / Levin / Stabenow - ALL MUST GO

For those not following along those are all democrats. (Governor, Mayor of Detroit, and the Senators).

Of course I was hooted down by those around me. I kept responding to people that I’d gladly vote for Obama and support his presidency if they all voted for republican challengers when these sluggards came up for election. No takers of course.

So why don’t these people just hold up the sign they really want -

CHANGE! - MORE GOVERNMENT, HIGHER TAXES, LESS PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, MORE HANDOUTS.

The rally was a big downer. It probably looked good on TV as the rows up front were going crazy (are those people planted?). The rest of the crowd was more muted.

Whoever started this topic is right - the whole mantra of “change” is childish. And like children behave however it just sounds good, but no one wants to take the medicine.

Just look at the “state” of the state of Michigan. This is a democrat state. And you people think the country should be run by democrats? Look at what “socialized” health care did to the auto companies. Look at the unemployment rate here. Look at the success the governor has generated by RAISING taxes. Look at the success of the Detroit schools.

An Obama presidency with a Democratic congress would be a change alright - it would be a change to be downright frightened about the future of our country.

“My name’s Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.”

Posted by: Forrest Gump at June 17, 2008 8:56 PM
Comment #255875

Jack

This discussion has been had more than once on this blog. We are not a spoiled nation of whiners. Your free market society coupled with the credit tool has served to set a new standard of expectations well beyond that of our day. The exploitation of the credit tool by those who manipulate the so-called free market have created this new perception of acceptable standards. We as a nation have evolved into a new more demanding type of consumer. The lending profiteers have created a consumption monster that has little patience for responsible spending. Irresponsible use of the credit tool coupled with stagnate wages, lost jobs, and higher costs are making the consumption monster very nervous. It is not fair to label them as whiners simply for wanting what they have been trained to believe they can and should have. And to be totally honest most of them could not give a rat’s ass what you or I did or did not have in our time.

Posted by: RickIL at June 17, 2008 9:31 PM
Comment #255876

Gump

I would suggest that the state of your state has more to do with NAFTA and poor foresight by the auto industry. Outsourcing of jobs and an energy crisis have stagnated an industry with no apparent ability to properly prepare for what has been so obviously inevitable. If anyone of those auto makers had taken the initiative to properly plan for a future of high energy costs they most likely would be doing quite well. Once again procrastination has insured that they are well behind the eight ball when compared to their foreign competition. And of course it is the American worker who is paying the price, as usual.

As for your state legislators, well if they are not doing their jobs then by all means vote their sorry asses out. Accountability is the only thing that will make them sit up and take notice.

Posted by: RickIL at June 17, 2008 9:43 PM
Comment #255878

RickIL,

Yes, it is the auto industry’s fault. Management/shareholders dealt poorly with the socialists - I mean unionists - and it has cost them dearly. There was little flexibility left over the past 10 years.

But is this what ails Michigan? I would argue no, its the business climate (high taxes, lots of regulation, and “chosen” industries by state government) and the complete breakdown of the education in the largest city - Detroit. We are turning into a welfare state quite literally. Living in Michigan probably feels similar to living in the old EU countries. You know, high taxes, lots of regulation, no new industries, education failing…..and the general entitlement mentality.

To me these are all things Obama (dems somewhat in general) play to with their populist rhetoric of “we can CHANGE things” - ie) we the government will take care of you.

That has completely failed in Michigan thanks to its democratic leadership and the socialist unions.

Michigan - put simply - has lived the “liberal” experiment…..and the stark, utter failings of the state should be an example to all who want “CHANGE.”

Be afraid.

Forrest Gump
“Oh, yes sir. Bit me right in the but*ocks. They said it was a million dollar wound, but the army must keep that money ‘cause I still haven’t seen a nickel of that million dollars.”

Posted by: Forrest Gump at June 17, 2008 10:23 PM
Comment #255891

David

You were richer. We didn’t have a car. My father couldn’t afford to send me to school. Everybody lived in smaller houses, with single bathrooms for families of five or six.

Today you can afford that same sort of lifestyle (i.e. live in the same size house, own one used car, have a TV with three channels, buy the same amount of clothes etc) easily with one earner. We have pushed our consumption. Most families own two or more cars. We live very well.

We also work fewer total hours than we did forty years ago. Not to mention all the labor saving devices we have around the house.

Stephen

I AM an elitist in the sense that I believe people can and should educate themselves and work hard to make themselves better and that makes them better than others who have not done those things.

I also think most people complain too much. That is why I write for this blog and don’t run for office. I don’t “feel the pain” of the indolent and they would never vote for me.

Re 5.5% unemployment, maybe that is a small estimate, but it the same one we have used for a long time. We used to have double digit unemployment. Now we don’t.

Posted by: jack at June 18, 2008 2:27 AM
Comment #255906

Jim M offered: “So virtually the entire “decline” of the middle-class group has come from people moving up the income ladder, not down.”

Jim, your statement makes no sense. The facts are that 40 years ago a blue collar worker could provide a middle class lifestyle for their family. Today that worker has to have 2 full time jobs or both spouses working to maintain that middle class quality of life. And its getting worse as we speak given a 10% inflation of health care costs this year, a 25% inflation in gasoline in 1 year, and inflation in food costs, education, local taxes, energy costs (in many areas of the country). Of all the necessities of life, the only price going down is housing, and that primarily in areas where they rose so rapidly.

When cost of living rises faster than wages, which has been the case over the last 40 years, working people either get poorer or they have to work many more hours just to keep their middle class or poorer standing.

Posted by: David R. Remer at June 18, 2008 11:03 AM
Comment #255931

David

The cost of living has not risen faster than wages. That is just not true. Adjusted for inflation they are up around 33% since the 1960s.

You are cherry picking things that have become more expensive faster. You obviously own a computer. The cost of computers has dropped like a stone. So have most other kinds of electronics. Food costs are still lower in real terms than they were in the 1960s. Workers work fewer hours to earn them.

Taxes have gone up. Yeah. Cut them!

Re blue collar workers - there are fewer unskilled and they have moved down market. The comparison of blue collar workers is invalid because they are not the same over time. The children of blue collar workers are now professionals or skilled workers. Your analysis is static.

As Jim says, people over the generations moved up. Unskilled blue collar workers are disappearing as a group. Those left in that category are not comparable to those of the 1960s.

Think of it like a college campus. There are always sophomore. They never get much older and their earnings do not improve much, as a group. You would look at this and see no progress.

Posted by: Jack at June 18, 2008 2:06 PM
Comment #255953
Jack wrote: The cost of living has not risen faster than wages. That is just not true. Adjusted for inflation they are up around 33% since the 1960s.
False.

Median incomes have stagnated over the past 30+ years (adjusted for inflation).
1970 CPI = 224
2007 CPI = 235
In 37 years, Median Income per CPI increased a measely 4.9% (not 1/3 = 33%).

  • MEDIAN INCOME/CPI (1970 to 2008; source: CensusBureau.gov):

  • 250 |———————————————————

  • 245 |———————————————————

  • 240 |——————————————-xxxx—xx-

  • 235 |—-x————————————x——xx—x

  • 230 |—x-x—-xx————xxx———xx————-

  • 225 |x-x-x—x-x———xx—-x——x—————-

  • 220 |-x—-xx—-x——x——-xxxxx——————

  • 215 |—————x—-x———————————-

  • 210 |—————-xxx————————————

  • 205 |———————————————————

  • 200 |———————————————————YEAR

  • ——1—————————1—————————2

  • ——9—————————9—————————0

  • ——7—————————8—————————0

  • ——0—————————8—————————7

And median household incomes have actually decreased when considering:

  • more workers per household

  • more regressive taxation

  • more national debt

  • more taxes of all kinds

Real Median HouseHold Income (adjusted for inflation, in 2004 Dollars):
  • $46K |——————————————————-

  • $45K |———————————————o———

  • $44K |——————————————o—-o——

  • $43K |—————————————o———-o—
  • $43K
  • $42K |————————o———-o——————

  • $41K |———————o—-o—-o———————

  • $40K |o-o————-o———-o————————
  • $40K
  • $39K |——o——-o—————————————

  • $38K |———o-o——————————————

  • $37K |——————————————————-

  • 100% |(1978)_______________________(2006)YEAR

  • There was only a 1% increase in 28 years from:
    • $40,000 in year 1978

    • to $43,066 in year 2006.

    Most economists recognize the stagnation of incomes for many years, and when including more workers per household, household incomes have fallen.

    It isn’t hard to understand how that has happened, due to these 10+ abuses, and the resulting 17+ deteriorating economic conditions.

    Jack wrote: Taxes have gone up. Yeah. Cut them!
    Right. With the regressive Carbon tax you believe should be implemented?
    Jack wrote: We live in just about the best of times. We earn more. Our environment is cleaner. There have been no other terror attacks in the U.S. since 9/11. We live longer than ever and we are healthier while we live.
    Good things have happened, but it no longer appears to be out-weighing those 17+ deteriorating economic conditions of the last 30 years.
    Jack wrote: I know this telling the truth will not make my popular on this blog on in the whining nation we have become. I also understand that we can still point to real hardship - but less than almost any time before.
    Perhaps, but for how long? Things don’t seem terrible right this moment, but with so much debt, for how long?
    Jack wrote: We have a serious problem in our country with expectations. We have become rich too fast and this goes for almost all of us. We forgot what hard times really are.
    But how long will these supposedly good times last? It’s not hard to see how things are about to get much worse for many more years.
    Jack wrote: We cry about our 5.5% unemployment rate and the fact that we are ALMOST in a recession or that our houses are worth only 33% more than they were in 2000.
    Again, the point isn’t a few cherry picked statistics. It’s what the big picture is telling us … what is most likely on the way.
    Jack wrote: If an American wants to see real poverty, he probably has to leave the country. Somebody should organize poverty tours.
    True, there are places where it is worse. So what? Should we resign to mediocrity and the futility to avoid becoming impoverished?
    Jack wrote: We are among the luckiest people in the history of the world and we have become a country of spoiled rich kids. OMG, I cannot buy everything I want today!
    There’s some truth in that. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be painful consequences in the not too distant future.
    Jack wrote: Stephen, I remember when unemployment and inflation were both in double digits. I remember not being able to swim in Lake Michigan because of the pollution, not the cold, and the air smelled like a mixture of steel and coal in my house. A RIVER in Ohio actually started on fire and Lake Eire was declared biologically dead. I can still picture the half mile long lines for gas. I remember when serious pundits said we were on the brink of nuclear war.
    True. And the point is that you might get to experience all of that again. Things are not as rosy now as you seem to think they are, and current conditions do not justify the disdain for anything-not-rosy.
    Jack wrote: And those were also times of great prosperity compared with most others. My father told me about growing up in the great depression. His father told stories about living with the Tzar. Things sure have improved.
    True. But the point is, you may get to experience all of that again, considering the big picture and dozens of deteriorating economic conditions.
    Jack wrote: Americans used to be resiliant. We used to stand up and do things for ourselves. Many still do. BUt it is hard to concentrate with all the crying going on.
    Crying without offerring solutions, and/or ignoring solutions is annoying.

    SOLUTIONS …

    For example, if voters are that unhappy and disgruntled, why do they repeatedly reward irresponsible incumbent politicians with perpetual re-election.
    That doesn’t make much sense does it.
    Equally delusional is thinking that the IN-PARTY or OUT-PARTY is so much better than the other, and serious about solving the nation’s problems, growing in number and severity.

    Jack wrote: I suppose folks are ticked off — because they are spoiled.
    Well, that’s hard to argue with.

    There’s some truth in that.
    There are other reasons too:

    • apathy,

    • complacency,

    • ignorance,

    • laziness,

    • greed,

    • selfishness,

    • delusion,

    • misplaced partisan loyalties,

    • and irrational fears and hatreds.

    Jack, so you sound a little upset with Americans in general?

    You seem to think there are too many spoiled, whining Americans.

    I think you are right about that.
    Why?
    Because there are solutions, but too few voters choose to vote more responsibly, and educate themselves of the issues and the voting records of their own politicians.
    Instead, too many voters (of the 50%-to-60% that even bother to vote at all) lazily pull the party-lever, and pat themselves on the back, choosing to believe they have done their patriotic duty.
    Too many voters give Congress dismally low approval ratings (as low as 11%-to-18%), but repeatedly reward irresponsible incumbent politicians with perpetual re-election.
    Why?
    Because of those “other reasons” above.

    However, your assertions that economic conditions and the future are bright is not true.
    To hear you tell it, it sounds like things are wonderful, the future is bright, there’s no reason for concern about the future, and you have a disdain for anyone mentioning any issues that aren’t rosy.

    That’s not reality.
    The last 30+ years, and those “other reasons” listed above (which you yourself sum up as being spoiled), will not be without consequences.
    While things many seem OK at the moment, they have been deteriorating.
    It’s getting harder and harder to push the anti-anything-not-rosy agenda.
    Saying things like the following just don’t ring true, and what the future holds is the real issue …

    Jack wrote: We live in just about the best of times …

    The point is, things may not seem so terrible yet, but that is likely to change soon.
    Things are most likely going to deteriorate and decline more for many years (or decades) to come.

    And we are all culpable.
    Not only Democrats.
    Not only Republicans.
    Wallowing it the partisan-warfare won’t solve anything.

    At any rate, the voters have the government that the voters elect (and deserve).

    Posted by: d.a.n at June 18, 2008 6:38 PM
    Comment #255962

    No, Jack. Your statement argues mean income, which by virtue of the mass accumulation of wealth in the highest income brackets has pulled the mean up 33%.

    But, for the lower 2/3rds of the Middle Class, it does in fact now take two wage earners to stay in the same class it took just one wage earner in 1970. Twice as much work and hours to stay in the same income position relative to all income levels is accounted for ONLY by cost of living having risen by double that of wages.

    Those are the facts, Jack. You can try to play statistically deceptive sophist games all day long, but, the American public knows it takes many more hours of work today to stay at their parent’s income class level 40 years ago.

    Posted by: David R. Remer at June 18, 2008 8:44 PM
    Comment #255973

    David

    I always use median.

    As least half of Americans have seen their incomes rise by around 33%. Very high wage earners have no effect on the median, unless there are so many of them that the reach more than 50% of the total - HEY that is what happened. Not bad.

    Posted by: Jack at June 19, 2008 1:56 AM
    Comment #256014
    Jack wrote: I always use median.
    As least half of Americans have seen their incomes rise by around 33%. False.

    To say median incomes have increased by 33% is a deceptive statement, and only true if you cherry-pick the peaks-and-valleys of specific years.

    Real median incomes have not really increased when adjusting for inflation, increased numbers of workers per household, nore national debt, and more regressive taxation..

    When looking at a single-earner family income, it’s been flat since 1970 (see chart of family incomes for 1,2,3, and 4 earners per family).
    When looking at a two-earner family, the family’s income did not double.
    Nor did it triple for a three-earner family.
    In fact, income-per-earner falls as the number of earners-per-family increases.
    The point is, incomes have really been stagnant for over 30 years (see red line on chart for single-earner household).
    Thus, the constant spouting that incomes have increased by 33% is deceptive and dishonest.

    Jack wrote: Very high wage earners have no effect on the median, unless there are so many of them that the reach more than 50% of the total - HEY that is what happened. Not bad.
    False. Any decrease/increase of even one income will affect the final median income level (the income level at which 50% of all people’s incomes are at or below the income level, and 50% of all people’s incomes are above the income level). Likewise for the mean (average) income level.

    The wealth disparity gap in the U.S. has been growing larger since year 1976.

    Thus, the typical anti-anything-not-rosy spin is not credible.

    Other than that, and these other economic conditions, …

    Jack wrote: We live in just about the best of times.

    Posted by: d.a.n at June 19, 2008 1:55 PM
    Comment #256016

    d.a.n.

    Median is affected ONLY if the income level gets to the 50th percentile.

    Simple example. three numbers 20 10 5. Which is the median? Three nubmers 1 million 10 5, which is the median?

    The mean income is what you are confusing. That is why I use the median.

    Re not rising by much - go back the the 1960s. That is my point of comparison. Choose ANY year you like or better yet, take a rolling average.

    Re single earner - Big deal. A single earner makes a little more, not less. Everybody else has jumped. The composition of single earners has changed over the years. Back in the 1960s a single earner included many highly paid executives married to non-working spouses. Today a single earner is probably on the lower end of the socio-economic level.

    Anyway, it looks good to me. The worse group of people is earning a little more. Most everybody else is earning a lot more.

    Posted by: Jack at June 19, 2008 2:06 PM
    Comment #256066
    Jack wrote: Median is affected ONLY if the income level gets to the 50th percentile.
    I misunderstood your statement (regarding number of incomes, versus amounts of incomes), and stand corrected, and I should have wrote:
    Any decrease/increase of even one income (i.e. the number of incomes, not the amount) will affect the final median income level …
    Jack wrote: Re not rising by much - go back the the 1960s. That is my point of comparison.
    Sure. If you go back far enough, you can say lots of things have increased by huge percentages, but it doesn’t really mean much.
    Jack wrote:Choose ANY year you like or better yet, take a rolling average.
    I did. I have consistently picked a period of 25-to-30 years.

    And based on the last 28 years, real median house-hold incomes have not increased by 33%.
    In fact, as shown below, the median income increased a measely 7.6% in 28 years!
    That chart below is from the Census Bureau (in 2004 dollars; period is 1978 to 2006).
    And 2007 and 2008 data is not likely to see increases in median household incomes.
    Thus, real median household incomes have not increased by 33% in the last 30 years, and have in fact, increased very little.
    And when you consider more workers per household, more national debt, and more regressive taxation, real median incomes have stagnated.

    Real Median HouseHold Income (adjusted for inflation, in 2004 Dollars):

  • $46K |——————————————————-

  • $45K |———————————————o———

  • $44K |——————————————o—-o——

  • $43K |—————————————o———-o—
  • $43K
  • $42K |————————o———-o——————

  • $41K |———————o—-o—-o———————

  • $40K |o-o————-o———-o————————
  • $40K
  • $39K |——o——-o—————————————

  • $38K |———o-o——————————————

  • $37K |——————————————————-

  • 100% |(1978)_______________________(2006)YEAR

  • Jack wrote:
    Re single earner - Big deal. A single earner makes a little more, not less.

    Not really. In fact, over the last 30 years, the single-earner family income has actually fallen slightly. Now include more national debt and more regressive taxes, and things have certainly not gotten better for most people.

    Jack wrote: Anyway, it looks good to me.
    Of course it does, due to the rose colored glasses.

    Never mind any of these 10+ abuses and these 17+ deteriorating economic conditions. It will be interesting to continue this discussion a few years from now. Already, for several years now, things have not been getting better, and how you can say “it looks good to me” and “We live in just about the best of times.” is interesting, since so many things fail to support those conclusions.

    Other than that, everything is rosy!

    Posted by: d.a.n at June 19, 2008 7:00 PM
    Comment #256103

    d.a.n.

    1978 was a higher income year than those that came right after it and those that went before (which don’t show on the chart). Beyond that, 2006 was a better year than you imply, it was around 48K. What you did was measure from a peak in 1978 to a valley in 2004.

    A rolling average would take five year (for example) rolling averages, ie. 1970-5, 1971-6…2002-8.

    The reason I go back to the 1960s is that is where we often get comparisons. Many people like the year 1972, another peak just before the oil crisis.

    No matter how we slice it, we are doing okay. 7.6% is not bad and that is your LOW number. Remember, we are not talking about individuals. back in 1978 I made around $2000, even adjusted for inflation. Today I make a lot more than 7% more. So does almost everybody who was a worker back then and is still working today.

    Posted by: Jack at June 20, 2008 3:37 AM
    Comment #256140
    Jack wrote: d.a.n. 1978 was a higher income year than those that came right after it and those that went before (which don’t show on the chart).
    Still, even using peak-to-peak, $40K to $45K is only 11%. Not 33%.

    Even using valley-to-peak, it’s still only 18%. Not 33%.

    Incomes are stagnant, and have been for 30 years.
    Especially when also considering the increasing number of workers per household, considering flat median incomes for single-earner households (flat from 1968 to 2004; that’s 36 years), more national debt, and more regressive taxation.

    And since median incomes have fallen since 1999, it’s really more than 36 years (it’s really over 40 years since 2007 and 2008 are likely to show more stagnation of median incomes).

    Real Single-Earner Median HouseHold Income (adjusted for inflation, in 2004 Dollars):

  • $38.33K |——————————————————-

  • $38.00K |——————————————————-

  • $37.67K |—-o——-oo——-oooo—————-oooooo
  • $37,618 (in 2004 U$D)
  • $37.33K |-oo-ooooo—ooooo——ooooo——oo———

  • $37.00K |o————————————oooo————

  • $36.67K |——————————————————-

  • $36.33K |——————————————————-

  • $36.00K |——————————————————-

  • YEAR——|(1968)——————(1986)——————(2004)YEAR

  • Source: Census Bureau

    Jack wrote: Beyond that, 2006 was a better year than you imply, it was around $48K.
    Not when adjusted for inflation in 2004 dollars. It is $48,201 in 2006 U.S. Dollars, but even then, the incomes are stagnant.

    Median HouseHold Income (adjusted for inflation, in 2006 Dollars):

  • $50.00K |——————————————————-

  • $47.50K |————————————-ooooo———-

  • $45.00K |—————-ooooo——ooooo——-ooooooo
  • $48,201 (in 2006 U$D)
  • $42.50K |oo——ooooo——-oooo————————-

  • $40.00K |—oooo———————————————-

  • $37.50K |——————————————————-

  • YEAR——|(1967)——————(1986)——————(2004)YEAR

  • Source: Census Bureau

    Even cherry-picking the data to your advantage (valley-to-peak; e.g. $40K in 1982 valley to $50K in 2000 peak), that’s still only 20%.
    So, once again, where you come up with 33% is a mystery.
    You must be going back a long ways (farther back than 1965) to come up with 33%.

    Jack wrote: What you did was measure from a peak in 1978 to a valley in 2004.
    And how did you arrive at 33%?

    Even using peak-to-peak (1978 to 2000; i.e. $40K to $45K), the increase is only 11% (adjusted for inflation, in 2004 dollars). Not 33%.

    Jack wrote: A rolling average would take five year (for example) rolling averages, ie. 1970-5, 1971-6…2002-8.
    That still does not help your case.

    That essentially eliminates the peaks and valleys (similar to a straight-line curve fit).
    Even when I picked peak to peak ($40K to $45K), or valley to valley ($38K to $43K), or even valley to peak ($38K to $45K), none of them come to 33%.
    At best, it would be 18% (from $38K valley in year 1967 to $45K peak in year 2000) in 2004 dollars.

    Jack wrote: No matter how we slice it, we are doing okay. 7.6% is not bad and that is your LOW number.
    7.6% over a 30 year period is not good when you also consider that there are more workers per household, nore national debt, and more regressive taxation (things that are conveniently omitted). Also, there is a decline in progress. How far and how long will the decline go? No amount of anti-anything-not-rosy sentiment can explain away the growing number of economic statistics (the big picture) in decline.
    Jack wrote: Remember, we are not talking about individuals. back in 1978 I made around $2000, even adjusted for inflation. Today I make a lot more than 7% more. So does almost everybody who was a worker back then and is still working today.
    $2000? In 1978? Working full-time? That’s irrelevant anecdotal evidence, since the median wage in 1978 (adjusted for inflation) was $42,725 in 1978 ($15,064 in 1978 Dollars). So to say you make more than 7% more today than you did in 1978 is useless information.
    Jack wrote: Today I make a lot more than 7% more. So does almost everybody who was a worker back then and is still working today.
    Duh. Most people should make more with 30 years of experience (and more education for some). Even looking at several percentiles, there is stagnation: One-Simple-Idea.com/IncomePercentiles2005Dollars.jpg Even looking at the top 5% since 1998, there is stagnation. Looking at all quintiles, there is stagnation since 1998, but the lower 3 quintiles have been stagnant for many decades. And again, it’s worse than the graph shows (One-Simple-Idea.com/IncomePercentiles2005Dollars.jpg) when considering more workers per household, more national debt, and more regressive taxation.

    So the fact you make more today than the pitiful $2000 per year in 1978 is not the point.
    The point is that incomes have stagnated for most Americans.
    Median Household incomes have not increased by 33%, unless you go way, way back to the late early 1960s or earlier.
    Certainly not in the last 30 years; not even when cherry-picking the peaks and valleys.
    Especially when considering there are more workers per household, more national debt, more regressive taxation, and the consequences of 30+ years of several incessant abuses (see below).

    You seem to be ignoring:

    • a definite decline that is only now in the early stages, and a culmination of many problems growing simultaneously in number and severity;

    • these 17+ economic conditions that have never been worse ever and/or since the 1930s and 1940s;

    • the growing wealth disparity (80% of Americans own only 17% of all wealth; a trend that started worsening in 1976); The wealth disparity gap has never been larger since year 1930;

    • massive $9.4 Trillion national debt;

    • massive $53.2 Trillion nation-wide debt (381% of $13.9 Trillion GDP); where’s the money going to come from?

    • the falling U.S. Dollar, inflation, usury, bad monetary policies;

    • energy vulnerabilities; oil and energy prices have never been higher (both in nominal price and adjusted for inflation; worse than the spike in year 1981);

    • numerous abuses (regressive taxation, lawlessness, illegal immigration; rampant pork-barrel, corporate welfare, subsidies, graft, and waste;

    • 2 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan;

    • declining quality of public education;

    • rising unemployment;

    • rising (record level) foreclosures;

    • $12.8 million borrowed and spent from Social Security, leaving it pay-as-you-go, with a 77 million baby-boomer bubble approaching;

    • average savings rates are negative (since year 2005), and have never been worse since 1933;

    • Home equities have never been lower (below 50%) since year 1945;

    • rising cost and increasingly dangerous heatlhcare (195,000 deaths annually due to medical mistakes);

    • government FOR-SALE;

    • several warning signs that a decline is in progress and recovery from it will be difficult and painful for many years (possibly decades).

    So how you can say …
    Jack wrote:
    No matter how we slice it, we are doing okay.

    … is difficult to reconcile with the economic conditions and trends above.

    Are you back sliding?
    Previously you said …

    Jack wrote: We live in just about the best of times.

    So, you don’t think we’re on the precipice of a significant economic decline in the coming decade (due to numerous factors above)?

    It’s hard to see how things are even only “OK”, or going to get better any time soon, with a culmination of many problems growing simultaneously in number and severity, a do-nothing Congress with too many do-nothing incumbent politicians, and too many voters that repeatedly reward those do-nothing incumbent politicians with perpetual re-election.

    Like the carbon tax you promote, which you think is needed to provide enough pain to reduce carbon emissions, it’s quite likely that more pain and misery will be necessary to motivate enough voters to finally stop rewarding irresponsible incumbent politicians with perpetual re-election, which will hopefully produce a government that is not so dysfunctional.

    It’s hard to see how we are only “OK” now, or will be in the coming decade.

    At any rate, the voters have the government that the voters elect (and deserve).

    Posted by: d.a.n at June 20, 2008 11:51 AM
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