Monday, August 10, 2009

The Jailhouse Diet

With the latest monthly employment report out last Friday, it is interesting to look a bit more closely to the underlying job situation.
  • A vibrant economy is one where a large percentage of the population is at work. In July the employment/population ratio dropped to 59.3%, the lowest in 25 years.
Employment/Population Ratio (16 years and over)
Charts: BLS
  • Another indicator of job dynamics is the average number of weeks those out of work stay on unemployment. The current reading jumped to 25.1 weeks, the highest ever.
Average Weeks Unemployed
  • The number of people unemployed over 27 weeks has gone up five-fold since the end of 2006, from 1.1 million to 5 million in July. One out of three unemployed Americans can't find a job after six months, up from one in seven at the end of 2006.
Number Unemployed 27 Weeks and Over
  • In the latest report we were told that the employment picture is "improving" because the number of jobs lost in July were "only" 247,000, the least in a year.
Jobs Lost Per Month

OK, how about this parallel: you are in prison and your jailer is faced with severe budget cuts. To save money he reduces your daily food allotment, making the adjustments once every month. From a generous 3,000 calories/day, the first month he cuts 200 calories from your daily intake, then 300 in the second month and 500 in each of the subsequent two months.

The menu is now down to 1,500 cal/day, well below the daily recommended 2,500 cal/day for an adult male. You and the entire inmate population are losing weight fast and the mood is getting seriously ugly.

The warden is concerned, so he tweaks things a bit; in each of the next four months he cuts "only" 300, 200, 100 and zero calories respectively. From his jaded perspective, things are "improving". But the inmates are, of course, starving because they are now eating only 900 calories per day. How long before they riot and demand the warden's head on a plate - literally?

"Improved" Starvation Statistics

The analogy with the employment situation is simple arithmetic: as more and more people lose their jobs there are fewer people employed and thus fewer can be fired. Today there are 6.6 million fewer people employed than two years ago, so the pool of the "firable" is shrinking.

The problem is that the economy's "wardens" are focusing on bailing out the financial sector, with only a token nod towards the real economy where millions of jobs are lost. Just imagine what could have been, if a big chunk of the trillions in direct subsidies, loans and guarantees that went to the financial industry had instead gone to promote alternative energy, a robust and smart electric power grid, conservation and efficiency efforts..

But we will never know because Wall Street has trumped Main Street, occupied Capitol Hill and taken over Pennsylvania Avenue.

53 comments:

Thai said...

Grimm picture and again, as always, Thanks.

I guess the thing that still keeps confusing me is this distinction between real and imaginary economies.

For setting aside the obvious unfairness that many of the people who most understood what they were doing are now walking away relatively unscathed, still this issue has me wondering what the bankers did with all the bail out money they were given.

To use that old American Indian cliche that people never really own land, they are simply stewards or destroyers of it. Isn't all wealth similar in many ways?

If the bailout has kept banker personal consumption above sustainable levels (e.g. bailout money is still being used for more homes, cars, etc...), then I see the incredible waste. But if the bankers personal consumption plummets and simply they use this new wealth for other people's consumption, then the question one has to ask is whether the other people's consumption is a good or bad consumption.

And while consuming to create smart grids and conservation measures would have been a wonderful use of the money, still they are only one way our economy can improve it's efficiency and other methods of improvement would be just as beneficial.

They might include:
1. Lower crime
2. Lower health care costs (we do know this is going the wrong way right now)
3. Improved eduction/training efficiency
4. Changes in the skill mix of the work force
5. Improved overall health
6. Less children, smaller families
7. Increase retirement age retire
8. Shortening commute times
9. Increase population density of cities (another form of energy usage efficiency)
10. Increased civility towards one another... you may laugh but I suspect this is one of the more significant issues any economy faces- think social friction costs and lost cooperation, etc...)
11. Others I am not thinking about

We see from these numbers what is happening on only one side of the balance sheet.

Do we know what is happening on the other side, in the real economy?

Does this make sense?

yahia said...
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yahia said...
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Debra said...

Yeah, but Thai, just WHAT are the other people going to CONSUME with if they don't have jobs, please ?
If the economy is financed with consumption, then how to pay for it without a job that allows you to take the filthy lucre home in the form of a salary, for example ? Right ?
And if you don't want your economy to turn into a financial monoculture all revolving around banking/financial products, then you have to encourage other production too, right ?
(Last summer it was evident to me that the most recent bubble in the American economy was the...CREDIT MONEY bubble, because of all those ATM machines everywhere. More of them than even churches...)
So... the machine gets all gripped up, right ? Meanwhile, down at the ranch, (or should I say up at the Capitol and on Wall Street ?) the politicos, the economists, the financeers are looking at all those numbers on the paper, and fantasizing about them...
And the bigger those numbers are, the more they can fantasize about how much wealth is associated with them, and how big the whole thing is.
We have been collectively colossally dumb, nonetheless. This was the idea when we first got into machines, cutting down/out the human workforce, thus job destruction. While inflating the immaterial. (Immaterial is NOT a synonym for fiction, by the way...)
Add that to our collective mania to reduce ourselves to NOTHING, and you get a really explosive mixture...
So... maybe the fiction is in the stories we have been telling ourselves for quite some time.
Not Cinderella stories, but really nasty stories about how cheap and ugly we are (and THEY too, of course...).

nonk9 said...

don't be such a downer. the penis attached to the president of the united states is a little bit bigger and browner than its 43 predecessors. who cares about the economy when we're lucky enough to have black dick in the cracker (oops, I mean white) house!

chill out!

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Walter said...

The 1st graph with the track of the percentage of population employed is particularly telling when considered in the context of the shift in employment that has happened since the last time it was at this level.

Basically because of stagnant wages American families were forced, in many cases, to become two income families in order to maintain the same standard of living.

Thai said...

Nice point Walter... Actually, your comment reminds me of an analytical bias both Hell and Debra may have in analyzing this data, illustrated by the following question:

Hell, do you know anyone who home schools?

Think about it...

OkieLawyer said...

Walter:

Is this what you were thinking of/

Elizabeth Warren: The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class

marcus said...

The solution we are headed toward is "give em enough rope". we are giving the powers that be in health care and the financial industries enough rope to cause a cataclysmic reaction. I don't want to see this. The solutions from this end game usually end ugly.

Like idiots standing up and shouting about "keep your socialist government hands off of my Medicare" and defacto approval of unsustainable systems because of the lack of ability to handle the necessary complexity to fix these same systems.

Talk about "lack of optimism" and the need to have a collective consciousness ain't going to cut it. The mob will take over soon and the result of that ugliness won't be a satisfying solution.

marcus said...

Great video link there Okie, I thank you for that.

The new hospital policy of "Send them home sicker and quicker" is analogous to the financial debacle. Quality doesn't matter, how fast can we get the bubble machine working again. until we're (the middle class) all broke?

76% increase in housing costs, 74% increase in medical insurance cost, 25% increase in tax costs. Amazing, pay more get less.

We can talk about the non-sustainability of health care increases, but that isn't even the tragedy that Dr Weil speaks of:

"So, a far more salient question that must be addressed is: Are we getting good health for our trillions? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding, "No." The U.S. ranked near the very bottom of the top 40 nations -- below Columbia, Chile, Costa Rica and Dominica -- in a rating of health systems by the World Health Organization in 2000. In short, we pay about twice as much per capita for our health care as does the rest of the developed world, and we have almost nothing to show for it."

And that's for people that have health insurance.

Debra said...

Great video link, Okie. Mucho hugs and kisses because it was really excellent.
I think that I will take the time to comment it for you in more detail on your blog, if you're interested.
For here, I will say that everybody should take the time (57 minutes...) to watch this video as Elizabeth Warren ties the NUMBERS together to make them say lots of interesting things...
One observation : I keep telling Thai (and others who are interested...) that human beings gotta create differences BETWEEN in order to think. When you get rid of a difference in one area, thus, the social body will recreate a difference in another area in order to compensate for the loss of difference.
First point : I wonder why Elizabeth Warren STARTED OFF her lecture with the observation that women post 1970's were going out into the workforce en masse to make two income families, while male income stagnated... That means... abolition of difference in the relation between the sexes.
Two : the American middle class represented the APOGEE of the Enlightenment experiment that resulted in the destitution and destruction of divine right monarchy/aristocracy, and this too, represents an abolition of difference (i.e. the harping on equality equality when what is meant is "being the same").
We are seeing the reestablishment of "aristocracy" in human society, because aristocracy is an absolutely essential part of the human experience in one form of another. Divine right monarchy (before Louis XIV really bottomed it out and destroyed it totally, and corruption did it in), at least channeled aristocratic bents, and gave them a positive role. Now, our aristocracy is in the banksties, and BEHOLDEN/responsible to no-one.
Last, Thai, what are you talking about, analytical biais, and home-schooling, I'm intrigued ????

Rachael said...

Very good post. Allow me to take it a few steps further by saying that the ultimate outcome of the capture of the Federal Government by Wall Street will be a breakdown in civil society and all that goes with that. There is no happy ending to this story.

Think of the rancorous town hall meetings as the first (and relatively mild) chapter in the aforesaid breakdown. As for the criminal class walking away unscathed, well, that won't last. As the economy falls off a cliff-just give it a little more time, because we ain't seen nothing yet- the, as yet unscathed will prospectively get it right in the neck. Expect a lot of the high and mighty larcenists to high tail it out of the U.S as a result. Yes, my friends that is what our age is coming to.

As for Hell knowing anyone who home schools, of course he doesn't. Nor do I, because neither of us lives in the home schooling district. Rest assured though that there is one, and that it is growing.

Debra, a few thoughts.

But first a Chinese proverb

Success is the final rung on the ladder of failure.

I would like to offer that The Enlightenment is dead and buried. The election of Obama here in Freedom's Land is the ultimate coup de grace delivered to The Enlightenment given that the half black Obama is a descendant of the most disenfranchised group in U.S. society. In short, Obama's elevation signals that the promise, at least nominally, of The Enlightenment, has been fulfilled.

In truth, it had been fulfilled a number of decades ago, and these days once revered Enlightenment ideals don't get discussed much let alone acted upon. Such lofty precepts as followed the hallowed phrase, "We hold these truths to be self evident" are now little more in the minds of the populace than quaint ideals of a bygone age that we inhabitants of the present have, for the most part, discarded.

Joe said...

ShadowStats has unemployment at over 20%. He uses the pre-Clinton methodology that does not use all of these obscure adjustments, such as, the phoney Birth/Death model.

The USG, through sleight of hand, has occulted the fact we are indeed in Greater Depression II.

Joe M.

Debra said...

Walter, this one just hit me...
WHAT IF....
wages stagnated in part BECAUSE of the exodus of the white bourgeois woman into the working force ?
Is this possible ? (Like the chicken and the egg dilemma ?)
Thai, you didn't really answer my question, so I will answer YOURS.
Yes, my husband and I home schooled our children to the extent that they really got their EDUCATION (not their heads filled with stats...) while learning how to play their musical instruments, in part with us, in part with an individual teacher, and they both play their instruments really damn well...
Learning how to play an instrument really well actually equips you to learn how to... WORK.
The rest is accumulating information...
And by the way, just to repeat some things that newcomers might not know here, I do not attend any organized church, not am I card carrying member of any political party.

marcus said...

Well said Rachael, the lesson of the Founders most intriguing to me in the concept of human nature. Aristocrats v peons? What difference? People are the same in that they don't "become corrupt" they are corrupt by their nature, and we must counter that corruption continually.

Debra said...

The promise of the Enlightenment has been fulfilled because Barack Obama has been elected President ?
But... just how can the promise of the Enlightenment have been fulfilled when you can't tell the difference between Barack Obama and previous WHITE U.S. presidents (well, we will leave George Bush to the side for the time being, he's a Republican anyway...) ?
Is the promise of the Enlightenment to enable all black men to become carbon copies of their white "counterparts" ?
In the name of equality ?
I, for one, do not consider this to be "progress".
Marcus, I will no longer argue with you, because you are as sure that YOU are right, as I am sure that I am, and that is taking us nowhere.
But I will say that when you put people into positions where they have the choice between practicing corruption and not, MOST people prefer to not practice corruption.
It behooves the social body to create a maximum number of situations that will stimulate people to positive actions rather than harping on punishment and negativity.

Edwardo said...

Debra asked,

"The promise of the Enlightenment has been fulfilled because Barack Obama has been elected President ?"

-Note that, I, unintentionally, as I was on my wife's 'puter, said, NOMINALLY fulfilled. But distinctions aside, the answer to your question is yes, you're damn skippy.

The practical meaning of The Enlightenment, at least where civil society is concerned, amounts to a doctrine of inclusion for all. With Obama now elected to the Presidency, the promise of the Enlightenment has been achieved. You can poke holes in the substance of his Presidency, but that misses the point which is that to hold the premier political office in the U.S. is the ultimate marker of inclusion.

There was a time, not so long ago, when the Obama's of the world would not have been allowed to be anything more than valets to this nation's elite, regardless of any desire they may have possessed to do the the elite's bidding.

marcus said...

Debra, Don't get yer pinky in a twist.

Obama just like Bush. Thanks for that absurdest laugher, but you have too much competition for theater of the absurd these days--"keep yer government hands off of my Medicare"--is my favorite recent one.

Come on Debra get real. Just one small difference, Obama's mother died at a young age of ovarian cancer and went bankrupt because she had no health care coverage. You think that may be a bit different than W's experience with health care?

And about: "MOST people prefer to not practice corruption."

Please, science(if you want the studies let me know) and historical experience says different.

And: "It behooves the social body to create a maximum number of situations that will stimulate people to positive actions rather than harping on punishment and negativity."

What situational stimuli might that be?

Thai said...

Hell, I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the Japanese stock market. I realize cheap does not make a good buy necessarily, but cheap is cheap.

With all their years of deleveraging and market implosion AND government debt reaching extreme levels, do you think it likely that they may have reached a bottom in their stock market so to speak?

I would think that if either the Japanese government stopped its borrowing, or defaulted or engaged in more QE, any of these three scenarios could be potentially positive for the Japanese market.

Any thoughts?

I guess the real question I am asking is when does deleveraging come to an end for an economy?

Hellski said...

Thai I think the prudent thing for you to do is to invest in a fiddle and learn to play.

Debra said...

Well, Edwardo, I could get REALLY snarky and say that a WOMAN has not yet been elected to the presidency, and what does THAT mean, but I will forebear. (Particularly since women's salaries are often still inferior to men's for the same work last time I checked.) The subject of inclusion is a very very important one to me, But...inclusion that comes at the price of diversity, that is a deceptive inclusion in my book. And I question the legitimacy of the legislative solution to achieve inclusion. The Republic's championship of the edifice of the law, and the courts, is the ultimate triumph of the Roman law solution to problems that was handed over to it after having been considerably advanced and legitimized by... the centralized and authoritarian monarchy.
You will remember, Edwardo, that I am not a monarchist, not a democrat, but an anarchist, please.
I wondered who this "Rachael" person was..
That was YOU in disguise !!!
Marcus, it is harder for people to be corrupt when they are in situations where they are face to face with those whom their corruption will hurt and/or destroy.
BIG, whether government or business, encourages corruption. (I'm not inconsistent enough to shit on BIG government while favoring BIG business, I don't like either.)
Most people happen to like to work (something I think our Puritan forefathers just COULDN'T BELIEVE !!!!)
But they need to work in activities that are humanizing, not dessicating and humiliating.
When WE make "work" more attractive (and handing over them bonuses is just not good enough, money is not the measure of everything...), then MORE people will want to work. If, pardi, there are jobs...
I don't understand why you don't seem to understand, Marcus, that there are ideas, and theories about human nature that underlie our society, and our assumptions about... what WORK is, for example ?
Like, for example... why does the saleswoman who works in a department store HAVE TO STAND UP all the time, even when there is not a customer in sight ? Could it be that her employer just has to have the feeling that "he" is getting his money's worth ? That "he" owns her ? Obviously the owners are no longer individual people, but the practices have continued unchallenged, right ? (This may be out of date, based on my individual experience a long time ago, true...)
I'm not really plugging any "classical" views of aristocracy. Certainly not. Particularly as the idea of aristocracy evolved with time, and does not correspond to the same thing at different times in the past. The past is past. And if you saw/met me, Marcus, I'm the furthest thing from a pinky person you could possibly imagine... ;-)

Edwardo said...

No woman has been elected President, but Geraldine Ferraro was nominated for veep. Close enough for government work, literally and figuratively.

As for your anarchist proclivities, I can't help you with that, but I will offer that you are almost certainly running up a very steep and muddy slope while wearing ill fitting flip flops.

Spyware said...

I haven’t commented here for a very long time, but here goes.

Back when I was in school (a long time ago) one of our set books was George Orwell’s “1984”. Even as a schoolboy I was depressed at the relentless grimness of the tale and did not enjoy the read one bit. In fact, I have yet to revisit it after a lapse of nearly sixty years. However, the one thing that really sticks in my mind is how back then, 1954, we were all in that classroom pretty much brainwashed into thinking that “1984” was a portrait of the then Soviet Union and that this is where we would all end if we didn’t safeguard our freedoms to our last breath.

Now, sixty years on it finally strikes me that what Orwell was on about was not some monolithic communist state. He was prognosticating the future of the then bastion of freedom: The United States of America. In spades. A fascist state that would one day rival Nazi Germany for oppression of public dissent. Don’t believe me? In the months ahead try joining one of the so-called up coming public protests that turn into a street riot in any city centre you’d care to name. The social unrest, the public dissent that prognosticators both here and in other thoughtful blog comments columns predict will irrupt on the streets of capitalist economies throughout the world. Just wait and see what happens. The police, National Guardsmen and the Army—flown in from somewhere in the Middle East—will by out en masse. It will make Tiananmen Square look like a Sunday School picnic by comparison—and the Boston Tea Party won’t even get a look in.

Spyware said...

Re: the Socialism Scare that surfaces inevitably in any American debate on universal medical insurance and it surfaces here from time to time:

I both worked and lived in the United States back in the Nixon-McCarthy era. I can still hear the pejorative: “Pinko Commie Fags” ringing in my ears. (Not that I ever was one!) Reds under the beds (as the saying has it in Britain) was actually a term used to ridicule the hysteria of the rightwing Harmsworth press over here. We’ve now got Murdock to take over that rôle.

Post war Britain we had the Attlee Labour government which gave us National Health Insurance, free prescriptions, eyeglasses, hospitalisation, greater access to the courts for the common man, a forty-five hour week (huge reduction for the time), the right to organise Trade Union representation throughout industry, free education right up to and including university level, a minimum wage plus lots, lots more in the way of social justice. Sure, we had higher taxes (especially of the rich) to pay for it, but we had a war torn nation to rebuild and for the first time the nearest thing to an egalitarian society that anyone had known in Britain in it’s entire history—and all because of that dirty, filthy socialist swine Mr. Attlee. When Churchill returned to power on the fall of Labour he tried to turn that all around calling National Health Insurance a “Gestapo Plot”. He failed.

The latest unemployment figures for Britain are just out:2.44 million and rising.

Socialism may sound to most Americans like the Big Bad Wolf Joe Stalin dressed up sheep’s clothing. Wait until you’re jobless, penniless, living in the street and on the bread line and the President can’t think up any more wars to put the jobless back to work—which is what wars are mostly all about anyway. Then try rioting in the streets. They’ll hunt you down like dogs. It will be cornpone fascism and Kristal Nacht all over again believe me.

Walter said...

"Walter, this one just hit me...
WHAT IF....
wages stagnated in part BECAUSE of the exodus of the white bourgeois woman into the working force ?
Is this possible ? (Like the chicken and the egg dilemma ?)"

Interestingly enough I had just had the same thought after watching the Elizabeth Warren video OkieLawyer linked (thanks btw, it was interesting... not her best work imo, but still relevant and thought provoking).

I've been of the opinion for a while now that Globalism/outsourcing was one of (if not the largest) causes of stagnant wages. From that perspective the move of significant numbers of women into the workforce would also logically have been a factor in that regard.

It's basic supply and demand, large increases in supply (in this case of labor) drives down the price.

In fact logically it seems likely the fact that many women wanted to be in the workforce led to the situation where now most women have to be in the workforce in order for the family to make ends meet. No evil conspiracies there, just changing circumstances and their eventual results.

Large increases in the supply of labor (women and globalization/outsourcing) have driven down the price of labor and likely increased it's production (via competitive pressure) resulting in greater profits for capital. I wonder if the significant shift we've seen in wealth from the middle class to the capital class is largely a result of that alone. It makes sense, even if I don't have the numbers to attempt to prove it.

OkieLawyer said...

Another video to watch:

Are You Next On The Rescinded List?

marcus said...

Debra: Could you expand on your definitions of aristocracy? Maybe give a few examples?

Further thoughts on crime and punishment and allocation of human resources. Hat tip to Debra for the fruitful (I humbly submit) dialogues.

Why should we focus on the negative things like Madoff and corrupt organizations (pick from a long list in the pantheon of finance)? To avert a greater evil, control of the justice system by "We the People". Why would the People take over the justice system? Non-performance, the proliferation of predators and leaches in society. Retreat to the tribe, "protect your own", because the greater system has failed us.

Motivations are mysterious, I've even heard of prisoners who like prison. So we have to go with social science, the (steep) bell curve, prisons scare the hell out of most people. Justice systems are negative, prisons are evil, it really is a shame we have them, but I don't want the alternative--summary executions by mob--until a better alternative is in place.

It is not just negative incentives that can be ugly, positive incentives lead to bad also. Take the health care and financial systems in this country. Both have about doubled in the last 40 years as a percentage of GDP. Have we benefited from this expansion? No. Why is it evil, a bad trend? Because they pull resources away from the organism we call the economy, while (in these examples) having added little to the life force. The large and growing appendages of these industries are like leaches, sucking the life blood out of the system. You let them proliferate the organism convulses, and hell breaks loose.

Debra said...

Yipe, Okie, I call foul.
You got me running with the bit in the LAST video, and now you toss out another one ?
There is a thread over on Street Rat Crazy that I set up to discuss the Elizabeth Warren video, and to continue the discussion of some of the issues here, BECAUSE I DON'T REALLY KNOW WHAT TO DO, here.
Maybe Hell is going to get upset over the turn things are taking here, and I don't want to make him mad...
But sometimes it gets a little hard to decide what's on topic, and what's not...
On aristocracy and the prison system, Marcus, I am going to ask you to come over to Street Rat Crazy, if you don't mind, last post, Running away at the bit (I'm lousy with links...)
And Hell can clarify what he wants, as I find this discussion fascinating and interesting HERE, but will graciously post over on Street Rat, if asked.

marcus said...

I've got a solution to the health care coverage problem:

1. Live in a state that does not allow leans against your retirement account.

2. Live in a state that has a decent Medicaid insurance program.

3. open a Nevada Corp. (hire a lawyer as all four execs and then fire him, this is a legal technique that can keep you, the principle of the corp. anonymous) and transfer your personal wealth (house, car, equities...)

4. Go off of health care insurance. Pay out of pocket. If you happen into a catastrophic illness, declare personal bankruptcy, and go on Medicaid.

Critiques please! Other than comments about ethics. Financial ethics are so "quaint" these days.

Thai said...

Hellski- amen




Marcus: The Wikipedia definition of the tragedy of the commons:
"a dilemma in which multiple individuals acting independently in their own self-interest can ultimately destroy a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long term interest for this to happen


@Okie, agreed this is really tragic issue.

But be careful about the behavior of the collective when it realizes it is trapped, as self preservation is a powerful behavior... Think about how your moral values originally evolved.

We can have covert rationing today (as your link sadly reminds us) OR we can overt rationing tomorrow, but either way we will have rationing.

... And those who believe behaviors/addictions have a genetic component will feel just as strong a sense of moral outrage as some commenter on this blog feel (and they would be right).

I know there are many here that think they know the solution to all this (and I am sure they are correct for their morality in their mind), alas others of us do not see this issue as easy at all.

I am sure many of you are thrilled by the thought that a few elections from now, a future Cheney will control that centralized medical panel and appoint its ethicists.

OkieLawyer said...

@Debra, Dink:

I cannot post any message over at Street Rat Crazy Saloon. I tried three times today. I even signed in on the right side of the page. Still nothing.

marcus said...

Thanks for pointing out that definition Thai.

Its all relative, am I putting as big a turd in the pond as the Wall Street Banksters? I don't think so, so I'm good with it, until the collective ethics change.

Thai said...

Remember, when people talk about successes, they talk about them in terms of relative %, not absolute. This is for good reason I might add.

Do you want to be seen as an equal in the collective or not?

marcus said...

Further thought on the lack of ethics and the tragedy thereof:

Someone steals from me and law enforcement is asleep, non-responsive, corrupt... I'm going to steal back.

Thai said...

I won't get into information science/brain science with you anymore, the lessons are clearly lost.

So you may listen and understand this link, or you may not- it is all the same to me

... But I might add it really is a great link (I think you would like it Hell). Krulwich is a national treasure ;-)

Thai said...

Okie, more support for your link

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Dink said...

Okie, Lurkers,

"I cannot post any message over at Street Rat Crazy Saloon"

Yeah, well, the moderator at that site is kind of a tool. I put the tool's e-mail address on the site's title; send the tool a message and they'll try to add you.

I could grant Deb admin priviliges to figure it out, but she'd immediately ban me ;)

marcus said...

Thai, "I won't get into information science/brain science with you anymore, the lessons are clearly lost."

I see your lessons and raise you ten:


"Despite its benefits for cooperative group-living, altruism as exhibited by humans has been claimed to be unique in the animal kingdom (Fehr & Fischbacher 2003). It is possible that spite may be just as beneficial—and as uniquely human—as altruism (Nesse 2000). For instance, punishment is a form of spite with potential return-benefits (Trivers 1985; Gardner & West 2004), and it can maintain cooperative behaviour in humans (Henrich & Boyd 2001) and animals (Clutton-Brock & Parker 1995) by imposing costs on cheaters and defectors. Human spite may be unique in that the benefits of an act of punishment can extend to others in the group, and that this ‘altruistic punishment’ (Boyd et al. 2003; Fehr & Fischbacher 2003; Johnstone & Bshary 2004), when paired with altruism, forms the basis of what has been called ‘strong reciprocity’ (Fehr & Gächter 2002; Gintis et al. 2003). Concern for the outcomes of others and a sense of fairness (Loewenstein et al. 1989; Fehr & Schmidt 1999; Bolton & Ockenfels 2000) are strong underlying motivations for human altruism and spite. According to Loewenstein et al. (1989) and Fehr & Schmidt (1999), the perception of unfairness leads individuals to correct inequitable gains, namely when another individual's gains are greater than one's own (disadvantageous inequity aversion), and when one's own gains are larger (advantageous inequity aversion)."

And already read the crow study. I would never harm a crow, humans on the other hand deserve far harsher treatment--the crows agree.

Debra said...

Marcus, I sent you over to Sudden Debt's Spawn Off to read my answer to you about aristocracy and the criminal justice system.
For those of us who happen to think that the criminal justice system is FAIR, and that it is always the OTHER guy who NEEDS to be punished who gets caught, and not the innocent sod standing in the background, I'm greatly comforted to know that you BELIEVE in a form of superior being, because...
the criminal justice system is, in principle, A PUBLIC SERVICE within the framework of OUR society, and it is subject to all the difficulties which face our society at this time (penny pinching at power 15).
Like, you know that quota system ? Round up as many targets as possible and meet your quota ? Who cares WHO the targets are, like, innocent or guilty ? The same goes for quotas of convictions, for example...
When the SYSTEM goes corrupt, when the institutions go corrupt, just how are the PEOPLE supposed to get along with it and not turn to corruption to survive ? (And the above is not intended to cast ANY slight on the numerous individuals who are working within this system, and still believe in it, and are doing their best to fulfill an impossible mission.)
Although I think that Marcus may have a point about corruption : it has always been there, (ie Mr Smith goes to Washington), why are we pointing our fingers at it so hard right now ?
As far as humans being the only altruistic animals, Marcus, I am going to audibly snort here... Even if animals ONLY altruistically take care of their own (offspring), what they do, sometimes in terms of sacrifice, is really impressive, and disqualifying it by referring to survival of the species does not wash in my book. An individual REMAINS an individual, whether it is a bird, or a human being.
Thai, your scenario for the tragedy of the commons sounds worse than Adam Smith ;-). Adam Smith was not this pessimistic.
Administrator for Street Rat ? Hmmm... maybe, but I'm so dismally NULLE with computers, and Internet, dinky.... ;-) Keep stroking...

Thai said...

We agree- common ground! Punishment is quite important.

marcus said...

Debra,

"Although I think that Marcus may have a point about corruption : it has always been there, (ie Mr Smith goes to Washington), why are we pointing our fingers at it so hard right now ?"

You get that scribble about relativity? Yea and Fascism has always been here, not as evil as the 1940's and not as large and integrated as today.

Read again the last line from Hell's post:

"But we will never know because Wall Street has trumped Main Street, occupied Capitol Hill and taken over Pennsylvania Avenue."

Hell's a funny guy but I don't think he's joking here.

marcus said...

Someone I think right up there with Hell as far as ability to distill the essence of the toxic brew: Elizabeth Warren

http://www.businessinsider.com/henry-blodget-elizabeth-warren-we-have-a-real-problem-coming-2009-8

Debra said...

Hell, the mice are waiting for you to come back...
Marcus, your link doesn't work...
It's just about time for me to do my monthly plug of the book "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" by a person whose name I can't remember.
This book will DEFINITIVELY, PAINLESSLY, QUICKLY, and INEXPENSIVELY resolve y'all's problems with that infamous apostrophe.
PLEASE PLEASE take note.
I say this out of sheer self-preservation. You're starting to rub off on my spelling.
And that means (almost) everybody on this site, by the way. (Yes, Marcus, this, I suppose, is the aristocrat in me speaking.)

marcus said...

Hm, Works for me Debra, are you copying and pasting the link? it ain't a hot link.

Please feel free to sharpen that point, exercise yer pinky and school me anytime with them there Elements of Style and spellin'.

Janie Out of Debt said...

Great post! I just found your blog and I like it. Thanks!

Debra said...

Come to think of it, Marcus, I am a closet finger pointer, not a pinky lifter, I think...
Can't you tell from the way I rant about finger pointing so much on this blog ? ;-)

marcus said...

Debra, Another feature of human nature: we either love or hate people like us.

Bobby said...

Bleak numbers, bleak analogy. I don't know if they account for the underemployed, but I'm sure that even skews the data in an even more forbidding direction. As others have said, the U.S. economy is losing jobs that may never come back.

Debra said...

Walter, just for fun, go take a look at the Wikipedia article on the Corn Laws, Britain, 1844.
Case study. Then, remember that the repeal of the Corn Laws flooded the cities with CHEAP, unskilled labor...
Marcus, mea culpa. I should have said that I am probably a finger pointing AND pinky lifting person. Why settle for the either/or mindset, when you can have/be BOTH ?

marcus said...

To break up the monotonous routine between the yard and the bad (and shrinking) chow we bring you tonight's entertainment: The Clown of the Fourth Reich:

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/wolcott/2009/08/so-while-i-was-writing.html

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