Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Value Of Money (Plus Bye-Bye, Dubai)

First, this item about Dubai:

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) Dubai World, the government-owned holding company struggling with $59 billion of liabilities, is seeking to delay repayment on all of its debt, even after Abu Dhabi banks provided $5 billion for Dubai’s support fund.

It didn't take long, did it, for the "pearl" to turn into a turkey?

---------------------------------------------------------

On with the value of money (Debra's comment on the last post made me do it, honest....).

There I was two days ago sitting in my attorney's office, when a couple of guys walked in; a father and son pair, as it later turned out. They had come to receive compensation as settlement of a securities fraud case. Apparently, they had invested in a fund that went under several years ago; after a prolonged legal battle they were finally to get forty cents on the dollar. Despite the buzz-saw cut they suffered they were very happy - grateful even - to get something back.

They didn't look all that prosperous and I felt kind of sorry for them, when I noticed that what they were about to receive implied an original investment of over $1 million. Not exactly a pair of hoi polloi. But, anyhow...

We started talking while the lawyer was drafting a receipt and our discussion inevitably turned to money. I climbed onto my usual monetary affairs soap-box and started the dime speech on what constitutes money and banking in a fiat currency regime. Back I went into monetary history, watching their faces all the time... The link between dollars and gold (yes, yes of course we know this, signalled their nods), Bretton Woods (eh?), Nixon's final revocation of the gold standard in 1971 (whaaa..?), how money is created today (the government prints it, no?), the power of banks to create money out of thin air via credit demand (no, no, that's not possible!).

In this exchange, as in many before it, I once again witnessed the widespread ignorance about money and banking that permeates our society. Father and son, like 99% of all people, still hung on to a super-outdated notion that gold and money were - somehow - still connected. That money is still attached to (and thus reflects) some tangible "value", and that its creation is strictly regulated by a higher authority permanently answerable to society.

So, I explained to them that our money is like a ship: centuries ago it was firmly anchored (gold and silver coin), but that as time passed more and more cable was let out so the ship swung wider around its anchorage (gold standard). Finally, in 1971 Nixon let go the anchor altogether by shutting down the gold "window", so the ship is now completely untethered; it floats and rides the waves freely, counting solely on its captain's seamanship to stop it from running aground.

Though father and son listened attentively and even respectfully (probably a reflection of our legal surroundings and the fact they were about to receive a bunch of money they considered forever lost), I could see that they didn't really believe me.

I was not surprised; this is almost always the case: people find it extremely difficult to come to grips with the idea that today's money embodies nothing more than pure confidence, fides, credo.. That fiat money is a belief system; an organized, state-sponsored religion complete with high priests, acolytes and genuflecting flock.

In more scientific terms, the pair's aversion to the truth is similar to believing in a Newtonian/Einsteinian unitary "reality", as quantum uncertainty and multiplicity are swirling all around us.

So, what is the Value Of Money? Just like the quantum universe(s), simply what we think it is.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

God, more Goldbug spew. So is fiat money religion, or quantum physics? "Newtonian/Einsteinian"? Do you really know what you are saying?

Goldbugs have their own "original sin", and it appears to be 1971. The reason why they "listened attentively and even respectfully" was because they thought you were a lunatic.

Hellasious said...

Hahahaha... as long-time readers know I am totally against the gold standard, occasionally terming the "bugs" moldbugs.

But this doesn't mean that fiat money should be un-anchored. I favor a strict control of money supply, indexed on renewable energy production as a % of total energy. Search for The Greenback on my blog.

Debra said...

I swear to God, Hell, you are really seeing the light in my book.
NOW... for the real mind boggler...
You MAY think that the... bankers, presidents, traders, what you call.. the acolytes of our little money religion are really TOTALLY AWARE of all the implications that you just stuck down on that post, and that... THEY know exactly what fiat money is, and what it is worth.
That would be... foolish on your part.
Because... the religion's acolytes are STILL FUNCTIONING TOO with the prejudices that you saw in the attorney's office. They are functioning with these prejudices, because these prejudices are floating around as THE SEA that your ship is riding on. Compartimentalization allows the acolytes to... know and not know the nature of fiat money AT THE SAME TIME, and with no apparent contradiction in sight.
And... that's the way a belief system works. Faith and belief, although two very different phenomena, are intricated.
Another good thing to remember. AT NO TIME is the social body a.. HOMOGENOUS entity, if for no other reason than the fact that... it is comprised of several generations with their own individual and collective perception of the world, and of meaning.
But it is our inability to BELIEVE that fiat money can exist on its own without anchoring it to a referent (linguistic term) (a belief with a history) that swamps our.. FAITH in it.

Hellasious said...

Dear Debra,

"I saw the light" as you put it over 10 years ago... or, at least, started questioning the (philosophical) value of money, even as I dealt in the highest reaches of it daily, by the 100s of millions.

A very smart banker (now the owner-manager of a large hedge fund)called me up and asked a very simple question: Can money be destroyed?

It all follows from that...

But What do I Know? said...

You know, I get a similar response when I (infrequently) get into this subject with people--I don't get into it with clients (unless they ask) because they don't want to hear it. People will agree with you, and they'll say things like "the government is printing money" but they are unable/unwilling to move on from that premise to a logical inference.

So, can money be destroyed?

Thai said...

Great post! Really one of your better ones in my opinion.

@Anon, we of the peanut gallery can verify that Hell is most definitely not a gold bug... Though he does commit the same original sin the rest of us all commit- e.g. "this doesn't mean that fiat money should be un-anchored"- but that just makes him/his blog and thoughts all the more charming.

And Hell, re: money, quantum reality and perception.

... Funny the way we all come to similar places from such different starting points. You from money and a simple question, me from a critically injured person and a simple question, etc... ;-)

Anyway, I think on this note I will dedicate one of my fractal mumbo-jumbo quantum duality perception posts to you. ;-)

Be well and Happy Thanksgiving!

getyourselfconnected said...

Hellasious,
Nice post indeed. While gold may well be in a parabolic "super top" it seems to me that with 95% of the US not even aware about how money is created as you covered, it is not hard to see much further upside.

Those gainst gold always say "it is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it" but of course that is true for any and every asset under the sun. Add to this that any currencey not backed by something (whatver it is) is subject to the same parameters; it is as good as people belive it to be.

After seeing one's 401k or stock holdings evaporate over a few months twice in one decade, and watching one's home go down in price 10, 20, maybe 30% or more over two years, it may be agood time to think about what is behind the "value" of many instruments.

Sorry for the long post on a holiday, have a great thanksgiving.

Debra said...

This post opens up a certain number of doors for me, into areas where you have not YET gone, Hell, and that, in my book, you do not see...
Re : fiat money reflects our "confidence" in the system.
I would have to pull out the dictionary for us to examine together the difference between confidence and faith, but confidence is a modern, post Enlightenment, watered down version of faith.
It is a version for those of us who believe, or like to believe that God is dead.
You all may correct me on the history of what is printed on our fiat currency, but I will remind you that the words... IN GOD WE TRUST are in pretty big type on that greenback. (y'all may be interested to know that on the EURO you can see... cathedral windows).
So... just what exactly does THIS mean, and what is it good for, to use mercantistic utilitarian gibberish ?
It means that someone back there (founding fathers, I can't remember) had the good idea to refer the very idea of faith/trust back to GOD, because...
WHO/WHAT do you believe in when, for whatever reason, you have a hard time believing in your fellow man ? (for collective purposes, of course, this is not an... individual question)
The GOD who figures on the back of our fiat currency is NOT the same God that Georgie gets down on his hands and knees to and addresses at bedtime (sorry George, actually I like you better than most liberals do... and I'm not a liberal in the strict sense, besides).
No, "he" is the God in whom we trust and who... enjoins us to trust our fellow man and accept the note as tender. And HE guarantees that note as tender as much, IF NOT MORE THAN any idea of gold reserve or individual trust.
Remember, I KEEP TELLING YOU... that getting rid of God has some serious fallout...
From an historical persective, no less...

marin belge™ said...

Hell,

The content of your post has evolved since I discovered your blog, by the end of 2006.

I can now see little difference between what yourselves and educated goldbugs. Except possibly than most educated goldbugs formally refer to Mises, Von Hayek. And own some gold.

I understand that being a goldbug is a political position as much. Here in Europe, I can still hide as a disciple of the Austrian economic school, or as in my case, the diminutive and parochial Jacques Rueff.

Mind you this bloke was not even smart enough to accept Keynes writings as gospel and Nixon monetary decisions as sound ones. You can read a nice article on his contributions:

http://www.eppc.org/publications/pubID.2261/pub_detail.asp

Considered a fool in his old days. Sometimes, you have to. But was he?

Tiago said...

I am looking for the mythical Credit-Anstalt moment of this depression. Probably not Dubai, but I speculate we are approaching the moment.

@Anon, I am not decided if I should buy Gold or Pink Unicorns to cover my a$$. I still have to decide which one is the less surreal commodity. But, then again, humans are a surreal species.

Anonymous said...

Well Hell...

is good to be a gold bug these times.

Socrate is a man, men are mortals, Socrate is mortal.
Dubai is in default, Dubai is a government, what gives?

Take care

Italian

Debra said...

Hell, you sure are doing something right in my book because you can tell you are pushing one of those painful buttons that NOBODY wants to see when...
EVERYBODY IS READING YOU WRONG...

Hotairmail said...

The thing that gets me about understanding money is not that debt is apparently expanding exponentially but that for every dollar in debt somebody has amassed it as a dollar of wealth.

The advent of the super rich is the mirror image of over indebtedness.

That thought process leads one to some awkward conclusions.

Anonymous said...

As far as a gold "bubble" Is concerned we are not even close to one.

The last REAL gold bubble in the late 1970s saw the yellow briefly equal the Dow Jones Industrials at around 850 each.

Today an ounce of gold is less than 12% of the Dow despite the recent rally.

Just to put things in perspective.

marcus said...

The dollar is "anchored" to a commodity--oil.

I and most other people in the world have the "faith" and "confidence" the U.S. will secure delivery of that oil.

It is projection of power that keeps the current regime in force. Insidious and ugly as it is, as long as the U.S. is the only 500 lb. gorilla of the sea and air the regime will hold.

Its a diminishing commodity with increasing demand--and we will slide into poverty paying for it. What's next? destroy the environment with coal? But, what do you do with people drunk on power and benzene? There ain't a rehab that can handle them all.

I do like your dream of green-energy backed currency though Hell, but it looks like we're going to do this the hard way.

Anonymous said...

Money cannot be destroyed however, debt may be extinguished.

I'm fascinated by the US Dollar/Gold inverse relationship. It would seem that the government with the most to gain from a high gold price relative to all fiat currencies would be the United States. After all, the United States is by far the largest holder of gold reserves in the world.

A higher gold price does two things. It increases the value of US assets while simultaneously making it more difficult for other nations' central banks to obtain gold. Perhaps the market intervention GATA has been pointing out for years is in fact just a smoke screen designed to modulate a trend with the potential to become a runaway freight train.

Of course, this analysis would be completely invalidated should the gold not actually be there. I'm thinking it is.

fajensen said...

Insidious and ugly as it is, as long as the U.S. is the only 500 lb. gorilla of the sea and air the regime will hold.

People kept saying the same things about the USSR that they now say about the US - right up to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

How the command-economy was "efficient", How vast and invincible the Soviet armies were, How singularly-motivated the population was, How this crumbling derelict would last Forever & Ever ...

Anyone actually going there would see the dilapidation, the open corruption, the sluggish stupidity of government officials ... well, I traveled in the DDR and Czechoslovakia in the 1980's and the US looks pretty much the same beginning with the grubby goons in the airport fondling ones I-pod considering if it is worth steal...Investigating, to grubby cab ride in dirty streets the huge tracts of abandoned industrial and residential areas inside major towns - parts of Detroit looks & fells like Mali; except Mali is probably safer at night!

The American Empire has reached peak stupidity and is now collapsing, smug and happy about being "Special" ...

Hellasious said...

Re: USD anchored to crude oil.

Yes, in one way it is, because oil is mostly priced in USD.

But that doesn't mean that dollar money supply is in any way connected to crude oil production, reserves, discoveries, etc.

Therefore where it REALLY matters, the dollar is untethered.

marcus said...

Good point fajensen, except the USSR never really did have air and sea dominance. The CIA, MIC, and war hawks wanted us to believe so--but no.

Hell makes a better point--although it is not a free-floating, strict supply and demand relationship. $300 per barrel oil in the short term is not acceptable and the pain that would cause would lead to aggression, and all the players know it.

Like I said, more likely a slow slide into poverty for the U.S.

Dink said...

"the power of banks to create money out of thin air via credit demand (no, no, that's not possible!).

Its a nauseating fact to learn. Vaguely related, the Mount St. Helens visitor center has pre-blast newspapers full of articles with locals saying that this "volcano" business was ridiculous; clearly its just a normal mountain and always will be.

"I and most other people in the world have the "faith" and "confidence" the U.S. will secure delivery of that oil."

Grim. But perhaps not untrue.

"but it looks like we're going to do this the hard way."

Grim. But perhaps not untrue.

Debra said...

You know, reading you guys tonight, I am finally asking myself the question...
How did our ancestors regard what WE call the fall of the Roman empire ?
Did they see anything... FALLING ?
Or was one culture replacing another ?
It is after all, only hindsight that makes us talk about "falling".
As far as the 500lb gorilla paradigm is concerned, there is really only so thin you can spread a 500lb gorilla and have it remain a... 500lb gorilla.
At a certain point it just kind of.. dissolves and flushes itself down the toilet.
Especially if you notice how enthusiastic the population is to maintain the 500lb gorilla through PERSONAL sacrifice and investment.

marcus said...

debra, Fall of the Roman empire: wasn't it a slide from dominance, not a fall, a slow grinding down, internal problems, with the coup d etat administered by a parity of opposing forces?

As for:

"As far as the 500lb gorilla paradigm is concerned, there is really only so thin you can spread a 500lb gorilla and have it remain a... 500lb gorilla.
At a certain point it just kind of.. dissolves and flushes itself down the toilet.
Especially if you notice how enthusiastic the population is to maintain the 500lb gorilla through PERSONAL sacrifice and investment."

Deprive Americans of their God Given right to extract and ship oil
at a "reasonable" dollar cost and the "PERSONAL sacrifice" becomes a national imperative. Wishful thinking to believe otherwise (Why did God put our oil in their ground anyway?).

And as for spreading the gorilla too thin: Compare the population of the U.S. to 1939 Germany--eight times the size? Fill in the blank: the U.S., far and above the rest of the world, still excels at manufacturing...

And as for "parity" of forces mentioned above: There ain't none, and will not be for at least the next 20 years. The technology gap of killing machines and skilled humans to use them is too wide.

No peace for you! Next!

Debra said...

Marcus, EVERY empire SO FAR has declined through spreading itself too thin.
SO... YOU tell ME, WHY and HOW are the U.S. going to be the exception to the rule ?
Because... YOUR wishful thinking wants it to be so ?

Hellasious said...

No need to go as far back as Rome, when the example of Great Britain is so much more recent.

fajensen said...

And as for "parity" of forces mentioned above: There ain't none, and will not be for at least the next 20 years.

Don't be ridiculous: The perceived US superiority and Exceptionalism in all things, but especially those military, is floated on an ocean of diesel fuel and borrowed money.

Cut one of those, even a little, and the entire construct falls apart. Which is what we are seeing.

The whole Bust & Bail farce is caused by a tiny drop in US consumer spending from 70% of GDP to 64%(ish) ... fragile, is the word.

Next is that one of our "allies" in Pakistan or Saudi will load up on oil futures and send his retarded son-in-law for a little delivery job at an oil terminal - even writing the flight plan for the predator trying to stop it will cost more than a new truck and another retard to drive it!

Taking Western Armies into tribal wars is like taking a new Rolls-Royce to a stock car race: Yes, you may well win the race due to the quality of the car - but you are certainly the biggest loser of the day, by far!

Greg said...

Great post. Many great comments as well.

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. I hadn't visited Sudden Debt in a few days and yesterday when I did.......... I see this post..................... eerie!

Some recent forays onto sites exploring MMT (billy blog, Warren Moslers site and Randall Wrays site) have had me pondering some of the assumptions many make about money. It seems to me we have many (too many IMO) people who still view money as a hard asset. They want to be able to bury it in the ground if they wish and have it redeemed for an amount of gold at some point in the future. Under our current fiat money system I think it might be more effective to think of money as grease to the wheels of commerce. There is no limit to how much we can use. We use however much we need to keep our production at capacity. Use it as a tool.

I think the hoarding of large amounts of money over time becomes a deflationary force. Its like it has a rotting effect. I think sometimes that money should have an expiration date (like gift certificates you buy).

The MMT/Chartalists say money gets its value simply because the issuer requires it for the extinguishing of tax liabilities. Does this not mean that a raise in the tax rate will raise the value of money?

Just sayin.

Debra said...

The coup de grĂ¢ce for the 500lb gorilla :
If hegemony is based on the capacity to let drop a few big nuclear turds, I will concede that the U.S. is still on top of the heap.
The problem with dropping those nuclear turds is what you do afterwards to be able to access crude oil in an ocean of contamination.
And as for our hegemony out there in the battle field, I'm not at all convinced, given the way OUR TROOPS gripe about not having body armour, etc etc.
We have just gotten TOO BIG in ways that don't do the job.

Edwardo said...

Fiat, by definition, means by decree. And as we know, authorities can decree anything they like whenever they choose. When one realizes that fiat money, (more so than gold backed money- though it too is subject to being debauched) amounts to a con(fidence) game-since in order for a decree to have any hope of success, those to whom the decree is made must, as it were, buy in- one has taken perhaps the most crucial step in understanding the essentially gossamer nature of our financial system.

Debra said...

Why is fiat a decree, Edwardo ?
A consensual value is one that is founded on a certain form of.. mutuality.
If the authorities decree, they can decree from noon to 2:00 as we say here, to no effect if there is no mutual trust.
That trust imparts... legitimacy.
Even divine right monarchy had to deal with the problem of legitimacy, Edwardo.
And that problem has not gone away in our modern democracies.

Matt Franko said...

@Greg,

Welcome to reality!

Now we just have to get our Govt policy makers to reach your level of understanding of our current monetary system/banking and we can get this economy going again!

Edwardo said...

Debra, it appears you didn't read my post carefully enough.

You asked/asserted:

"Why is fiat a decree, Edwardo ? A consensual value is one that is founded on a certain form of.. mutuality. If the authorities decree, they can decree from noon to 2:00 as we say here, to no effect if there is no mutual trust.

I wrote:

"In order for a decree to have any hope of success, those to whom the decree is made must, as it were, buy in."

Debra said...

LOL, Edwardo, maybe I read your post more carefully than you think...
Since WHEN was trust the same thing as.. BUYING in ?
That's the mega problem at this point, Edwardo.
... TRUST me on this one.

marcus said...

Fajesen:

"Don't be ridiculous: The perceived US superiority and Exceptionalism in all things, but especially those military, is floated on an ocean of diesel fuel and borrowed money."

Hell:

"No need to go as far back as Rome, when the example of Great Britain is so much more recent."

Debra:

"If hegemony is based on the capacity to let drop a few big nuclear turds, I will concede that the U.S. is still on top of the heap."

Sadly the U.S. is exceptional in one way. You really do have to go back to Rome to get any comparison of the imbalance in CONVENTIONAL war making the U.S. holds, and because of the technology gap, even that comparison falls short.

About debt and the price of diesel:
When was the last time the U.S. was in an ocean of debt? War. What single entity has the ability to protect the sea lanes for their supply and disrupt anyone else's? Fuel gets cheap when you deprive a major competitor of their supply and keep your fuel producing "allies" close.

My point is not to boast about American dominance in arms, but an attempt at a sober assessment of the facts, and the likely outcome based on the common interests of the players involved.

It is in nobody's (state) interest to cause acute pain to the American economy, that will lead to aggression.

This is why the slow slide to poverty (20+ years) rather than sudden collapse is the most likely scenario. Otherwise the dogs of war have their day.

Debra said...

And Hell, while we're on it...
Just what do you propose in a DEMOCRACY, to constitute a HIGHER AUTHORITY that power is going to be answerable to ?
And if you say... the people, I will say.. just how do you plan on representing that glorious and total abstraction, the people, for all of us to get our limited minds around ?
It's not because you want to beg the authority question that the problem you saw in the lawyer's office will go away.
We've been ranting away on the democracy soapbox for SO LONG now that we somehow thought that those advantages didn't have any... disadvantages...

UrbanDigs said...

Its very clear that $1,165 gold is telling us that faith in printable paper currencies is declining. Anyone using golds rise as an inflation signal, is missing the nature of this crisis.

I think eduardo and hellasious nail it. The confidence system is losing confidence globally. Fiat currency can be printed, gold cannot. Gold is finite, and for centuries has been viewed as an alternative form of money. This doesnt mean we will be trading gold for food, cars, goods, and services. It simply means that people are losing faith in the paper stuff, you know, that stuff our entire system is built upon.

Can money be destroyed? Hell yes. In a fiat system, credit is money. And its clear we have seen just under $2trln in destruction in the shadow banking system - cds, cdos, cmos, rmbs, cmbs, sivs, spvs, qspes, etc..all that funky stuff that was supposed to keep the system running and properly hedged.

Clearly it failed the test. So what to do? Print more paper stuff of course! But you cant print gold!

Thai said...

"The confidence system is losing confidence globally"

Do I smell fumes of a rotting fish head? ;-)

Yet to be fair it is also true that a conservation of energy always implies a conservation of risk and that hubs are indeed just as vulnerable as peripheral nodes. They always will be, it is what it is.

So I might suggest that the solution to the currency crisis is really rather simple: "repair the hubs"?

What led to a loss of confidence in the first place?

I know Hell has banished me from throwing the kitchen sink into the conversation, which is tough in a world where everything is related to everything else, but when you talk about money and get into all its little iterative substructure building blocks such as "faith", "trust", "buy-in", etc... (I will avoid the word fractal), you are going down that slippery slope.

And I do hope we solve this issue before someone actually listens to Hell and substitutes one original sin for another. Otherwise its back to the Butter Battle as we all live in fear that some young acolyte in the department of muggles, magic, and modern energy methods might accidentally set off another confidence/dogma war when he discovers more energy within a speck of dust.

Or did he really?

... Kind of reminds me of Horton Hears a Who.

Theological wars also get quite tiresome at times.

It seems a little (20%) nudging each other towards a little more personal responsibility gets us 80% of the same thing as having to fracture the whole into lots of little parts.

It definitely uses a lot less energy.

Hellasious said...

Dear Thai,

You are certainly not! banished. This blog wouldn't smell the same without you.

In case you are thinking of rotting fish aroma (Thai fish sauce and all..), I make clear that I associate camphor-wood scent with you. Big olfactory smile.

Edwardo said...

Debra, you are playing a game of semantics. The facts are the folks who don't trust the U.S. fiat game are a vanishingly small number of U.S. residents, and a far larger and much more powerful contingent of foreign entities of one sort or another.

Edwardo said...

And the further fact is that globally the entire fiat game is on thin ice. The evidence for this is vast.

Thai said...

Thanks Hell

Edwardo, do you know of a single instance of a country that successfully mixed a welfare state with a hard currency?

I ask as I really don't know and am curious.

It seems the two almost represent a kind of monetary/national identity cognitive dissonance that is seems almost irreconcilable, at least for the majority of people I know.

... I am not saying a nation can't have this cognitive dissonance it seems to me that if it is going to have it, just like health care rationing, it is best that the paradox is out in the open.

If people want to mess with the hubs, what is their end point target?

Do they want to mess with the hubs to personally game the system for our own benefit? Or do we mess with it because we are our brother's keeper? Is it both? Are they the same thing?

The tragedy of the commons (which is really just the conservation of energy from a slightly different viewpoint) does not have a technical solution, ever.

Debra said...

Um, Thai, France actually did pretty well at having hard currency AND what you rather condescendingly and AMERICANLY refer to a welfare state up until a rather short while ago.
France's solvency is STILL among the best, and French citizens have always been... much better SAVERS than their American counterparts.
And as you know, the best of both worlds was reflected in the EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT quality of French healthcare up until 10-15 years ago, I would say.
So.. you CAN have your cake and eat it too. Promise. LOL
Usually I am not so munificent with the French system, as it has certain bad points that I am quick to pick up, being a... hypercritical person, but... today I'm feeling generous.
BIG SMILE TO Y'ALL.
Edwardo, as far as semantic hair splitting, I fall in with Thai's philosophy of... a rose by any other name does NOT smell as sweet.
But... kudos to you for enabling me to resurrect that lovely word "munificent" that was lurking way back in my brain (can you believe that after 30 years of expat life, it is STILL there ???).
Drag out your dictionary to look it up, you guys...

Thai said...

Deb, you know as well as I that America and France are both nations so in that regard they are very similar. But looked at as individual nations, they are also very very different and in some ways the "euro zone" is a better model to describe America.

The term "welfare state" does not mean the same thing to french as it does to Americans. I think you have to include the idea of more French taxes picking up unemployment and labor union benefits in Greece to get a closer approximation of what the term "welfare state" means to Americans.

... And we shall likely see whether the French are willing to in fact pay this tax soon enough.

The European contingent on this blog can chime in on the topic from your side of the Atlantic better than I, but I might suggest that when we are reading terms like PIGS of Europe, we have an indication of the feelings of at least some Europeans towards others.

And at least they are in different countries, we Americans- all being Americans- are all in the same ship. And, in case any think otherwise, we like it this way ;-)

Again, I am not the pessimist many others on this blog are. I do think it is going to be a mess for a long time however.

Edwardo said...

Thai, I responded to your post, or thought I did, but as it didn't show up, here it is again... for the first time.

The welfare state as we know it is a rather recent phenomenon, whereas gold and bi-metal backed monetary systems extend back several thousands of years. As it happens, hard currencies were phased out in the west at roughly the same time as state welfare systems became a permanent fixture of our socio-economic landscape. All this by way of saying it's a tough call.

Debra, as there is no practical difference between "buy in" and "trust" where the efficacy of fiat is concerned, I'm afraid to inform you that the panel finds that there is no dilution of sweetness from one American Beauty to the next. That's about as munificent as the committee can be on this point.

marcus said...

Thai:

"And at least they are in different countries, we Americans- all being Americans- are all in the same ship."

Tell that to the 45,000 Americans that are going to die this year because they can't afford health care doctor.

Thai said...

So are you willing to sacrifice for them?

Thai said...

Last time we discussed this, you remained in the sickeningly selfish camp.

Have you decided you want to cooperate after all?

Or is this more of your "what's in it for me" whining?

If it is the latter, you can share with the people who are dying from lack of care how you wouldn't helped them out from your own selfishness.

Debra said...

Geez you guys, I occasionally raise my voice on my other forum to remind everybody that...
Sacrifice follows an exclusion paradigm : that means... what YOU get DEPRIVES me.
But... the exclusion paradigm is NOT the only way of getting along in society. A shift in attitude DOES allow one to think that BOTH of us can benefit, and that what goes into your mouth has been pulled out of mine. (Cooperation in Thai's book, although I sometimes think that Thai has a hard time believing what he is saying...)
The AMERICAN problem is... that Americans have had TOO MUCH for TOO LONG (and not just Americans, moreover). It was not for nothing that Jesus said that it was harder for a rich man to enter the KIngdom of Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. (This sounds less crazy when translation is adjusted, but I can't remember the rectification.)
All those riches have created a phenomenal fear of.. LOSING THEM in the national psyche.
Edwardo, since the world was world men have been fighting FOR/OVER words. Look at those words... "liberty", and "freedom".
Buying in and trust are NOT the same thing. Sorry.
YOU, a liberal arts major, have got stuck in that consummate illusion, the idea that... content is everything. That's just not... true, and you should know better.
If you were in France, you could hear a sordid and bombastic performance/translation of King Lear with JUST the content, and THEN tell me that a rose by any other name smells just as sweet.

Debra said...

Rectification : what goes into your mouth has NOT been pulled out of mine.

Hellasious said...

Dear Debra,

If you go back in history you will find that up until the dawn of The Age Of Growth (~ the mid- to end- 19th century) what went into YOUR mouth was to a large extent deprived from MY mouth. At least that portion that significantly exceeded the level of subsistence.

War, for example, was an economic phenomenon that redistributed scarce resources (food, labor, energy).

Now we have oil. For a while yet.. until it peaks and/or destroys our habitat.

HomoSarcasticus said...

Geez, the amounts of hair splitting here! Let me ask you something else: have you ever heard something about this 'thing' called 'Climategate' (no accident it sounds like Watergate...)

Thai said...

Homo, please share a link?

Deb, Marcus's view of the world DOES violate the conservation of energy. That much is quite clear. To be fair to him, he is not the only one who makes this error, but it does gets a little tiresome considering how long he has been a reader on this blog and still fails to understand the issue. His endless linear logic on a non-linear system gets old.

Am I personally willing to give up more than I currently do for SOME things? Absolutely!

Will I give up more for ANYTHING, no. Or I should perhaps say "it depends"- for whom?

In that regard, you are correct to point out that I am being every bit as selfish as Marcus.

Again, it is just my view of things but some structures work, others do not. If you are going to move resources into a structure I do not see, then you better explain the entire structure a little more clearly before I am willing to buy in. Marcus has failed to do this.

Helping Marcus not work because he is lazy is simply not a viable option to keep my neighbor with breast cancer alive.

I do know I am not more responsible for the death of those 45,000 people annually than Marcus is. And FWIW the number he is quoting is also wildly inaccurate, produced by the special ed division of the public option crowd. The fact he even repeats it here implies he is no further along in understanding the health care problem than he was last time we argued, which is also getting a little frustrating. But that is obviously a different issue.

If Marcus wants to pay me and the rest of the health care industry more to not resolve his issues, let him. I keep suggesting it might not be the best uses of resources, at least according to the vision I would personally impose on the world, but a fool and his money are soon departed (in this case he keeps thinking it is some other fool and some others' money). It's Marcus' choice.

As long as the Chinese (and everyone else who is a saver) is willing to let their parents die a little sooner so that they too can save the money they loan us so we don't have to make tough choices, we will be fine.

However, if they ever do decide that they too love their parents/brothers/sisters/children as much as we love ours, then Houston we have a problem.

Camabron said...

Homo, the science of climate change withstands much more than a few disproven scientists.

HomoSarcasticus said...

Thai, don't be lazy, practice your Google-fu. :D

In fact, this topic is pretty actively debated online now. Here are just some of the links that come up. I've not checked all of them thoroughly and these appear to be mostly on the 'critics' side of the issue, but at least you'll get to know what's up.

http://info-wars.org/2009/11/23/viscount-monckton-on-climategate-%E2%80%98they-are-criminals%E2%80%99/

http://www.nowpublic.com/tech-biz/climate-gate-probe-called-senator-james-inhofe-stuart-varney-debates-ed-begley-jr

http://www.prolifeblogs.com/articles/archives/2009/11/climategate_hea.php

http://www.infowars.com/lord-monckton-talks-about-climategate-on-the-alex-jones-show/

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100017393/climategate-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-anthropogenic-global-warming/

http://forums.theledger.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/4521043365/m/8181052549

HomoSarcasticus said...

-> Camabron

You meant: some of the main scientists behind some agressively marketed theories, now accused of fraud (meddling with data, etc), waste of taxpayer's money and suppression of honest scientific debate, who also happen to be political darlings of globalists and 'polar bear savers'. Yeah, that's more like it.

I don't doubt climate change - it's changing all the time. But blaming carbon as THE cause seems stupid to me and the human ability to actually affect the process seems rather low to me ATM, too. Well, we could shut down entire economies and tax everybody just for the kicks, I guess :D

In case you meant that CO2 theories are too entrenched and there's too much support from the politicians & corporations.. well, that's why info blackout must be broken. The truth will set you free, as they say :)

Edwardo said...

Debra, if folks are using the fiat scrip without being coerced, you can call it anything you like, and it will, for all practical purposes-and where money is concerned, practical purposes are where it's at- be the same thing.

(King Lear's) court is adjourned.

Thai said...

Thanks Sarc, I did read about this issue, I just didn't know it was being dubbed climategate.

In truth I don't know enough about the details of climate change to comment one way or another. And when it comes to the climate change debate, the devil is in the details and the assumptions behind those details' assumptions.

Indeed, it is the endless catch-22 inherent in bias. Exposing it can rightfully show how someone's judgment is totally blind to the truth, AND yet it is also true that one can be biased and correct.

This is one debate I am never going to know the truth on as the details are simply too relevant and I am never going to know all the details.

... At some level you have to trust someone.

It is what it is.

Thai said...

Marcus, if you are going to persist in attacking me on a topic you do not understand, then I suggest you actually start reading someone who knows what they are talking about and who might actually share your moral values (assuming there is anything noble in them), here is a link by someone I respect quite a bit whom you might agree with.

Happy reading

Nick said...

The point about the dollar and oil is correct. Just because oil is quoted in dollars doesn't mean it is priced in dollars.

The producers want value, and the purchasers want value too. It is an exchange.

If the dollar tanks, others will buy it.

The quote part matters because you could price it in bananas just as easily.

ie. Any money is a means of facilitating an exchange. An intermediary in a trade. People will accept money so long as others accept that money when they want to spend it.

That applies to gold just as much as fiat money. A part that the goldbugs miss out