Leni was obsoleted... and thoughts for James

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Tue Sep 9 21:59:53 PDT 2003


I know why Leni R. died --- she was made irrelevant.  Her life's work 
as a propagandist has been upstaged by the outrageous propaganda 
machine of Fox News and conservative AM talk radio.  It just killed 
her. ;-)

---

James, I've been trying to stay out of the tar pit for some time in 
terms of fine-grained responses on this list, but I do feel the need to 
respond to this, if only to clarify my own point.  You said:

> The only thing that really matters to me (election-wise) is the 
> economy; when
> the economy is doing alright and the parametric environment it 
> operates in
> improves, everything else largely takes care of itself, the best 
> efforts of the
> government to the contrary notwithstanding.  There is nobody in the 
> current raft
> of Party Approved(tm) candidates that has a particularly sound economic
> platform.  A number of aspects of Bush's economics are mediocre or 
> stupid in my
> book, but compared to everyone else that is running, his policies 
> still are no
> worse and often better in the economics department.

James, you and I are probably more similar than not on economic 
philosophy.  If you recall, I'm probably further to the right 
economically than anybody here -- further to the right than Milton 
Friedman, in fact!  So it shouldn't surprise you when I say that I 
agree wholeheartedly with the above.  It may therefore puzzle you that 
I should positive concerning with somebody like Dean, who I admittedly 
am diametrically opposed to on certain issues and who is almost 
certainly going to raise my damn taxes (theft!  rape!)...  read on for 
clarity.

> Nonsense.  Job creation will happen when the economy rights itself.  
> And [that]
> does not need Dean or any other idiot politician spending in it...

So yes, job creation will happen when the economy rights itself.  And 
economic prediction has a MISERABLE track record of predicting how the 
economy moves, outside of very general hand-waving about "business 
cycles" (i.e., "what goes up must come down and vice versa, but don't 
ask us to describe the waveform.")

So I have a new theory --- one that maps VERY WELL to history over the 
last three decades.  It's very simple.  Doesn't even require math, just 
a good memory (or access to some history facts and figures and a 
timeline.)  And it leads me to support Dean --- or rather, really, ABB 
(Anybody But Bush) though there're other reasons to favor Dean in this 
scenario.

What is "the economy?"  It's a psychological artifact --- a consensual 
hallucination.  Economists will tell you that it's the sum total of all 
consensual interactions / transactions / exchanges of value between 
people and between groups of people (i.e., companies.)  And that much 
is right.  But most economic models assume "homo economicus" --- the 
rational actor.  And they're surprisingly accurate most of the time, 
but when they diverge from expectation they diverge in a HUGE way.

Why?  It's simple:  "homo economicus" is a model of humans in a 
generally unstressed state.  But when humans get stressed, when 
*activist governments pursue divisive agendas and peddle fear, or even 
generally make the people doubt the future* --- then things go into the 
shitter.  EVERY TIME.  And they stay there until people calm down again.

Humans have two basic states:  greed and fear.  Greed is good --- it's 
optimistic --- it's homo economicus.  When everybody's greedy and 
everybody's getting some, everything is good.  Fear is bad --- it's 
pessimistic.  When everybody's afraid of losing what they've got and 
scrambling to hang on rather than pursuing acquisition, everything goes 
into the shitter.  Late 90s:  greed mode.  Since Nov. 2000:  fear mode.

But, you say, that's just too fucking simple.  How can ONE MAN have 
that much of an impact?  Well, people are stupid.  Humans are still 
pack-ish.  We don't think, we *feel.*  And for most of the idiots in 
the US, that Presidential figurehead has more to do with how they feel 
about going out and spending that paycheck than does the actual 
quantity written on it.  If you doubt this, just think back over to the 
rises and dips in the economy over the last few decades and map those 
to the general political mood around the water cooler and what was 
going on in Washington at the time...

The Bush regime has --- by accident or design --- proven itself to be 
an aggressively activist government at pursuing certain policies that 
are (a) very divisive and (b) both fear-driven and fear-creating.  It's 
without question the most fear-peddling American administration we've 
had since the end of WWII.  It's bad for the economy, and once the 
confidence started slipping, it's just kept going.  It has *tried* to 
right itself continuously for some time --- but like the Spruce Goose, 
it can't get off the ground.  It's weighed down by the mass of popular 
fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  Between out-of-control spending, the Big 
Brother state, and reckless / insanely expensive and ineffective 
adventuring around the world, Bush has been nothing but bad for this 
country and nothing but an albatross around the neck of our economy.  
The Economist --- bastion of economic conservatism --- has noticed 
this, too, and has dubbed it "The Bush Effect."

Dean --- like Clinton --- is unlikely to be much of an activist, 
really.  (After Clinton's run at the health care wall, he more or less 
didn't do much besides sign off on surprisingly right-oriented 
legislation coming from Newt's Congress.)  Of the candidates --- other 
than the odious Lieberman, who's Bush but worse and who would drag us 
further into fear, uncertainty, and doubt --- Dean's probably the most 
"right."  And hell, he's FURTHER right than Lieberman on many economic 
issues!  And after four years of budgetary recklessness and deficit 
spending, Dean's "balanced budget" line is likely to have a more 
profound positive impact on the psychology of all those irrational 
agents than *any other single thing.*  And he's the only one --- the 
ONLY one --- who is credibly selling that story.  And yeah, he's going 
to raise taxes --- dammit, it seems inevitable, though a GOP congress 
could help mitigate this --- but IMHO I'd rather pay 39% of a much 
higher executive salary in a booming business cycle than 33% of a lower 
salary during a downturn.  I guess.

> And I am quite certain
> that Howard Dean would not be an improvement over the current 
> administration.

You are not "quite certain," you *believe.*

And you're free to do that.  So am I.  I've come to believe that the 
hypothesis above maps to history better and is therefore a better 
predictor of future economic trends than other, much more complex 
mechanisms.  It's all about the figurehead and psychological effect.

Note, too, that this doesn't "require" a Democrat nor excuse them from 
creating economic badness.  ANY extremism in the White House 
destabilizes our economy.  "That governs best which governs least" 
isn't just political philosophy, it's a succinct expression of economic 
history in this country.

Unf., Bush is the antithesis of the laid back, non-activist President.  
I honestly, really, truly, and deeply believe that Shrub  is the WORST 
PRESIDENT IN AMERICAN HISTORY, so there's no way I can agree with your 
above *belief.*  I honestly do believe that ANYBODY would be better, 
but Dean in particular will be best.

Policy and ideology in a President are largely irrelevant --- their 
primary function is to act as figureheads.  Bush is a lousy one.

My examination of the issues has lead me to a hard place --- that I'm 
going to have to support and vote for a guy who's going to try (and 
fail, again) to do one of the things I most sincerely hope never gets 
done in this country --- implement a national health care system.  But 
in the balance, I feel I have to vote for him.  He's the best hope, in 
my estimation, of getting my number one priority satisfied, i.e. 
turning the nation's economy around.

The insanity in the White House sets the tenor for the entire country 
and is the primary blame for our prolonged economic doldrums and 
much-delayed and dampened recovery.

$0.02,

jb




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