Culturalism · Economic History

Lighting The Path

Every time Daylight Saving Time (DST) rolls around, you reliably hear complaints. The practice is antiquated, pointless, obnoxious, and can easily cause someone to oversleep. We might as well get rid of it, pursuing the objective of simplifying matters and eliminating all chance that someone forgets. After all, we have plenty of light.

Yet some would argue that happy glow remains under-appreciated. The bolstering principle behind DST is to conserve daylight hours during the winter, when the sun sets sooner than in warmer months. Back when people had to rely on meager lanterns or the hearth for light, they were severely limited in terms of what could be accomplished once those natural glows receded. Readers or writers had to “save it for later,” and farmers could not perform certain tasks in the dead of night. In other words, nature was a significant obstacle for everyday life.

Today we are blessed to think nothing of such inconveniences. All one must do is flip a switch, and crisp, if not as pleasing, artificial light floods the room. Productivity can continue, well past 5:30pm on a winter’s day, and long through the night.

But how many truly value or appreciate this dynamic? I routinely encounter folks who sleep 10-12 hours a day, spending the remaining time in preparation for work or consuming some byproduct of Hollyweird while immersed in almost pitch darkness, save for the television screen’s glow. These are the same organisms who bray and squeal over DST, because it is an inconvenience, albeit the sort that would seem immaterial to their waking and moving lives. Few among them even own a traditional watch or clock which must be reset, so the complaint is usually about not being mentally prepared to sleep longer.  

The species at-large, particularly those of us living in developed countries, seem to disregard the benefits of modernity, perhaps because we have so little stake in it. Wasting time, itself a complicated matter to explain, bears with it minimal consequence. Sure, you may be forced to slam the gas pedal and get into work with minutes to spare, but nothing fundamentally changes. There is no race against the harvest date for subsistence farming, or need to consolidate academic research under the sun before candles are the sole option. Just vapid floating on a pool of nondescript boredom.

Now then, go set those watches, if you have any.

Economic History · investing

Just Bumbling

Last month, the dating app Bumble debuted its IPO, which was meant to come in at a relatively impressive $43.00 per share. On the first day of public trading, the price skyrocketed by 70 percent, landing the girl power app at just under eighty dollars per share. The stock has since cooled off, but presently sits around sixty bucks, with a market cap of slightly below 7 billion dollars. So the swipers cheer.

Other (drowned out) voices are skeptical, perhaps because the stock movement leaves a very crucial question in limbo: What for? We get it, today’s market and drive for digital applications seems to know zero bounds. Anxious investors trade after whatever new flash has hit the water, and give hardly a second thought about it. Still, where is the argument in favor of Bumble emerging?

A cursory look at the company’s finances provide murky basis for this rise:

The company generated revenue of $416.6 million during the first nine months of 2020, up from $362.6 million during the comparable period a year earlier. Bumble also recorded a net loss of $118.5 million during the first nine months of 2020, versus net income of $54.0 million in the same period a year before.

Are those figures deserving of a share price far past many companies that have operated and delivered consistently for years? I understand something around $10.00 per share, but such grandeur seems almost entirely driven by religious belief. Bumble is after all a simple app that lets people date. It hardly has broken the standard in any regard, aside from letting women go first, resulting in most saying “Hey” rather than furthering the “meaningful conversation” they claim to desire.

Then we have the effectiveness issue. Countless men report (and are shown through social experiments) to be getting no results using Bumble or other dating apps. At best they are spending hours swiping on pretty pictures in a fruitless effort, or speaking with robot profiles which the company permits to enhance their numbers. Perhaps gay men are doing well, but otherwise the actual worthiness of the app is highly questionable.

And that may be precisely the wrong way to examine things. Maybe the focus on female empowerment is what makes Bumble a solid purchase. Men will continue to simp pointlessly, and females can count on the app to deliver a steady supply of eligible (attractive or rich) suitors. So instead of hindering their business model, the approach actually strengthens it.

What the hell. I’ll buy.

Economic History · Federal Government · Personal Finance

The Ministry of Normal Existence

I’ve spoken before on the trend of the government and corporations essentially becoming one and the same. This is not “corporatism,” as many lolbertarians will smugly insist. It does however spell disaster for the future, and most especially in the short-term. The difficult part is ascertaining what precisely individuals can do in a strategic manner to protect themselves from this great scourge.

First on the list of grim tidings is the story emerging about Bank of America. The company, which currently occupies a position as the second-largest bank in our country, has been caught serving as a dutiful underling for the State. According to Tucker Carlson, BOA reviewed the private transactions and records of customers to determine if they had taken part in the DC events last month. What’s more, they were casting a wide net, going after people who had no indications of involvement with that scenario.

Even the greatest liberal humanitarians should find fault with this behavior. Corporations that rhapsodize about protecting customer data from breaches or marketing can simply turn around and hand it over to the powers that be, all in the name of security policy. There is no bar or threshold requirement, only the shrill declarations of politicians who lie frequently to generate hyperbolic sympathies. Not to mention what throngs of young fools will buy it all absent questions.

But problems fail to end there. Various airlines have already moved to ban passengers affiliated with the controversial protest, effectively crafting their own no-fly lists out of thin air. Bear in mind that these people have not been convicted of any crime; they simply hold a political opinion now considered to be toxic. Yet the desperate calls for regulating out-of-control corporations seem strikingly quiet, largely because people stand to benefit politically from such disenfranchisement.

So what is the proper solution? One might point to the notion of a protective rights bill, though this will require passage through the upper house, where finance and tech lobbying has no limit. Alternatively, a push for nationalization and redistribution of profits to the poor could feasibly scare the larger firms into better guarding individual liberties, though I certainly think they will fight on all fronts to defend the sniveling worship of power.

After all, it is a tremendous drug.

Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Uncategorized

Good Books On The 2008 Crash

There seems to be an endless supply of firm opinions on why the economy collapsed in 2008. Conservatives blame lending to poor people, and liberals claim it was a lack of federal regulation. I tend to lean towards the latter column, but rather than taking my word for it, here are a list of good books that analyze precisely how things went south those long years ago. They may not aid us in preventing a future hit, but at least the effort is commendable.

In Bed with Wall Street: How Bankers, Regulators and Politicians Conspire to Cripple Our Global Economy

The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the Future of the World Economy (Economic Controversies)

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History

crypto · Culturalism · Economic History · Federal Government · investing · Uncategorized

Are We Wrong About Welfare?

An especially frightful bogeyman mustered by folks on the Plural Right to win elections is the idea of the welfare queen. This horrendous creature oozes about in life, deviously attempting to confiscate as much from the public dole as possible, and using taxpayer dollars to fund her luxurious lifestyle. She is often paired with her live-in boyfriend, a clownish drug dealer who uses his perch in a Section 8 housing complex to make tax-free money by selling controlled substances. Topping off the vignette are their countless children, who assist in generating those lovable food stamp checks which are annihilating the economy.

Effective as the idea may be for politicians, it betrays a fundamental unwillingness to understand the nature of the public support system, along with the actual status of people involved. Thus we must provide an overview of precisely what is available to welfare dependents, and for how long. Hopefully, a measure of clarity can help eliminate the misconceptions that inevitably fuel terrible corrective policy on the part of the State.

The first salvo ought to involve a popular 2012 study from Wisconsin distributed inside conservative circles. According to the authors, a family on welfare in the Badger State can rake in $35,000 annually post-taxes by yukking it up with a variety of government programs and not working. A similar 50-state analysis by the Cato Institute confirms such alarmism, noting how places like Hawaii grant payments of almost $50,000 a year to government dependents.

There is no doubt the proponents of such studies have justifiable concern about the nature of welfare. Unfortunately, they rely on rather self-serving conclusions to fit the bill of lolbertarian ideology. For one, the Wisconsin study relies upon an assumption that eligibility automatically equates to acceptance. In reality, analysts have concluded that less than 300 Wisconsinites would be able to draw the $35,000 amount of income, this in a state of almost 6 million people. Further complicating the matter is how most welfare programs require participants to be seeking a job or working, stipulations which undermine the suggestion they are simply mooching because they can.

Perhaps more critical to mention are the limitations on welfare programs themselves. In the case of SNAP benefits (food stamps), users without children are limited to 90 days in the service within a 36-month period by a federal law enacted in 2008, unless they can meet certain work requirements. When paid out, benefits average about $256.00 per month for a household or $127.00 a person, and come to around $1.40 for each meal. Higher payments materialize in the event of a household being extremely low income or with many kids, so not everyone receives the same amount of money.  It is worth noting that the Obama Administration promulgated an $8.7 billion cut to SNAP, despite its supposedly progressive credentials.

Section 8 housing also gets a bad rap due to the poor reputation of such communities, yet it too has strict standards for access, cutting out sizable swaths of the general population based on income and family status.  Quite crucially, the voucher system does not cater to illegal immigrants, as applicants must be citizens or possess eligibility for citizenship. The closely-associated LIHEAP program gives recipients help with heating and cooling bills providing they meet certain requirements. Strangely enough, President Obama also made repeated requests for Congress to cut funding to LIHEAP, instigating a move by the late Hugo Chavez to donate heating oil to Americans.  

Some critics will aim their guns at the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash support program to satisfy notions of dependency. Here again the issue is complex. TANF operates not as a long-term solution to poverty, but merely the helping hand to bring people back on their feet during hard times. Benefit checks in July 2020 ranged from just over $300.00 in Texas to $1,086 in New Hampshire, reflecting cost of living and state government decisions. The final point is important because individual states control the destiny of TANF money block-granted by the Fed, and are not obliged to offer a large (or elevated) amount. Furthermore, recipients are limited to 5 years on the TANF dole throughout their entire life, so it is hardly a career dependency model.

Welfare alarmism also flies in the face of the historical record. The 1996 welfare reform bill signed by Bill Clinton had the effect of eliminating the “entitlement” concept behind such programs by instituting stricter work requirements. Since 1997, spending on TANF has remained largely unchanged at $16.5 billion, and broader welfare caseloads have increased to 15 percent, while the assistance rolls remain down by 68 percent from the pre-reform highs, this even with the effects of the recession and Corona. As a percentage of the total federal budget, the programs amount to $361 billion, or 8 percent.

One final point to acknowledge regarding the 1996 reform lies with the impact on child support enforcement. Prior to the legislation’s passage, the State’s involvement in collection and insistence on men paying was decidedly more limited. Clinton’s bill changed that by requiring state authorities to more aggressively pursue orders on child support, and encouraging women to pursue it. So in a sense men replaced the State for a portion of the payments, arguably leading to the disaster of family courts today.

At the end of the day, I can appreciate the rage against welfare. Those of us who work feel indignant about folks who simply take checks and live on the dole. Of course the truth is that many of the “takers” are actually employed, yet simply do not make enough to survive. Perhaps our bigger focus should be on the creatures and organizations regularly taking trillions from the government to bail them out whenever the economy turns south.

Culturalism · Economic History · Federal Government

What The State Could Do

If one thing is consistent, it would be the general atmosphere of dislike for the State in circles of the Right. One could spend hours parsing up the backstory and justifications, but such a practice fails to crystallize exactly what the future holds. Our reasonable guarantee holds that governments will continue to exist, and thus financial corruption shall abound. All else is fantasy.

With said negativity considered, we might consider exactly how the State might alleviate the suffering of countless Americans with a handful of small moves. Healthcare has already been discussed, although the government-run model falls under harsh modes of criticism. Federalized educational payments are similarly fraught with peril, at least insofar as they become breeding grounds of progressive lunacy and degree value inflation. So what else can we hope for? Government-funded groceries?

Not so much, but has anyone considered the question of usury? The term is controversial in modern days due to our obsession with debt-financed economics, but would it really be so bad to leave that category to the rich and empowered? After all we’ve heard about how “every man can be a king” with deregulatory policies, the powers that be still go about trying to blame poor people for financial collapses which their own foolish behaviors instigated.  If we take them seriously for a second, how could this downside be avoided in the future?

Simple, by smashing the concept of interest on home loans. A certain figure who will go unmentioned launched his very successful program on these terms decades ago, specifically oriented around building up the family. The program he promulgated allowed couples to attain interest-free loans which could go towards the purchase of a new house, along with furnishings. Instead of being mortgaged to interest payments, the newlyweds had merely to repay the principal, giving them a massive shelter against debt slavery in a world where the percentage charges often eclipse what has been borrowed.

When we account for the reality of Adjustable (Variable) mortgages, and how they threw countless Americans to the curb during the 2007-2008 collapse, the aforementioned plan sounds intriguing. Even a non-gambler would be inclined to wager that families who only had to pay their principle back without interest might well have avoided losing their homes when things went belly up, even if a job loss occurred. Furthermore, nothing prevents the State from extending grace periods in case the person is unemployed so they do not immediately fall into destitution due to vibrations beyond their control.

Obviously such a proposal must be crafted to avoid exploitation by real estate investors. Consequently, the applicants would need to prove they are in a committed marriage with intentions of having children. Allowing only one application per family would also stand to cut down on fraud, as might requiring them to live in the house for a certain number of years. The latter component has the potential to preserve communities as well, which is attractive.

Maybe the hammer to usury would backfire, turning into another predictable creation of the federal behemoth and pushing us closer to fiscal insanity. At the same time, it could be the solution to most national problems, and those facing the children of tomorrow. Debt is a scourge which conquers nations, so why not set our people free?

crypto · Economic History · Federal Government

They’re Getting Fearful

Today as I was browsing Twitter the following article popped up:

Imagine that. UBS is warning people that the major threat to cryptocurrency as a dominant means of exchange lies with the inability of central banks to control it by limiting total money supply. This honestly sounds like the product of some bizarro alternate reality. Such organizations have (at least in recent history) printed money and flooded the market with extra cash, not restricted the amount available. Do I sense a desire to manipulate the market and maybe snag some cheaper BTC for late-arriving buyers at UBS?

Time will tell. It’s no secret however that UBS has been on the warpath with their fear predictions, as seen just a week prior:

Of course if they do manage to drive the price down, smart folks will pick up a little more. The big shots will catch up, eventually.

Culturalism · Economic History · Federal Government

Walled Off

There’s an older meme of Congressman Ron Paul smiling or waving his arms with the caption “It’s Happening!” The image is meant to imply that Paul was right, and simply got ignored by the broader masses of sheep who continue voting for establishment Democrats and Republicans. Most people throw it around sarcastically, and even less probably recognize Ron Paul anymore.

Except it’s not really a meme. According to reports from congressional testimony, incoming DHS head Alejandro Mayorkas will not commit to tearing down Trump’s spooky fence wall on the southern border region. This seems completely out of character for someone like him, who is only in power due to a political party which spent the last several years lamenting over immigrant detainment and access control. Are the Dems having some magical wake up call regarding border security?

Absolutely not. After all, Biden has encouraged the approaching wave of migrants to enter in the future, regardless of the damage such a move is bound to cause. Instead, the development from Mayorkas made me think back to an old debate from 2011, when Ron Paul answered a question on the long-legislated idea of immigration control:

What a fascinating idea: instead of the wall being used to keep terrorists and immigrants out, it is actually designed to prevent people who wish to leave. From a traditional conservative standpoint this sounds absurd, as who would really want to depart the United States? As it turns out, more than we might realize. The next couple years will begin to show people how all the security apparatus which they endorsed happily as a weapon against terror is going to be used against them. We already have folks getting kicked off platforms and denied flight access because they expressed views which are seen as toxic to the mainstream. How far are we from passport revocation on the same basis?

Not far at all. The IRS already possesses the ability to snatch a person’s passport on the basis of tax issues, so only an upgrade to “problematic political ideas” is needed for us to come full circle. After all, we can’t be exporting extremism and terror to other countries…that would be unacceptable.

This too shall be forgotten by next election.