5-28-11 Hodgepodge

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Controls Breed Uncertainty

In an article titled, "Economic Stagnation Explained, at 30,000 Feet," Stephen Carter provides a highly instructive snapshot of where the average businessman is today, in terms of his ability to plan and in terms of his understanding of our depressed economy:

Demand for his product is up. But he still won't hire.

"Why not?"

"Because I don't know how much it will cost," he explains. "How can I hire new workers today, when I don't know how much they will cost me tomorrow?"

[The businessman is] referring not to wages, but to regulation: He has no way of telling what new rules will go into effect when. His business, although it covers several states, operates on low margins. He can't afford to take the chance of losing what little profit there is to the next round of regulatory changes. And so he's hiring nobody until he has some certainty about cost.
It is interesting to note that this businessman does not have a principled understanding of (or opposition to) government regulation of the economy or a clear idea of what the proper role for government is: He dreams an impossible dream of a government that, "act[s] like my assistant, not my boss."

Weekend Reading

"This irrational, self-defeating scheme of 'security' entails an eternal and ubiquitous state of emergency -- a setting which only empowers government to impose 'extraordinary measures' to curb and quash our rights and liberties, without end or limit." -- Richard Salsman, in "Kill the Un-American Patriot Act" at Forbes

"Terms like 'inflation' or 'devaluation' can seem irrelevant to Americans busy with work and family, but watching those seemingly esoteric concepts play out in Belarus should serve as a terrifying warning -- as panicked citizens empty their bank accounts to buy air conditioners, sugar, stereo equipment, anything of actual value instead of the increasingly worthless pieces of paper in which they've put their life savings." -- Jonathan Hoenig, in "Could a Currency Collapse Happen Here?" at SmartMoney

"I'm not against anything -- medication or whatever -- that objectively helps. What I am against is the idea of biological determinism, i.e., the view that biology is destiny, that genetics and brain physiology determine everything about a person." -- Michael Hurd, in "Drugs vs. Therapy: Which One Works?" at DrHurd.com

The Phase-Out That Isn't?

As someone who has been under the distinct impression that I would be unable to buy real (i.e., incandescent) light bulbs after some point during the next couple of years, it comes as a mild relief that, perhaps this isn't exactly the case. That relief is more than made up for, in day and this age -- when the government runs more and more of the economy and there seems to be a "czar" for everything -- by the fact that I am hardly alone in finding the idea that there is such a ban completely plausible. Also, some states have laws on the books to phase out incandescent bulbs, and I cannot help but wonder whether federal efficiency standards won't amount to a phase-out, anyway.

Bent Objects

Curious about the origin of an amusing picture of a candle lighting itself on both ends I received in the mail, I came across an entire blog, Bent Objects, full of similar artwork, by Terry Border. After a little digging, I am still unsure whether that candle is his, but I got a good laugh out of this "Postcard from a Cat Box." (And, I guess, while I'm there, I'll note that I sometimes refer to my cat as, "my little Zen gardener.")

On a more serious note, Border and a favorite comic writer of mine are being ripped off by content thieves. Border sums up the situation quite nicely:
I've heard a couple of comments that blame the submitters to their sites, and not Cheezburger themselves. Well, who put together the way their sites work? They can try to wash their hands of wrong-doing, but it's their system, and they know the end result will be lots of anonymous images thrown into the furnace of their giant money making machine.
And the man behind The Oatmeal describes his interaction with the admin of the same outfit. It's worth a read.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,
From the oatmeal.


And here's another graphic explanation of why the rapture didn't happen.


In regard to the Carter column; my former bookkeeper who still keeps my books but is working for an accounting firm said that they have a two week course at the beginning of each tax season to familiarize themselves with the changes to the tax code. He said that if they didn't have computer support and a subscription to a service to keep track of legislation/regulation/IRS rulings, etc. that they could not do their due diligence regarding their clients. He is of the opinion that it is impossible for a small businessman to file his own taxes without being raped by the IRS either by not retaining the fruits of their labor in the first place or by being targeted by the IRS after the fact.

Robert Heinlein's character, Professor de la Paz in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" opined that "It is intolerable that we are controlled in every aspect of our economic lives by some Earth Authority bureaucrat." I think that the incandescent light bulb fiasco is just one more example of that totalitarian impulse coming from both sides of the aisle. I say totalitarian because there is nothing that they think is beyond the bounds of their control. They just don't happen to control it, yet.

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

Heh! That Oatmeal comic on the rapture was great! I hadn't seen the other, though, so thanks for enlightening me.

Your former bookkeeper is on the money regarding how vulnerable the tax code makes small businessmen. That is something that may have practical implications for myself, soon, and I do not like or appreciate it one bit. It is obscene to have to spend even one second wondering what some bloodsucker somewhere might capriciously decide to use as an excuse to take money from you.