Archive for October, 2008


Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

I so badly wanted to comment on “pomocons, Freddie, and god.”

I rationalized this desire by telling myself that the comment section is badly missing the token ignorant religious fundamentalist and who better to fulfill that roll but me? The little boy in me is squealing “pick me, pick me.” I so badly want to get in the game.

But I did not for two reasons. The first one is that I don’t have the time. The second is that I have never failed to regret participating in a comment section. I take myself way too seriously to be a good commenter.

As it is, I wasted way too much time thinking about how I would reply to it. I was going to try to exorcise my mind and spew all those thoughts onto my own web site, but it turned out not be necessary. Since I did not have time to write my thoughts out during my productive hours, I had to sit down and try to write it out when I was dead tired. You would be amazed at how well the desire to go to bed can make your desire to toot your own horn go away.

Plus, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would have to spend a lot of time regurgitating things I had already articulated in The Aesthetic of Despair and Spinoza, Einstein, and the Failure of Reason. Why go through all that again?

I might still have given it a go if the parts that I was going regurgitate from those two essays were in any way germane to what Freddie said. The only reason I would need to regurgitate them was to establish where I was coming from. Whenever you need to go through that much work to establish where you are coming from, you have a lost cause already.

For those who are curious, my comments on “pomocons, Freddie, and god” would have run roughly like this….

As I see It, Freddie’s point is simple. There is no meaning/authority without God and yet a God you can choose has no meaning/authority. To these points I can only say Amen. But in the process of making these points, Freddie reveals flaws in his thought process that are just crying out to be addressed.

You see, Freddie is an Existentialist. In other words, he understands the failure of reason and at the same time he recognizes that truth exists. But Freddie succumbs to the arrogance of Nietzsche instead of sticking to the basic understanding that Kierkegaard expressed. That is to say, Kierkegaard saw the great chasm and understood that it was fundamental to the human condition. Nietzsche saw the great chasm and thought he was a prophet.

In other words, I see Freddie as setting up post-moderns as being some kind of Nietzschian type supermen. By setting up post moderns as being different from pre moderns, Freddie betrays the basic truth that underlies Existentialist positions and shuts himself off from fruitful lines of inquiry.

Of course I would have used a lot more words then that. Each one of those points is worth an essay all by its self if you really want to do it right. Also I was planning on working in a demonstration of the fact that Rod Dreher and Will Wilkinson’s positions are exactly the same from an Existentialist perspective. This would not really have been a critique of Freddie so much as a natural extension of his argument.

As such, it did not really fit in with the rest of my argument. But I liked the idea of demonstrating that two people who seemed to be on the opposite end of the spectrum were in fact demonstrating the exact same conception of authority and meaning. Maybe I will make a post on the subject someday when I have more time.

But I decided that for now, I needed my sleep more than the world needed my thoughts on Freddie’s post or the similarities between Rod Dreher and Will Wilkinson. Besides, as one of those de-evolved ignorant religious fundamentalists, I have better things to do then to help some godless atheist pick on those who believe in motherhood, apple pie, and, well, something.

Speaking of wasting thought, I was listening to Joel Dueck’s latest podcast, and I was struck by how perfectly he describes the reason that I never have any time in spite of not being that busy. In his case, he was talking about why he is not a good framing carpenter, but for me it is the story of my life.

The problem particularly bothers me when I am writing. I my mind is always skipping ahead to where I am going and never focusing on what I need to be writing at the time. It drives me nuts and makes it take far longer for me to write something then it should. But I can’t seem to stop myself.

Speaking of Joel Dueck’s podcast, I am so disgusted with myself for not guessing whose biography he was reading out of. In hind sight, it was so obvious to anyone with a half-way decent knowledge of American history. My only excuse is that I immediately thought of Samuel Johnson and this false trail used up quite a bit of time needed to come with the right answer. Once it became clear for various reasons that it could not be Samuel Johnson and that it had to be an American, my mind went blank and I could not think of another answer fast enough.

So know that you know that it has to be an American, why don’t you listen to and see if you can guess the right answer. I hope you fail. It will make me feel better.

Some Thoughts

Monday, October 13th, 2008

The Dow was up almost a 1,000 points today. Governments around the world have guaranteed with their lives that there will be no more problems. And I mean that in the most literal way possible. The sums that European Governments have thrown at the problem are out of this world. From Brad Setser….

The US and the major European central banks have effectively agreed to lend without limit to make good on their pledge to avoid a systemic bank failure. All major financial institutions in the G-10 ultimately now have access — through their national central bank — to the Fed. This isn’t quite a global lender of last resort (in dollars) but it is close. Banks are different than countries, so the analogy is imprecise — but back when emerging economies had trouble rolling over their short-term dollar debts during the crises of 97-98, the G-7 never pledged to lend “any amount” needed.

And as if that was not enough, consider this from Bloomberg…

France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Austria committed 1.3 trillion euros ($1.8 trillion) to guarantee bank loans and take stakes in lenders, racing to prevent the collapse of the financial system.

In case you have forgotten how to count, that is a lot of money.

There are a lot of similar stories around. I lost track of all the things that were being done to save the world. It doesn’t really matter. The long and the short of it is that there will be no big banks failing in America or Western Europe anytime in near future. If there are any future big crises in either of those two places, it will because governments have trouble raising money at prices they can afford to pay.

No prizes for guessing whether I think there will be any future big crises. But I can’t really take any pride in being a Doom and Gloomer anymore. Everyone is doing it these days.

But one thing I do find interesting is that most Doom and Gloomer’s think that current plans coming out of Europe are a good thing. They are pleased that the US jumping on the same bandwagon. It is considered the only realistic way to restore stability to the financial world.

I find this interesting because I remember people talking about how the integration of the world’s markets was going to make everything more stable. It was argued that it would be next to impossible for one thing to go down when everything was tied together.

Back then, it was the Doom and Gloomer types who argued that this was not so. They argued that the fact that everything was tied together was encouraging people to take more risk. They argued the fact that everyone was tied together meant that the financial system was losing critical redundancy. The Doom and Gloomers argued that if you took those two things together, it was clear that the whole system was in danger of going down.

Score one for the Doom and Gloomers.

But now we find the Doom and Gloomers arguing that the government should back stop the whole system. This is the only way that it is possible to make things even more integrated then they already are. This can only make sense if the problems are not serious and mostly due to panic. If the problems are serious, then we are just guaranteeing that everything will go down at the same time.

Put it another way, in a real emergency you have to perform triage. You can’t just run around saying “I am going to save everybody.” I mean, you can say it, but can’t actually try to do it or you will just make everything worse.

Look at Iceland, for example. They have to pick and choose their battles really carefully. The government simply can’t do everything it wants to do. But it took them a bit of time to face up to that fact. Their early attempts to pretend they could handle it all simply made things worse.

In bigger and more wealthy countries the idea that the government might not be able to save everything does not yet seemed to have sunk in yet.

Switching subjects….

The reaction to Paul Krugman getting a Noble prize in Economics has been bothering me way more then it should. Nothing can ruin a good healthy dislike like having other people share it.

Look, I don’t like the guy. There are some days when I really don’t like the guy. But seeing how other people who don’t like Krugman have reacted to him getting the prize has embarrassed me to no end. Nobody has any class in this country anymore.

As far back as I can remember, everyone has known that Krugman was going to get a Noble prize for economics. Like him or not, his work has been very influential in his field. And since economics is not really a hard science, that is all you can really go by when deciding whether someone deserves a prize or not. So by the rules of the game, Krugman deserved the prize.

Spewing out insults and carrying on just because someone got what everyone knew he had coming to him is just too pathetic for words.

Sure the Swedes might have given it to him this year as opposed to some other year just to insult Bush. But so what? Since when does any red blooded American care what the Europeans think? I will give Bush this much: he does not care what the Europeans think.

Admittedly, I am not a fan of Bush. But even if I was, hopefully I would not stoop so low as to rain on the parade of a guy who got what was coming to him even if was given for the wrong motives.

Look at it this way: if they had given the prize this year to a European (like I thought they were going to this year) the prize money would have stayed in Europe. By giving it to Krugman they have injected the money into the US financial system. Given our current problems, every bit helps. In fact, I only wished they had given him more money.

This world would be a better place if every time a group of Europeans decided to insult Bush they had to give money to some American. Heck, I would be rounding up liberals for them to give money to.

Don’t get me wrong. I still want to see Krugman punished for all of his sins. That is why I hope Obama makes him Treasury Secretary.

Not likely to happen. But I can dream.