Thinking About the Economy: A Disclaimer

Today, we have started a really productive discussion of the economy here on the blog. The subject seems to be very popular and has generated a great response. Before we continue, though, I want to reiterate that I’m just starting to figure this stuff out. So if anybody arrives at a point where they experience a burning need to tell me that I’m clueless and ignorant of these issues, save your breath. I know I am. I sincerely applaud everybody who was born with a sophisticated knowledge of economics at their fingertips but I’m not one of such people.

All points of view are welcome and appreciated. These are issues that make tempers flare, so let’s try to be kind to each other as much as it’s possible on this topic.

Thinking About the Economy: The Introduction

I’m currently trying to figure out how the American economy works and elaborate my own position on the economic issues. Right now, I don’t have a definitive point of view because I simply don’t possess enough information to arrive at it. In the nearest future, I will be writing a series of posts that will record my attempts to create my personal approach to the issues of economy.  This series will be titled “Thinking About the Economy.”

For the most part, I’m not content with how the Liberal sources I access deal with the economic issues. Back in the Soviet Union, we were all really unhappy with the kind of economy we had. For us, everything that wasn’t similar to the only system we knew and abhorred had to be perfect. The logic behind this was that if the system we are familiar with sucks, then its exact opposite should be great. So we all worshiped capitalism as some kind of a paradise where everybody is rich, has cars, yachts and houses and is happy beyond belief.

In 1991, we were dragged by history through a rapid transition to capitalism. For many people, their first encounter with capitalism was deeply traumatic. We discovered that capitalism brought about very visible income inequalities (they always existed in the USSR, of course, but were often concealed from view), the need to offer yourself on the job market, compete and suffer rejection, the necessity to work really hard with no promise of success, the possibility of indigence that was hard to tolerate when you could see your neighbor getting rich and buying diamonds as a matter of course.

Many of us discovered they couldn’t deal with the new reality. Instead of offering us instant riches, capitalism brought many harsh demands that many people were not equipped to meet. The rewards seemed distant and the need to disinter the skills of entrepreneurship and hard work that had been beaten out of us over the decades of Communism was painful.

The reason why I’m telling you all this is that I see a very similar tendency currently at work in the US. People are only familiar with a single economic system, capitalism. They see its defects and believe that what’s needed is the exact opposite. I find this approach to the economy to be naive. Nothing annoys me more than arm-chair Marxists who believe they are militate on behalf of some vaguely defined proletariat they rarely even see.

When I say that collective ownership of the means of production results in an almost instant impoverishment of the population on a scale that Americans cannot even begin to imagine today, I speak from experience. I know that my experience of a person who grew up in the Soviet Union is not fashionable in the intellectual Liberal circles. Nobody wants to hear anything that contradicts their pipe-dream of Communism and socialism.

In the Soviet Union, whenever we heard that there was racism or poverty in the US, we always concluded that it was all just Cold War propaganda. Liberal Americans still believe that everything negative they heard about the USSR was propaganda that doesn’t contain a grain of truth. They seem to need this belief in order to continue engaging in their sad little Marxist fantasies.

I, however, am not prepared to relinquish my own memories for the sake of spoilt rich American kids of pseudo-Liberal persuasion. I want to look for my own understanding of the economy and I don’t care how offended people are that my search subverts their cherished pieties.

A Liberal Approach to the Economy

It’s impossible to say, nowadays, if what one reads on the subject of the economy is being said seriously or in jest. See, for instance, “The Golden Laws of Prosperity” from Ian Welsh’s blog. Judging by the comments, I’m not the only one who thought the post was a parody. For now, however, the author seems to maintain he was in earnest when writing the post.

I will give you a few of Welsh’s prosperity rules, and you can go see the rest at the original post.

Implement policy which is as good for as many people as possible.

I thought if history had taught us anything whatsoever it was that the scariest political leaders were the ones who were trying to be benefactors of the majority. Seriously, how can anybody figure out what’s “as good for as many people as possible” without relying exclusively on one’s own personal ideology? Isn’t it time to remove the categories of “good” and “evil” from our economic and political vocabulary already?

Keep the rich poor.

Of course, after this suggestion, one immediately thinks that the entire list is a tribute to Ayn Rand.

Do not allow elites to opt out of the experience of ordinary citizens.

And how is that going to be enforced in practice, I wonder? A representative of the elite would be forced to wear jeans to a burger-grilling beer-drinking Springer-watching party and prohibited from putting on a dress and watching an opera while drinking champagne and eating caviar? Was this going to be done through police involvement? I can just imagine police officers shaking folks out of suits and tuxedos and stuffing them into jeans. Of course, I’m exaggerating. However, the point is that when you start regulating “experiences”, scary things begin to happen.

Do not reward people for winning lotteries (economic competitions someone was going to win, like Facebook winning the social site competition)

This, of course means clamping down on absolutely any new area of development or research. Imagine the people who’ll find a cure for cancer. Those folks will win the lottery like nobody has ever before. Ergo, let’s make sure looking for the cancer cure is completely unprofitable. Who cares about a valuable service to humanity? As long as we can prevent somebody from getting rich, our central goal will be served.

Do not allow anyone to take future profits in the present.

This can easily be translated as kill the economy outright. Gosh, even the USSR didn’t go this far in regulating its companies.

Restrict capital flows significantly.

This, however, is what the Soviet Union was great at doing. Does anybody want me to narrate the results once again?

Treat credit as a utility and regulate all credit grantors as utilities.

Credit rates should be based on utility of the end use of credit.

The problem with this approach is that only a completely insane person will want to be a creditor under these conditions.

Make sure your population eats healthily, there is no such thing as cheap food, cheap food is paid for by death, disease and health care costs.

As most of my readers know, I’m very worried about the low quality of food in the US and have suffered serious health consequences because of that low quality. However, ensuring that the population eats healthily is an obvious infringement on individual rights. If the suggestion was to offer an opportunity to the population to eat healthily, I wouldn’t have a problem with this advice. Making people eat healthy in order to make them live longer sounds like a first step down the very slippery slope of treating human bodies as the property of the government.

Do not allow city folks mores to run the country, nor country mores to run the cities.

The moment we get the government regulating the mores, we arrive at totalitarianism. Maybe people can sort out their mores and ways of being without a prescriptive authority.

Do not allow unproductive suburbs which do not allow light businesses or have covenants.

As we can see, this philosophy is all for giving the rights to allow or not allow to one large body and taking them away from smaller local bodies. Another slippery slope. Besides, “do not allow those who do not allow” sounds a tad hypocritical.

Use competition between the private and public sectors.

Is there still one person under the sun who doesn’t know who will win this competition? (If it’s allowed to be run as a real competition, not a rigged foregone conclusion, of course.)

Do great things, not because of the return, but because they are great.

If only there was any hope of a group of people reaching a consensus as to what constitutes “great things.”

Seek the health and happiness of your citizenry, not maximum income.

Honestly, nothing terrifies me more than a government, an entity or a private individual that seeks my health and happiness. The best system in the world is the one that allows me to seek my own good or ill health and happiness or misery as I see and want them. God save us all from well-meaning benefactors, for they are the scariest people out there. Everybody’s understanding of happiness is so different that anybody who tries to impose their own vision of it always ends up digging mass graves for the millions who are not content with the state-mandated version of bliss.

I have to tell you, people, the liberal approach to the economy isn’t really doing anything for me lately. It’s all based on such do-gooder prescriptions that are supposed to make one feel self-righteous when one pronounces them but that have very little practical value.

The journalist who came up with the list is Canadian. In one of my future posts, I will tell you why I have massive issues with the Canadian approach to the economy.

Banal Nationalism

“Daily, [nation-states] are reproduced as nations and their citizenry as nationals . . . For such daily reproduction to occur . . . a whole complex of beliefs, assumptions, habits, representations and practices must also be reproduced. Moreover, this complex must be reproduced in a banally mundane way, for the world of nations is the everyday world. . . Daily, the nation is indicated, or ‘flagged’, in the lives of its citizenry” (Michael Billig, Banal Nationalism 6).

“The construction of identity is a neverending and forever incomplete process, and must remain such to deliver on its promise (or, more precisely, to keep the promise of delivery credible)” (Zygmunt Bauman, Community 64).

More on Watering

I know I harped on this already but it just bugs me so much to see sprinklers going on for hours, watering the paved sidewalk and a tiny little island of grass.
This grass border could be watered manually in two minutes. Why, why are people wasting so much fresh water to inundate this minuscule grassy space and create puddles on the road?

I suffer when I see this kind of waste. And a couple of times, I saw the sprinkles sprinkling while it was raining.
If people can recommend some psychological mechanisms that one could use in order to stop being bothered by this, feel free to share.

Fans

I don’t give a shit what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.

This is a header from the blog of my favorite Russian-speaking blogger. She is a real celebrity in Russia and has crowds of fans whose lives are dedicated to collecting information about her and spouting garbage in hopes their idol would notice them. She never does, of course. On her humongously popular blog, she only allows friends to leave comments because if the access to it became open, thousands of losers would try to dump their emotional dirt on her.

I’m not nearly as famous (and, of course, never will be) as this talented woman but I have a few obsessed fans of my own. One trolled my blog for over a year but seems to have gone away now.

Another wrote a biography of me that was 16,000+ words long on the basis of information gleaned from my blog posts and sent it to me. It is needless to say that I didn’t read it. The same fan then kept sending emails to me telling me to listen to the voice of God and mend my sinful ways. Now this person’s emails – if they do keep coming – go directly to the Spam box.

Then, there was a fan who started a blog of their own dedicated solely to bashing my blog. I don’t think it was successful because I visited it once and saw that the fan in question couldn’t write a simple sentence. The blog consisted of long quotes from my posts accompanied by “Didn’t I tell you she was stupid?”

There was also a pair of cyber-bullies who disappeared after I threatened them with legal action.

Then, a few weeks ago there was a group of MRAs on Reddit who started an anti-Clarissa campaign and kept trying to get me to visit their thread and participate, which I obviously didn’t do.

Now, somebody’s trying to leave links on my blog about some discussion that has been going on about me somewhere. Another – or the same, who knows? – fan has just sent me an email informing me that “we have been discussing you on Twitter for 2 nights in a row” and leaving a link to that discussion.

And I also saw this morning that a blogger I respect a lot posted an article berating somebody of whose existence I’m completely unaware for saying nasty things about me.

So I wanted to make it known to everybody that I’m really uninterested in what anybody is saying about me anywhere. Life is too short to waste it on this kind of fandom. If people have nothing better to do for two nights in a row than discuss me on Twitter, I’m deeply  sorry for how life has treated them. If this 2-night-long discussion is just an invention of somebody who is trying to attract attention to their lonely Twitter account, I also don’t care.

All I can say is that I don’t want any links, tweets and messages trying to involve me in some weird discussions about my general evilness. If anybody tries to leave such links in the comment section of this post (or any post), I will delete them outright. I realize that negative fandom is a price one pays for having a voice and an audience but I’m unprepared to spend any time on people who are so devoid of a life that creating strange intrigues about somebody they don’t even know seems like a normal pursuit to them.

In the two years and five months that I’ve been blogging, I have managed to attract a group of absolutely brilliant, intellectual, amazing readers and fellow bloggers to my blog. I learn something new from them every day. They have helped me in a variety of ways that I will remember and be grateful for forever.

A few trolls here and there are a small price to pay for all these great things.