Monday, October 25, 2010

What would a "non-artificial" growth look like

There is a crowd of people out there, generally in the Austrian Economics/Hayek/Austerians/"Conservatives", etc. camp that keep complaining about how any growth that we have now is "Artificial" because of the massive government intervention in the economy. This keeps annoying the crap out of me as the alernative to this alleged Artificiality is never presented. So I'm going to piece together what I think this crowd wants to see. They want the economy to grow:
- Without any deficit government spending
- Without debt-financed consumer spending
- With short term interest rates at fairly high levels (4-5% would probably be good enough)
- With CPI at or near 0%
- With the dollar stable or appreciating against all major currencies

That the above is mathematically impossible and in many instances contradictory is, of course, absolutely beside the point.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The must read cognitive science article of the day

Here. I wonder if one could persuade David Gal and Derek Rucker that they are dead wrong about everything.

Personally, I find the implications not entirely new, but depressing nonetheless. Winning arguments is not really about being right, but about pushing the right emotional buttons. Ugh.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Two brief thoughts on the foreclosure mess

My response to this money quote from a piece in the NY Observer worthy of reading in its entirety:

"The problem is they don't deserve to be in that place. They probably deserve to be there less than they used to," the source continued, referring to incomes lower now than they'd been when the loans were made in the first place. "You do need to foreclose, and you need to go back to people living in houses that are consistent with their income levels."
 - Dontcha love how responsibility is allocated here, without even a second thought of any joint culpability for those who made the loans and those who made the loans possible?
 - That last bit, where the people should live in houses that are consistent with their income levels, might be easier to achieve than before: without a clean title to permit unproblematic future transfers or indeed any purchase with mortgage (because no bank will lend without title insurance, and title insurance are getting out of this mess as fast as they can) the house isn't worth very much at all - and pretty soon the market-clearing price of the homes going through foreclosure will be pretty well in line with the people who are currently living in them.

One other little parting thought: I would encourage those whose houses are going through this messy and lengthy process to stay in their homes until all legal options are exhausted. The amount of time it'll take to sort through the mess, you might just be able to establish a clean title by adverse possession. In Florida, that would be take a mere 7 years.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The politics of it all

I love this paragraph in today's Peter Baker article for the NYTimes Magazine:

The policy criticism of Obama can be confusing and deeply contradictory — he is a liberal zealot, in the view of the right; a weak accommodationist, in the view of the left. He is an anticapitalist socialist who is too cozy with Wall Street, a weak-on-defense apologist for America who adopted Bush’s unrelenting antiterror tactics at the expense of civil liberties.

The whole piece is a worthy read, even if much ink has been spilled on the subject already. And I don't think I have anything new to say on the matter. On the whole, the politics has become deeply depressing  - there is very little intellectual curiosity once you step outside the blogosphere, and feels too much like we've entered a time when zealotry that only belongs to religions rules politics once again. Or is my memory too short and we've simply never left that time?