Friday, October 03, 2008

What Do You Mean, Who Won?

After every debate the great question is, Who Won? But nobody ever defines what winning means. Therefore, any answer is meaningless. I can think of several possibilities:

1. X was the better debater -- better informed, all factual claims were accurate, more articulate, logically compelling arguments, and the like.

2. X had the sharp zingers that will dominate the news the next day.

3. X won more voters for his/her candidate than the other.

4. X was more personally engaging, made better contact with the audience.

5. I preferred candidate X for my own reasons.

6. A combination of some or all of the above.

7. None of the above.

Next question: Are we safer now than before 9-11? Adapt the above argument to this one, i. e., meaningless without definition.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

In Praise of Sarah Palin and all the Unqualified

I'll tell you, I am just sick and tired of hearing people say that Sarah Palin is not qualified to be Vice President. Of course, she is not, but so what?

There are millions and millions of people in this country, including myself, who are not qualified to be Vice President. The unqualified deserve to be represented just like everybody else. She is one of the unqualified, so who better to represent the unqualified than she?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On Getting Sick Enough to Vomit: The Discipline of a Good Depression

We all know that you feel better after you vomit, but nobody wants to get that sick.

It is horrible to think about it, and I feel guilty for even letting the idea surface. But I will proceed anyway. Would a serious economic depression be good for us in the long run? It might.

Could a good depression revive the prudence, discipline, and caution that the Great Depression reinforced in the generation represented by my parents and grandparents.? If so, America might be the better for it.

In recent decades we have developed some toxic cultural habits -- runaway consumerism, an unrestrained self-indulgent hedonism promoted by corporate advertising, disdain for delayed gratification, greed for bigger houses, cars, and the latest gadgets, a pattern of living beyond our means, a careless attitude toward debt aided and abetted by the easy availability of credit and credit cards, failure to consider the consequences of our reckless extravagance, and the like.

To revive an old phrase, the "Protestant ethic" has died. Even many of the churches that are growing rapidly are preaching a gospel of prosperity that a shocked Calvin would have abhorred. Paradoxically, it was the disciplined style of life that valued work and thrift as a divinely-approved virtues that helped generate the widespread prosperity subsequent generations enjoyed. In capitalism individual self-interest was supposed to produce universal welfare. Sadly we find in the current generation a bastardized form of culture that lacks the self-restraint and prudence of the stringent ethic of the past and retains only the desire and expectation of the unlimited possession of material goods in a life of self-indulgent gratification.

No, I don't wish another Great Depression on myself, my children, and grandchildren along with the whole lot of us. I just wish that we could recover the ethic strengthened by it for a generation badly in need of repentance and newness of life. But sometimes we need to get very sick before we can vomit and feel better.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Damnation by Designation: the "Bailout"

What's in a name? A heck of a lot.

The rescue plan that was defeated today was damned from the start once it became known as a "bailout of Wall Street by taxpayers." Of course, we all hate that.

But that's about all that got through apparently. The dire consequences of not rescuing the financial industry was only a echo of the original ear-splitting blast.

Once the idea of a bailout of Wall Street became the way most people thought about it, proponents failed to make the point that the "bailout" was the means. The end was to save us all -- Wall Street and Main Street. In the glare of a"bailout" of the very financial geniuses of Wall Street who caused it (forgetting about all the greedy people who foolishly bought houses and cars, etc., etc. etc., and got themselves into unsustainable debt) the little glimmer of light that failure to do so would sink us all never got into the public mind, despite all the warnings from all sides.

My understanding from the economists I trust is that while the rescue plan was badly constructed and probably not the best way to accomplish the objective -- saving the financial system -- it was better than doing nothing and was the bill before us.

Once the serious consequences of a failure to get credit flowing again begins to hurt masses of people, maybe some constructive action will follow.

Now if only the politicians would stop trying to exploit the issue for partisan purposes, but, uh oh, I am dreaming again.