Labels are Lazy and Dangerous

I don’t think labeling people is helpful for critical thinking. I don’t like to label myself, I don’t like when people label me, and I don’t like labeling others. People are more than a political persuasion.

Liberal? Conservative? Democrat? Republican? These dichotomies are not helpful for exploring nuance and gaining new perspective.

Labels are not helpful for evaluating the quality of contents or substance of a person’s words and ideas and actions.

If someone is a “liberal” and I happen to agree with some of their ideas, that doesn’t make me a liberal.

If someone is a “conservative” and I happen to agree with some of their ideas, that doesn’t make me a conservative.

Labels are an easy way to navigate the world. They’re a convenient heuristic which allow our preconceived snap judgements to be projected onto others in an effort to control what they mean to us.

But it’s intellectually lazy. Calling someone by a label prevents us from engaging with new perspective and fresh ideas. The label allows us to have to figured out already. It’s a form of prejudice. We don’t have to engage when we label people or ideas.

The world is not black and white. It’s full of depth, of gray, of color. People are not good or bad. People are not liberal or conservative. People are not smart or dumb. People are not lazy or hardworking. There is context, there is nuance, there are idiosyncrasies.

People don’t belong in a box. You don’t. I don’t. Populations of individuals don’t. It’s dangerous to label an entire population of individuals to a single descriptive label. It’s dangerous, it’s dehumanizing, it’s lazy. It’s a tool of control. It’s undemocratic. Individual humans, constituting their lived experience, their personal history, their self-generated ideas, their unique relationships embedded within a network of other humans, cannot be generalized by some crude categorization and reduced to a mere label.

That is the most dehumanizing tool of all.

Invest

I hope you’re ready to invest this year.

Property/stocks/equities will be cheaper than ever

The market bubble is popping and the markets are deleveraging

No idea when it’ll hit bottom, but could be another year or more

As more people lose their jobs, people will sell off more and more of their property— stocks, homes, businesses— to get cash to make up for lost cash flow.

This sell off will flood the market and drive down the prices of most investments

It’s a great time to have cash on hand

COVID Quiet

Night and day there are continual streams of people and cars mobilizing all around, perpetually pulsing with noises.

And now…. quiet.

I never would have thought the city vibrates…. but now that there are no people, no one going anywhere, no rush, no hurry, all that remains is absence.

It’s not just an audible stillness, but a physical stillness.

It’s a stillness that emanates through the streets, into the buildings and walls, and settles in your core.

As if nature, that perfect harmonic peace, has visited the city for the first time, and graces you with her presence.

The people walking below appear lost, or lonely, as if they are wandering a place they don’t belong.

Life Will Never be the Same: Corona Virus

You ever get seriously injured, like impaled by something, or break something, and in the proceeding minutes you’re totally cool?

Like yea, that just happened. This is horribly bad. And you’re looking at the accident and see the gaping wound, still totally cool and composed as if it was someone else’s body.

You mentally register the gravity of the accident. But somehow you feel like everything is okay. Like, yea my limb is half severed, or my bone is broken and dangling before my eyes, or yea I’m missing a significant region of flesh on my body from a brutal scrape, or like, yea there’s a giant stick impaling my leg.

Or whatever.

But like. You know things are bad.

You know they will never be the same.

But somehow, it doesn’t seem real. Not immediately.

You see the flaming world trade center tower on TV and you passively think, yea that sucks. But everything will be okay. Then you see the other plane. Whoa. This is worse than i thought. Still, we will get through this.

You watch humans engulfed in flames jump from the smoke bellowing windows 100 stories high, and imagine the horror as they decided to leap to their death, rather than burn alive.

Then, as if time had stopped, the towers come down.

The general attitude is astonishment. Just head scratching “wow”.

It’s only weeks or months or years later than we realize life is much different, that it will never be the same.

That this appearance of a horrific wound that feels otherwise innocuous will change how we live forever.

We fail to grasp how it will change our lives. It’s not real. Despite our imaginative abilities, it’s impossible to conceive a world any other way than the way we’ve known and live it.

Despite this, despite the accompanying denial, the disbelief that we’re witnessing deep trauma that will forever scar the psyche of society, we know, deep inside, that life will never be the same, will not return to normal.

Our lifestyle will be different. The general public attitude will change. Work will change. Economics will change. Security will change.

In some ways life will be the same, but we won’t know in what ways until we have the ample vantage point of looking back, with enough distance to see the change.

I suspect the deterioration we’re witnessing will be worse than we can imagine.

And I don’t wish for suffering, I don’t want the drama of disaster. There is no satisfaction in death and dying and suffering.

But I feel if we appreciate the gravity of the situation, we will be more vigilant to take advantage of the opportunities that this adversity will inevitably present.

The public reaction, hysteria, panic, whatever you want to label it, is a symptom of something deeper.

There is fear, there is unrest.

You may be right, this Virus may, in the final estimation, be a relatively harmless strain that simply accelerates the inevitable demise of the old and week, a natural evolutionary wave to thin the population and strengthen the species.

But our psychosocial reaction to it is more telling.

We literally cannot conceive of how life will be when this situation finally plays itself out, when it’s finally over.

But when it that? Years?Some people think it’ll resume back to normal in weeks. I find that laughable.

Months? Unlikely.

Years? Almost certainly.

2007 mortgage collapse took 6+ years to gain the 50% market value loss.

There’s the hysteria.

There’s the actual virus.

There’s security measures.

There’s surveillance.

There’s economic impacts.


It’s unprecedented.

The 30% of stock market capitalization evaporated in 30 days.

Like, that’s pretty radical.

Like, $4 trillion disappeared.


$4,000,000,000,000. Nbd.

Herro? I guess everything will be back to normal in two weeks 🤪

Does anyone think the market will just do an about face and zoom back up?

Does anyone think that mass quarantine won’t have reverberating impacts on consumer demand?

On unemployment?

Less demand, less businesses making money, less need for workers, more layoffs, meaning less consumers, meaning less demand, more layoffs, less consumers, round and round until we hit some sort of bottom.

This fear…. does anyone here feel like spending, or making any luxury purchases, given all the uncertainty?

I doubt people will be spending freely anytime soon. The market just lost 30%, and its not slowing down.

I imagine everyone will be very conservative…. job security is uncertain. Market demand is weak.

Does anyone think there will be market growth this year? Nah.

JP Morgan, a bank who like others has a lot to lose in this fiasco, and A LOT to gain by giving the market confidence, estimates GDP for 2020 will be…. -1.1.

What a vote of confidence.

And this is just a speculative collapse.

Nothing happened yet.

We’re only a month in.

The sell off happened in sheer anticipation.

10% of the population owns 81% of the stock market capitalization.

We haven’t even seen the impacts.

From Feb 19 to Feb 28 the market dropped 15.5%, when there was only 63 cases in the USA.

We have not even experienced the impacts.

Can you imagine once shit starts hitting the fan?

Once business have mass layoffs?

Let’s assume the virus is mild.

The economic situation is irreversible.

I feel like the COVID is a convenient scape goat for financial market restructuring.

The wealthy have been feeling the pressure for years… the only thing that incentivized them to keep their money in the market was the Fed’s policies, monetary policy, excellent interest rates, incredible tax cuts, government subsidies.

But everyone knew it was a house of cards.

The Virus is simply a convenient mechanism to blame for the run.

That’s what it is.

The wealthy sold off. They ran.

And the impacts of the sell off haven’t even begun.

I’ve always read about these crazy historical events and wondered what it was like to live through it….

Like, what the hell was it like during the Great Depression?

What was is like during the Spanish flu? The Black Plague?

What was it like during the rise of Nazism?

These events are always framed and contextualized retroactively.

At the moment they begin unfolding, there is no frame of reference.

I’ve always wondered what people were thinking as thee events began unfolding.

Were they remotely aware of what was happening?

Could anyone had possibly anticipated the magnitude of the situation? Not just locally, but globally?

If people possessed an awareness of the gravity, would they have behaved differently? Would that have changed their lived outcome?

What is the risk of thinking that life will go on like before? That it will resembled anything remotely similar to before the event?

Reading

You know what I love?

I love reading.

No.

I love the feeling of reading a work that transports you, abducts your senses and listless thoughts to another world, with characters and landscapes that fill the theater behind the eye.

Reading is like exercise.

Sometimes it feels nice to go outside, to stretch your legs and jump and hop and run through beautiful fields and forests, meander through trails and hilly passages and breath the blooming air and spacious views from lofty ledges.

Other times it’s nice to set your mind to a place, with a metered plan to take you there.

Whatever the case, this physical exercise of the body, no matter how it’s scheduled or what the anticipation might be, whether we look forward to the exercise or not, it always leaves us feeling better thereafter.

Immediately afterwords, we feel more alive. In the proceeding days, our body is oxygenated, the muscles ache and hunger for nutrients, the body slips into deep restful sleep, and energy seems to abound where lethargy once was.

Reading is the same way, but it’s rare we think so.

I can read the same way I can escape into the streets and run into the fields with no destination in mind, just to gasp the fresh air and extend my legs and uncoil my body in open space. This is liberating, the same way picking up an interesting book is liberating, with no destination in mind. Just the joy of letting the mind run.

But applying myself to a book is equally satisfying, saying this is where I want to go, and when. And focusing on the story or facts or theme until I catch a second wind, and an hour turns to hours and this is repeated until a book is complete, and the marathon of reading is done.

But the most marvelous byproduct of reading, of allowing my mind to engage in text, is the same effect that physical exercise has on my body.

It’s hard to imagine that reading has such an invigorating effect on the mind, but it literally produces a vitality that creates a more fluid imagination, more accessible words, more nimble acuity. After lots of earnest reading, the mind has an energy in the way of thoughts that it didn’t have before. The reservoir of ideas is fuller than ever, ready to spill into any fertile garden of attention and provide the right words and logic to cultivate fruitful ideas.

Reading has a marvelous effect on the mind, but it’s often overlooked as a chore. No time for reading. Just like no time for exercise. But the benefits are life giving.

Weekend Rest

I love sleeping in on the weekends, sleeping in on Sunday, after sleeping in on Saturday, and drinking glassfulls of wine throughout the day, while cooking dinner, and during dinner, long into the night, until I’m laying satisfied on the couch, glass in hand, book in the other, reading until the words on the page seem to tumble right out of the book, and I can barely see straight, and everything is fuzzy, but there’s a warm glow that fills the hazy drunkenness with euphoria, and the ends of my mouth curl in a pleasing smile as I slowly doze off, only to wake several hours later with the lights on, empty glass balancing precariously in hand, book open on my chest in the other, and I shuffle around to shut the lights while undressing on my way to the bedroom where my girlfriend sleeps, hearing her half conscious cooing in the dark as I slip under the covers, and waking at noon the next day with the weight of the night still gripping my eyelids, lips stained red, but feeling refreshed from the twelve hours of sleep.

I love waking up on Monday morning with these twelve hours charging me, rising at 5am to begin the work week, to prepare for the day.

And having the stamina to work all day without fatigue, because of that long luxurious weekend of rest.

The Pursuit of Wisdom: Devotion to God in Truth

Excerpts from Plato’s Apology

Socrates speaking on the eve of his execution…

“Men of Athens, this reputation of mine has come of a certain sort of wisdom which I possess.

If you ask me what kind of wisdom, I reply, wisdom such as may perhaps be attained by man, for to that extent I am inclined to believe that I am wise; whereas the persons of whom I was speaking have a superhuman wisdom which I may fail to describe, because I have it not myself; and he who says that I have, speaks falsely, and is taking away my character….

For the word which I will speak is not mine. I will refer you to a witness who is worthy of credit; that witness shall be the God of Delphi—he will tell you about my wisdom, if I have any, and of what sort it is.

You must have known Chaerephon; he was early a friend of mine, and also a friend of yours, for he shared in the recent exile of the people, and returned with you.

Well, Chaerephon, as you know, was very impetuous in all his doings, and he went to Delphi and boldly asked the oracle to tell him whether—as I was saying, I must beg you not to interrupt—he asked the oracle to tell him whether anyone was wiser than I was, and the Pythian prophetess answered, that there was no man wiser. Chaerephon is dead himself; but his brother, who is in court, will confirm the truth of what I am saying.”

“Why do I mention this? Because I am going to explain to you why I have such an evil name.

When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the god mean? and what is the interpretation of his riddle? for I know that I have no wisdom, small or great.

What then can he mean when he says that I am the wisest of men?

And yet he is a god, and cannot lie; that would be against his nature. After long consideration, I thought of a method of trying the question.

I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I should say to him, ‘Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest.’

Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed him—his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination—and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and still wiser by himself; and thereupon I tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me.

So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away:

Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is,—for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know.

In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him.

Then I went to another who had still higher pretensions to wisdom, and my conclusion was exactly the same. Whereupon I made another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.”

“And I am called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom which I find wanting in others:

but the truth is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and by his answer he intends to show that the wisdom of men is worth little or nothing;

he is not speaking of Socrates, he is only using my name by way of illustration, as if he said,

He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing.

And so I go about the world, obedient to the god, and search and make enquiry into the wisdom of any one, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise;

and my occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god.”

My Life’s Aspiration

I want to build a school.
Like a giant monastery. The way universities were intended.
I think that’s my life’s aspiration
It will be named,

“The Academy”

And it will have two branches

“The Lyceum”
and
“The Gymnasium “

A throwback to the first schools of philosophy, the first academic institutions of higher learning, and the emphasis on mind AND body
It will not have grades
It will be a school of purely exercise
Mental and physical exercise
Grades will be on effort
Not outcome
Tests will evaluate the ability to generate questions to problems, not answers
Class will have no curriculum.

It will only be subjects. Objects of observation. General domains of perception.

There will be no classrooms.

No class.

There will be no class schedule.

Everyone is a student and a teacher.

Dialog is ongoing throughout the day and night.

Learning is all the time.

Sometimes there will be lots of meetings for dialogue, all day day days.

Other times individuals cloister in self reflective study, in solitude, for days or weeks if necessary.

Regrouping for continuing dialog is organic.
Everything is optional
Everyone must work to run the school.

Chores are rotated. Cooking cleaning laundry.
That’s the price for attendance
No internet.

Only a local area network.

The school’s values will be Virtue Ethics.

It will be a purely philosophical school.

Truth and Pain

What’s the saying… Something like everyone is a nihilist until their finger gets smashed by a hammer?

Regarding this nihilistic statement about the hammer, I was thinking about the relationship between pain and truth.

I actually think about this relationship a lot, as you might imagine. And how it fits into my earnest conviction that struggle is the ultimate teacher.

I also think about Sam Harris. This is one point that always resonated with me. Pain is the realest real. It is a guiding force. You can deny ideas all day long so long as you’re insulated from their denouement, so long as you don’t feel the weight of their logical conclusion. This makes relativism a viable philosophy. It makes everything nihilistic.

When there is no “consequential force” to expose the ignorance of ideas, they persist.

I feel this is much like our current culture.

The talking heads are full of opinions about the way it is. Social media, mainstream media, icons, experts, Authorities.

They live in comfort. Our entire society does, even the lowliest stratum rarely if even know starvation, no exposure to harsh elements, to hard manual labor that tears the skin and breaks the back, to wonton death.

At the end of the day, pain and suffering are the only thing that is real.

Struggle reveals the world. Pain illuminates consequences. It reveals the physical forces that reinforce the value of ideas, that aid in our survival, our flourishing.
In pain, there is truth.
Struggle is the greatest teacher.
It reveals the essence of what it, devoid of illusion.

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is a catch all word that gets conflated to mean many things. At the end of the day, a general philosophy is defined by the assumptions that support the beliefs that govern a person’s thoughts and behaviors.

Rigorous philosophy, at it’s core, is a practice…. which seeks to elucidate and challenge tacit assumptions, by asking questions and performing science and thought experiments through observation and methods, in order to reveal understanding about “truth” or “reality”, however impossible that task may be.

The essence of Philosophy is accepting the paradox that truth is impossible to know, while simultaneously seeking it.

If a “philosophy” leads to more answers than questions, then it is unauthentic and lost it’s utility as an instrument of understanding.

I think exposure to and an understanding of all “philosophies”, and evaluating the merits and shortcomings of all ideas, is the wisest approach. I don’t think we should reject anything we’re not familiar with. It’s important to understand bad ideas in order to understand good ideas, and understand them with equal effort.
I also think ideas cannot be deemed good or bad until they are intimately understood.

Just like people cannot be deemed good or bad until they’re intimately understood.

Just because the consensus or popular or unpopular opinion says one thing does not make it so.

And things are never as simple as “this is good, this is bad”.

Context is important.

Is capitalism good? Depends.

Is socialism good? Depends?

When are these at their best, and when are they at their worst? What can we learn from each?

There is a Shakespeare quote from Hamlet that I always recall: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

It’s a very stoic attitude.

This is America

For profit Prison systems. Costs $81,000 per year to incarcerate. At Rikers Island Prison, NYC:$337,524

25% of the world’s prisoners, 4% of the world’s population.

50% of incarcerations due to drug offenses.

120 firearms for every 100 US citizens. #2 is Falkland Islands at 62.1, and 3rd is Yemen at 52.8.

$1.5 trillion in Student debt.

$5,700 in credit cars debt per person.

2% average per capital savings rate. Average of $8,863 in an account at a bank.

Stagnate wages since 1980’s.

300%+ GDP growth during same period

3000% CEO compensation increase during same period

20% of GDP on health care (and 27th in world for quality of care). 2nd is Switzerland at 12% of GDP.

For profit health care.

$1 trillion military budget

Biggest US companies pay 0-10% taxes on profit

Homelessness is out of control. 170 homeless per 100,000 people. Over 553,000 homeless on any given night.

Infrastructure is falling apart

Depression and suicide rates highest of all time: the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 suicides per 100,000 people, the highest rate recorded in 28 years

Drug overdose deaths highest in US history: 22 per 100,000 population in urban counties versus 20 per 100,000 in rural counties.

#1 in drug overdoses in world.

No consumer financial protection bureau

$3.5 billion in lobbying spent yearly

Citizens United = special interests influencing public interests

83% graduation rate (3% below OECD average)

64% home ownership rate/ 44th in the world

American household carries $137,879 in total debt. $7,104 in credit card debt. $27,943 in Auto debt. $46,679 in student loan debt.

No public mental health services.

No Minimum wage increase since 2007 ($7.25)

Etc Etc

Home

A wood framed study lined with book shelves, a sprawling veranda with stout columns supporting a broad awning for shade, with rocking chairs overlooking rolling grassy lawns, and ancient oak with thick branches that spread open and seem to hug the earth from above, with mountains in the distance, their ridge lines cascading from the horizon, and plenty of birds filling the sky and air with their murmuring dance and murmuring song.

For Spiritual and Existential Sustenance

16oz meat and 8oz vegetables a day.

A study. With a library. A personal library. A library that represents the tree of knowledge that inhabits my core, organized according to the branches extending into various fields and domains of observation. Not a cold index. A library that’s living, where every book and author can be traced to another book and author, back to the beginning of time. A library with no bounds.

Quiet space. For solitude and reflection. Devoid of distraction. A desk with a chair. A leather couch. Windows with a view of the sky, and trees, green vegetation, blooming buds.

A great room. For friends to congregate. Couches to lounge in. To talk. A space to walk as you talk.

A large open kitchen. To eat and drink and socialize together. To exchange ideas. To laugh over food and drink and the absurdities of life.

A yard outside to convene. With a garden. And land. Land to walk, to meander about. Land filled with nature, with wildlife. With paths to tread. For personal reflection. Or walks with friends.

A bed. A simple bed. But comfortable.

A massive fireplace. To provide living light, to illuminate the study. A fireplace in every room.

Plenty of art. Not just art. Figures and sculptures and portraits that embody values and ideals, that symbolize the highest virtues of humanity, that speak to history, that act as a reminder of our temporality, of the dangers of hubris, of death, of life. Symbolism that celebrates the depth and breadth of the best and worst of humanity.

Plenty of windows.

The House Burns

My alarm rings at 6:30am and I open my eyes to greet the day.

I lean over to grab my phone resting on its wireless dock, fumble over stacks of books piled haphazardly by my bedside, and snooze the alarm. Most days I roll right back over and stare at the white ceiling for a good time. Or I remain on my side, arm protruding out from under me, and gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows, towards the bright blue open sky spreading itself over the concrete and glass buildings which solemnly stand in succeeding rows extending down the city streets.

I stare blankly. Thoughts circulate in the background. My subconscious tries to keep these currents of thought from protruding into my placid wakeful peace, but eventually one pressing problem works its way into my empty consciousness and the the whole mess of working thoughts begin writhing within me.

Problems that expand infinitely in every direction. Shutting them off is easy. I just, don’t care. But not caring invites the sad empty apathy of melancholy that depresses my attitude and invites dark morbid existential moods.

So I entertain these problems, these urgent puzzles that require the attention of my mental faculties. It is consuming, like a hydra with infinitely manifesting flaming serpents demanding my attention, demanding to be severed or stroked or extinguished.

Often it feels that my internal world, the cathedral where I command my curiosities to tasks, feels as if it is on fire, but it never burns down.

Raging and swirling fire with bellowing smoke and biting flames, this is my wakeful state.

Everything is burning, night and day. The flames expand exponentially. Finishing a task dampens a single ember. The whole of the cathedral is burning, while I spit on the flames.

This is overwhelming. But I’m quick to recall that historically speaking, existence is mostly devoid or altogether incapable of peace, and I remind myself that peace is a foreign ideal, like a distant star that smiles from afar, and radiates dim light on gazing eyes wandering in dark lands. Pale light that illuminates dark landscapes and casts cool shadows. A light to wish upon, but open eyes will never see the full spectrum of color that only the peace of death provides when they close.

But this fire, this burning house that consumes the oxygen of my imagination, this provides some existential light.

There is something pacifying about feeling the alarm, with senses totally engaged. The fire inside burns, it alerts, it creates a sense of all consuming urgency.

Days are never dull. There is endless work. My house is on fire, and I need to save it.

This provides purpose.

There are moments when this great cathedral representing all that I am responsible for slows to a steady burn, and I’m left with space to strategize, to organize my actions in anticipation for the next wind that will ignite the wall of fire all over again.

This is the extent that my imagination stretches its legs. This is what I enjoy the most. How to create economy. How to identify the patterns dictating my tasks and synthesize them into a unified movement, to conserve energy, while increasing productivity and getting ahead of the burn.

This exercise in imagination, however, is a sad reflection of the great distances it wishes to run, a paltry expression of its indomitable spirit which yearns to roam infinite expanses and conjure endless worlds.

This is the conundrum that defines my daily existence.

Is there any freedom left for imagination? Have the reigns of responsibility made my imagination a more disciplined instrument for survival?

Or is this domestication optional? Is reckless abandonment the only attitude to free the mind and release the imaginative energies clawing at my insides, behind my blank empty stare?

I catch myself gazing into the infinite, through the people and noises and buildings occupying my immediate awareness, penetrating into other worlds, in other places. Bittersweet memories, painful recollections, and disembodied joy imbue these meditations.

Observation is stillness, is peace.

Sometimes I observe the raging fire. Sometimes I exit the figurative room and walk into the figurative street and observe the figurative house as it burns, the people and things and rooms burning within. I observe the flames, now at a distance, and think of the madness this represents. But soon my eyes wander from the burning house to the dark empty landscape surrounding it, and a cold lonely chill seizes my being.

The burning house illuminates this empty dark space representing existence, and while it burns, with fragments collapsing all around me, it lights my world, and provides the only semblance of heat to warm my soul.

In this way, I continue my days.

We still live in the 80’s

Peter Thiel says that take away the internet, and we’re basically still living like the 80’s.

Manufacturing isn’t a sexy investment. Risky, and high start up costs. Investors are more interested in get rich quick: hence software. Musk is the outlier.

Manufacturing is also a long term investment. Supply chains are complex and take years and years to develop reliable products from reliable sources. Product development takes a long time. Sourcing takes a long time. We need to create the right investment incentives.

Most tech is bullshit.

Winner takes all when time is what you compete for.

Tech’s big contribution is information symmetry between demand and supply.

This reduces time to find what you’re lookin for.

Time is value. But time is finite.

Now that we have it: how do we spend it?

So tech is fighting over everyone’s 24 hours in a day.

Thanks to tech, knowledge workers can be more productive. Unfortunately, contrary to Keynes prediction, workers don’t have more time. They have less.

Less time to socialize. Less time to vacation. Less time to raise children. Less time to read. Less time for physical activities. Less time to eat.

Relationship between Productivity, Wages, and Stock Market Valuations (and Racism, Xenophobia, Wars)

At the very end, I’ll come full circle to explain the connection with productivity, wages, and stock markets valuations.

Federal reserve has three tools for influencing money supply:

  1. Setting interest rates
  2. Open market operations (Issuing treasury bonds)
  3. Setting reserve requirements

Explanation:

  1. By lowering interest rates it’s cheaper to borrow money and less lucrative to save
  2. By issuing/buying back treasuring bonds on the open market they effectively inject money into the economy. The Federal Reserve doesn’t have the money: they create money by adding to their balance sheet. They buy the bonds to increase money supply, or issue bonds to shrink money supply.
  3. Increasing/decreasing reserve requirements impacts what percentage of the banks holdings it can reinvest, which has a money multiplier effect in the economy.

It’s important to make the implications of this as simplistic as possible. As Confucius said: Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

The Federal Reserve has a few goals, but most important is to stimulate economic growth.

To do this, it uses monetary policy to manipulate liquidity (access to capital) as a driving force in investment and therefore economic growth.

So it makes money more or less expensive to borrow.

Borrowed money that’s being invested doesn’t guarantee it’s being invested in valuable assets.

Two of the biggest areas where money gets invested is:

  1. Money Lending (banking)
  2. Stock market

Explanation:

  1. Banks lend money to people who don’t have it. Student debt. Credit card debt. Home debt. Car debt. Personal debt has skyrocketed.
  2. The stock market is seen as an indicator of a healthy economy. It is not. If you have cheap money, the collective investors buying stocks on the open market will drive up stock prices well beyond their true value. But if the stock gains outpace the cost to borrow or invest other places, it’ll continue to be the focus institutional investors.

10% of the US population own 85% of the stock market value.

This is in spite of employers moving from company pension funds to 401k.

The stock market overvaluation essentially resets every 10-15 years with a market wake up and contraction in liquidity, resulting in anyone operating unprofitably [ie over leveraged] going broke or bankrupt, causing a recession as well as a massive wealth distribution from anyone barely getting by to those with more than enough.

The bankers and lenders know and see it coming and get out early. Everyone else panics and gets out late with all their gains erased.


Why do we need a credit card to survive? Why is everyone is debt?

Apart of the federal reserves goals for economic growth is:

  1. Ensure full employment
  2. Control inflation

When the federal reserve buys bonds it increases the inflation rate. And vice versa.

According to the Philips curve, when inflation is high, unemployment is low, and vice versa (Philips 1958).

When unemployment is high, there is a surplus of labor.

When there is a surplus of labor, wage bargaining power is low. As in, if there are a lot of people lined up for a job, they can’t negotiate their wage. Beggars can’t be choosers.

When there is a shortage of labor, workers can negotiate higher wages: labor has wage barraging power.

The federal reserve prevents full employment, however, by maintaining a target inflation rate of 2%.

The baked in assumption is that full employment is bad, because this will lead to runaway inflation.

However, the Philips curve only describes this relationship in the short term. In the long term, there is zero relationship between employment and inflation, because employment is strongly tied to social factors like education, innovation, and frictional, cyclical, and structural unemployment due to various market demands.

The federal reserve actively manipulates money supply to ensure that there is 3.5-4.5% unemployment rate.

The lower the unemployment rate, the more wage bargaining power.

The higher the unemployment rate, the less wage bargaining power.

The more wage bargaining power, the more workers get paid, the more they spend, the more economic output.

By preventing full employment, the Fed ensures business owners (wealthy) have all bargaining power, and keep all surplus profits.

This results in a labor force that is barely surviving on a living wage.

The result is that consumers save less, and rely on credit/ debt to maintain a more and more expensive lifestyle, or keeping up with the Jones’s.

The reality is that there are plenty of case studies and countries that have less than 1% unemployment, where workers have excellent wages due to wage bargaining power, and there is no runaway inflation. Japan and Germany being the two notable examples. China not far behind.


Full circle:

1. How does productivity increase but wages do not? (Wage stagnation)

When productivity increases and wages do not, there is a simple explanation:

Workers do not have wage bargaining power.

i.e. they are being exploited, producing far more value (profits) than they are being paid for.

2. Where does all this profit go?

The “property owners” (companies, assets, stocks, land) purchase more and more assets with this surplus income. Notably, they invest in the stock market. All these excess profits drive up stock market prices, even though stock prices do not reflect actual value.

But where else do they put their money? Surely they don’t pay laborers what they’re worth. But if laborers aren’t being paid a living wage, how can they spend and consume and generate economic activity and growth? Debt. The wealthy owners lend money back to the laborers. This perpetuates the cycle of enslavement.

Of course, this is a historical phenomenon. The relationship between the capitalists and laborers— the haves and have-nots, master and slave, bourgeoisie and proletariat— is easy to observe throughout history, but always seems impossible to notice as it’s happening.

The inevitable consequence of this inequality manifesting in its extreme is social unrest and overall societal degradation.

When the population speaks up about deteriorating conditions, the “ruling class” (capitalists or property owners and politicians or gatekeepers) employ a timeless strategy: Blame the “other”.

This “other” is any minority group other than the ruling class. This includes minorities, immigrants, foreign countries, climate, and other scape goats. This phenomenon repeats itself throughout history in the most predictable way.

Political leaders, chosen by the ownership class, convince the working populous that the source of their problems is not at home with their leaders, but because of those who have different values and beliefs, who look and act different. The source of all society’s ills are those who are “different”.

This inevitably leads to racism, xenophobia, endless wars, harsh immigration policy, loss of human rights, and persecution of anyone not in line with the self-righteous national identity being promoted.

What do you think?