Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Beside the Point: Apocalyp$e Now

Here's a great post from Paul at his blog that you knights may want to debate...

Beside the Point: Apocalyp$e Now


  1. Consumerism is indeed common among Americans, and we are right to be concerned like Paul. The question is how much of consumerism is a function of being more worldly and how much is simply a function of being no longer poor? A lot of our grandparents were frugal simply because there was not enough wealth to be able to spend idly. Alternatively when the poor were consumeristic, it wasn't noticed.
    One must distinguish between absolute ammount of resources devoted to idleness, and proportion.
    I don't think it is a sign of the end-times; others have been consumeristic before us. Even the poor. In time gone by soldiers and sailors would usually waste their pay on dissipation, for instance-that is how the ruling classes managed to find people for such unpleasant jobs. The rich would be consumeristic in their own manner which resembled that of today.
    Now a greater proportion of the country has the power to be noticed at their consumerism. The proportion of people who habitually either reinvest, or like to spend on such items as are vaguely regarded as "classy" remains the same.
    Also pride is universal element in humanity. And perhaps that is a part of consumerism; spending for the purpose of one-uping one's neighbors rather then personal enjoyment. That may be less harmful then other kinds of pride.
    Also there are a number of people out there searching for a meaning in life. When they can't find it they drown their sorrows in-whatever. Maybe they do feel the end-times coming, but could it be they feel their individual end, approaching?
    In any case in a cynical sort of way I am glad. As man's heart is wicked perhaps it is better that we pick intemperence as our national vice then say, hatred of the foreigner?

    Sir Jason the Longwinded

  2. Since you brought up intemperance in the context of nations, Sir Jason, wouldn't you argue that nations that practice economic temperance tend to fare better historically than those that don't? And coincidentally, don't those nations tend to be (since the fall of Rome, anyway) Western nations driven by Judeo-Christian values and work ethics?

    If so, doesn't Japan's rise to economic power demonstrate a departure from that pattern (affluence through Judeo-Christian influence), and in conjunction with the West's general slide from "Christian stewardship" portend an ominous result?

    Sir Chuck of the Doom and Gloom

  3. Since you brought up intemperance in the context of nations, Sir Jason, wouldn't you argue that nations that practice economic temperance tend to fare better historically than those that don't? And coincidentally, don't those nations tend to be (since the fall of Rome, anyway) Western nations driven by Judeo-Christian values and work ethics?

    Work-ethic is a good value for nations. I once described the Republic of Venice toward it's last century, "They had been accused of all other vices, but they had never before been accused of sloth".
    Poverty is often the result of a sort of catch 22. In many nations, a gain in fortune will bring, not admiration of a persons diligence and intelligence, but simply envy. And in many the ruling class is fixed and permanent. As a result their is no motive to work; the poor will get troden down if they rise up, and the rich are idle. This sad situation continues until society disintegrates. Or it continues forever.
    Western nations do seem to do better then others in that regard. Though they havn't always done so. There is no clear alignment between success and faith either. The Norse heathen were about as enterpriseing as the Norse Christians. While the heathen were great pirates, they were also great explorers, colonizers and traders. On the other hand the Christian Balkans were and still are in the miserable state of stasis I described. Perhaps that was the result of centuries of oppression.
    I would say that it is more subtle. Each culture has it's own virtues and faults like each individual, and Christianity took the good that was already there and made it come out more-the way a chef knows how to bring out the latent taste of a type of food. Christianity took the Greeks ability to think, and the Romans ability to rule, and made it it's own.
    Medieval Europe for instance is a far underestimated society. In fact it was in many ways a healthier way of life then it's neighbors. The seeds of Democracy were sprouting here and there and even in autocratic states, there was a primative version of Rule of Law. Medievals could think and talk about their thoughts. It would be unpleasant to us because it was poor and it was cruel. But it was not a "police state" wrapped in superstition.
    Still, ultimatly you can only guess at the cause of a cultures success, just as you can only guess at an individual's? It rains on the just and the unjust. Why was Alfred the Great, who could be called England's founder, born a prince of Wessex-and not some good for nothing playboy? Why was Chaucer born where and when he was, to write some of the first great writings in common tongue? Why did Guttenberg get a hold of the printing press? On such mysterious chances turn the fate of nations. Does that mean it's all chance? Or that Western Nations do have some mysterious advantage perhaps from Christianity? Or is it both. I would say it is both. But admitting we don't know is closer to the truth. It is also more humble. It is even more romantic to allow some mystery.

    Sir Jason the Longwinded

  4. Many news reports about our economic problems are misleading.

    Saving rate

    The savings rate does not include IRA investments, stock purchases, or real estate investments. Why would anyone not put his or her savings in an IRA and get the tax savings? And, why is someone who buys stock less thrifty than someone who puts that money in the bank?


    Has anyone bothered to report that about one third of the American home owners own their home free and clear? No, because that is optimistic and the press is only into pessimism .

    Foreign holding of US bonds

    "About a third of corporate bonds are now in foreign hands, as is more than 13 percent of the U.S. stock market."

    Probably true, however, you would have to compute the amount of bonds and securities that Americans hold in the companies of other countries to make any kind of judgment. Lately, Americans have been buying making a lot of investments in third world countries.

    Trade Deficit

    Admittedly, a problem but hardly a cause for panic. As the currency of foreign countries rises with respect to the dollar, they will then buy more American products and services because they are relatively cheaper. So, a cheap dollar is a good thing. Already, Boeing is doing a land office business. Remember in the eighties when the Japanese were burying us financially? Whatever became of that?


    News reports are always apocalyptic. They believe we really need more to panic about so they give it to us. The real picture is often found quietly tucked in the back pages of the Wall Street Journal or some other boring publication.