In earlier blogs I have pointed out that most people have their mother's worldview because they learn most of their language from their mother. Language has worldview embedded in it.
I have noticed something else along the same lines. I find that people who dedicate their lives to the occupations and professions that are consistent with their mother's culture are the happiest and vice versa, the ones who don't are often depressed.
What do I mean? When the son or daughter of a Celtic mother is a firefighter, police officer or a nurse they are usually happy. When the son or daughter of a Jewess is a doctor, scientist, political activist or teacher they are usually happy.
Those are only two cultural examples. Most cultures have preferred status occupations...which members of those cultures understand.
Have you observed this?
"fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid
too. Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100
can. i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty
uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal
pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a
rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't
mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are,
the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and
lsat ltteer be in th e rghit pclae. The rset can
be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit
a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos
not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as
a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot
slpeling was ipmorantt !"
The answer is yes. There are a number of things we know can't be changed. To start with there will always be below average students. Below average is an arithmetic truism. There will always be crime (even in the most socially stable society on earth: Japan). There will always be poverty (even in the richest society on earth: Norway).
While the public sector denies that there will always be below average students and creates community colleges and social demands that are tragic and mean-spirited to service this half of humanity, the private world has created a profitable and successful alternative in the form of for-profit technical schools. There are now over 700 post-secondary technical colleges in the U.S. and I made a handsome profit on several of the public stocks (Corinthian Colleges COCO, Strayer Education STRA and others.)
Lets start with crime. We would get rid of the 3/4ths of every police force that is a waste of money, since the size of a police force has no correlation to the level of crime. We could take that money and use it for remedial aid. Every person who is a victim of a crime could be made whole...in so far as that is possible. Burglary, robbery and car theft are feasible in most cases. Murder, rape and battery are harder to remediate but victims could be paid for therapy, lost time and compensatory time off with travel.
Poverty will always be with us but offspring of the poor are not bound by circumstances and should be given extra special financial and educational support. The poor need to be accepted in much the same way we give food stamps and Section 8 housing allowances without much recrimination. We need to expand these programs so that rewards are largely in-kind, including medical care in special clinics for the poor. But we don't have to try and live with the poor (who lack social control), go to school with the poor and share anything else including transportation with the poor.
We have learned, but fail to adapt to the reality that crime diminishes the more time criminals spend in prison. That poor people will stay away from everyone else if they are given a safe place to go and are left alone.
There are many more ways we can make the world a better place by rejecting Puritan "fixism" for the perpetrators and accepting remediation for the victims.
In San Francisco, I probably have more to fear from a deranged Lefty Fundamentalist of the sort who attacked Elie Wiesel.
I have a view of Islam that separates out Arab Islam from the rest of Islam. It is Arab Islamists who are revanchists, believing there was once a great day of Arab culture. There never was such a day. The Turkish Empire and the Persian Empire with the help of some Kurds are the great features of Middle-Eastern Culture. The Arabs have given us nothing besides poetry...which I can't read to appreciate.
Mark Steyn has added another very relevant point (America Alone is his most recent book). Arab Islam conquered by military might and kept the defeated people as dhimmi...tax paying serfs (including Jews escaping from Roman Catholic Spain and Portugal). The consequence is a thousand years of Arab Islamic welfarism. Arab Islamist have no idea how to make a living and be productive.
This is still true today. Most Arabian peninsula Arabs live off the teats of oil. The Egyptians try to survive on tourism, American foreign aid and the Suez Canal. The Palestinians of Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank are pathetic suckling pigs at the brain dead body of the United Nations. Then there are the Syrians. Totally incompetent, hoping to control the Christian and Maronite communities of Beirut to support them.
I am slightly more than an armchair writer on this subject. I'm more like a football fan who plays touch football. I've had many Arab employees, a few Arab friends, been to a few Arab lands and several more Islamic countries.
If I were a gay person, trying to find a current life of love and human comfort and concerned about longevity in my relations and worried about being cared for in my old age....marriage and family would look appealing.
Actually I have those concerns, even though marriage is always available to me, despite having eight wonderful grandchildren and three spectacular biological children. I realize that nothing...nothing can diminish existential angst. We are born alone, we live alone and we die alone...no relations, no spouse or offspring are certain, permanent nor perfect. Families and marriage are far from perfect and often particularly difficult. But marriage and family look good.
I can see where the creation of the exciting, vital and somewhat comfortable life of the gay community has evoked these existential questions in the growing maturity of the community. A brunch with forty beautiful and interesting gay men in their late thirties and early forties can look daunting when mortality raises its head.
It is a similar comfort with American commercial life that is supporting the rapid growth of family friendly Mormon churches and family friendly evangelical Christian mega-churches.
Comfort and success inevitably raise existential questions. 'Why do we live?'
There were 70 distinct nations in 1900. The reason the number is low is that many future nations were colonies in 1900. That was true for most of Africa and many parts of South Asia including India. Of the 70 nations 15 were clearly democracies with elective governments.
By the year 2000 there were 170 nations based on UN membership. The reality is that there are 124 nations based on the Phillips criteria: more population than San Francisco and a GDP greater than Disneyland. Of the 124 nations 69 are democracies with elective governments.
No matter how you look at it, growing from 15 in 70 to 69 of 124 is dramatic growth. I would estimate that those 69 democracies have three quarters of the global productive economic output and 90% of the global middle class.
Dennis Ross in the New Republic connects the dots about the Israeli raid on the Northern Syrian coast and the associated secrecy.
Dot one: Syria's Assad was beginning to act as though Syria could have
a limited war with Israel and come out relatively undefeated, the way
he viewed the Hezbollah war outcome of last summer.
Dot two: Israel sent a message that got through to Assad and to Iran that she knew what is going on in Syria and is always prepared to act preemptively in her defense.
Dot three: Israel has "restored its deterrence" according to Major General Amos Yadlin, the head of Israel's military intelligence. Syria is no longer so confident it can conduct a limited war.
I saw the Yadlin quote and wondered what it meant.
John Judis sticks his neck out in the latest New Republic issue. Judis calculates the number of delegates the various Republican candidates will have after the first primaries end on Feb. 5th. With 2,517 delegates voting at the September convention, and 1,259 needed to win....1,358 will be committed by Feb. 5th. The leader, Guiliani, will have roughly 459 votes with the rest of the candidates having less.
That leaves Guiliani short by 800 votes, over seven months, to win on the first ballot, which Judis does not think he can get from the remaining 1159 delegates before the convention.
I appreciate vote counting. I did it in my political days.
From Judis' count we can conclude that there will be an exciting and possibly brokered Republican convention.
The Democrats will have their convention sewn up by Hillary by Feb. 5th and nothing but boredom ahead.
In January of this year I called it exactly right. I said that the President and the Republican Party would deal with the political issues arising from the Iraq War by calling attention to the more accurate history of the Viet Nam War that places the entire failure and subsequent human slaughter on the Democratic Congress and Senate of 1974.
The opening salvos in that exact scenario were launched by President Bush at a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars on August 22nd.
Good shot George. I expected it and welcome it. We should be discussing the way the Democratic party lost a war and brought tragedy to millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians and the Democrats show us every day that they would happily do it again in the Mid-East.
We name unexplained, sometimes random, phenomenon in the hopes of understanding them. The Minsky Moment is a mistake. A big mistake. Wrong man, wrong name.
When I was a graduate student in
economics at U.C. Berkeley, Hyman P. Minsky was one of my monetary
theory professors. Minsky was an out and out Marxist who loved Fidel
Castro and prayed vigorously for the destruction of capitalism. Unlike
most of my fellow grad students, I found Minsky narrow minded and
pathetically ideological. The Berkeley Econ department was a band of
unrepentant Trotskyites and probably still is (Only a few exceptions).
The publications in Minsky's later life were focused on a not-so-unique way that capitalism might destroy itself. He proposed that speculation and risk inflation would grow as the periods of economic success were extended. Markets would crash. Minsky must have hated those long periods of economic expansion with no crashes.
happened in late August of this year won't be known for several more decades. But
one thing I do know is that if any time period of economic travail
should be named a Minsky Moment, it should be a period of general
starvation brought on by communism in Cuba or North Korea.
Footnote: Haman is an evil figure in the Purim story of Esther.
The old rule of thumb of the newspaper business was that each letter to the editor represented 1,000 readers with the same view. I don't know what the updated rule looks like for emails to the editor. Probably not very different.
So the New York Times got 400,000 readers angry at them for the despicable MoveOn.org ad they ran nearly two weeks ago (based on the 4,000 angry emails they received). That is roughly 40% of the total New York Times readership.
Forty percent is also significant because that is the discounted amount the NYTimes offered on their regular ad rate to accommodate MoveOn.org. Only 40% of their regular rate. MoveOn didn't even ask for the 60% special discount. Which the Times would not make available to an anti-MoveOn ad.
We also know from the Time's ombudsperson that the Lefty meanspiritedness was not only found in the sales department that offered the ad price, it was in the ad review department where a department head violated the Time's written and explicit policy against ads with personal attacks. This was an ad with a headline that had the most offensive personal attack anyone can make on a soldier: betrayal.
Lets not forget that the ad did America a favor. It focused the Iraq War debate on the McCarthy-like nature of the anti-War activists and it put Hillary and Obama on record as defenders of McCarthy-like behavior when they failed to join a Senate Democratic majority in opposing the MoveOn-Times calumny.
The tragic evidence: the Yezidi people of Qahtaniya in Northern Iraq. Over 500 people in the small town of 3,500 were killed by four Al Qaeda suicide bombers.
The Yezidi people are complete outcasts of Arabia, scattered in small villages in parts in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Armenia and Iran. They are often described as a Kurdish people because their language is close to Kurdish but they are not Muslims. They possess no arms, have no tribal defense and their unique religion denies the existence of evil. They believe in one god who created the world and lost interest in it. The remaining deities are symbolized by the peacock, with seven major feathers for their seven angels.
They are the Quakers of Arabia and for that they were killed. And will continue to be killed.
You've heard me express sympathy for the Left before. The Left has a package of ideas that seem to fail every time they are tried.
One of my sports loving friends expressed sympathy for the Left after I offered him a metaphor.
The Left had every advantage. The Left had a team, they had team colors, a team uniform, a team band and a team mascot. The referees, the announcers and most of the fans were Lefties. Even the soccer players in training and the back-up players were Lefties.
In fact, the pro-commerce side didn't even have a team all they had were a bunch of stray members of the audience running out on the field to play the game.
Pro-commerce still won 10-0.
That metaphor is so accurate, even my sports loving friend felt sympathy for the Left.
I have a good friend who unlocked her Iphone and moved it over to T-mobile. The first place to visit is here.
The second where you'll get instructions is here.
It takes about four hours.
None of this will be necessary after January of 2008 as several companies will have competitive products including a few at Best Buy and we'll be able to sign-up for monthly services at several networks.
In a book he wrote in the late 1980s, Professor Sowell encouraged black students to pick a college where they would be comfortable in the higher ranks of academics, rather than at a school that lowered entrance requirements for blacks.
Sowell argued that black students accepting a low class rank at an elite school with high status was counter productive.
Sowell was right, based on recent law school research. Blacks admitted because of affirmative action, who were at the bottom of the class had a higher drop out rate than comparable black students who were at law schools where they were in the upper class ranks.
Makes sense, and the data, from Richard Sanders (UCLA) supports Sowell's clear anti-racist vision of the world.
This takes the "investment" value out of buying a house. So now, the decision whether to rent or own should be more straight-forward.
In San Francisco, the prices I know are the ones I'll use. Substitute the prices in your area for the numbers I'm using.
A one bedroom condo downtown with 1000 sq. ft. sells for $800 a square foot= $800,000. To that you add Property tax of 1.14% $9,100 per year and the equivalent for casualty insurance. The property tax is deductible from your income tax and so is your interest payment of $44,500. Your payments on the mortgage are $50,000 per year. Your condo fees are $5,000.
Your total condo costs are $73,200. Of that $53,600 are tax deductible. If your income is $150,000 or more, you probably will pay no income taxes. That leaves you paying out of pocket $19,600 for the mortgage and condo fees plus the opportunity cost of $6,000 on your $100,000 down payment. If your income is $100,000 then you are actually paying $18,000 in real interest and property tax expenses that are not subsidized by the tax deduction.
At an income of $150,000 buying a condo leaves you out-of-pocket and opportunity costs of $25,600. If your income is $100,000 your out-of-pocket and opportunity cost is $43,600.
Renting a similar apartment in San Francisco would be $28 per square foot per year: $28,000 per year.
Summary: Buy a condo if your income is $150,000. Rent if your income is $100,000 and save $15,600 per year. Your $15,600 in 10 years will be over $200,000 at current interest rates.
Dissing derives from the word disrespect, but the word is miss-used in the context referred to above. Nobody respects a man who would act in such a provocative and predatory way. Fear, anger and contempt are more accurate descriptors.
The same word and the same meaning applies to the University of California Board of Regents when they dis-invited Larry Summers to talk at a Regents meeting. Summers was dis-invited because he told a group at MIT, several years ago, that women may be missing from scientific fields for several reasons, one of which might be biological.
For saying this, Summers aroused the anger of the Arts and Letters Faculty at Harvard who got him fired. One particular irony here. The uproar came from the Arts and Letters Faculty, the very people who are unable to be scientists, in most cases, even if they wanted to be. Scientists and all the departments heavily informed by mathematics on the Harvard faculty, supported Summers.
I would guess that the 150 faculty, administrators and miscellaneous in the U.C. system, who signed the protest against Summers talking at a private dinner with the Regents were mostly Arts and Letters people, who never did well in science or math.
In any case, dis-inviting Larry Summers is a good example of dissing in the black mugger's use of the term. Summers couldn't respect the Board of Regents, who cowered in fear, or the campus protest writers, he could only look on them with contempt. As I do.
The black mugger, the cowardly Regents and the activist faculty don't deserve respect, just contempt.
Footnote: Two out of two of my daughters are scientists.
The hippy revolution was truly one of the great decentralized undirected human experiments. I am not finished writing about the subjects but here are several starting points:
1. The blog on my summary of the hippy contributions, focused on business and related subjects that I know better than most people.
2. The shocking blog about the fact that the political and media world of the early 1970s completely misread the peace movement. The peace movement was large because the marches were hippy parties. The hippies are not around today, in great numbers, consequently there is no American peace movement.
I said a similar thing in this blog.
3. My many blog musings on the hippy disappearance: sex and ...
I referred to the 4th Reich two days ago. The same day I posted the blog I read about the smoking gun connection between the 3rd Reich and the 4th Reich and their common desire to roast New York Jews.
The 4th Reich in case you missed it is the global anti-jew hate campaign that Arab and Persian Islamicists are promoting with the help of the extensive remains of the 3rd Reich (read Lefties) still active in Europe and East Europe.
The article I read is in the most recent Weekly Standard. It is a translation from the German of an article by Matthias Küntzel. Hitler, according to Albert Speer, spent the entire WWII supporting the construction of a four engine Daimler-Benz aircraft to carry suicide bombers to New York to crash into skyscrapers and roast the center of the global Jewish financial conspiracy.
Kuntzel shows the exact connection of Hitler's dream to Osama Bin Laden's identical dream. He also points out that the 9/11 commission overlooked the stated Bin Laden intent to destroy New York's global Jewish financial conspiracy.
I know that zero percent of New York Jews in 1943 thought Hitler planned to roast them. Today, I would guess that of the 2 million Jews in New York who are hated by 100 million Islamicists, less than 300,000 (under 15%) think they are the serious targets of a genocidal 'roast the Jews' campaign.
That 15% of New York Jews are easy to identify, they are the ones who voted for George W. Bush in 2004. The rest of the New York Jews are still curling up with their Sunday New York Times (the newspaper that refused to take note of the Holocaust while it was happening and they knew about it); these Jews are worried about Global Warming, the need for government mandated universal health care and trying to figure out why Jimmy Carter, the European Left, the UN, Mary Robinson, the EU and Bishop Tutu seem a little "off base" these days.
The obit on Alfred Peet at the Peet's Coffee website isn't bad. Certainly more accurate than the many others I read.
Trouble is, I talked to Alfred on several occasions over more than a decade and his story was very different from the modern obit.
Alfred told me that he went to Java as a tea buyer and tea exporter. Coffee, with its two species and ten growing countries at the time was insignificant to him compared to tea with 25 species and 40 countries of origin. Coffee was to tea, like tennis shoes are to leather for a cobbler.
When Alfred opened his first shop in Berkeley it was to sell tea but he quickly found the customers wanted coffee.
Long after he had sold the S.F. Bay Area name Peet's to the current corporation, Alfred was still on the payroll as a consultant...not for coffee buying but for tea.
To get a sense of the wealth of our society, one need only look at this series of photos. Venice California is very lax about letting RV livers live on the streets. These blocks of rather beat-up RVs are parked near a giant coin laundry, coffee shop and near a discount food store.
To live under these circumstances, in generally warm weather, and eat fairly well, seven blocks from the beach, should cost less than $400 a month. Four hundred a month is less than the minimum payment from Social Security at age 62. To earn $400, one can beg six hours a day for 13 days a month ($30 average daily gross). One can work at the minimum wage cleaning for 8 hours a day for five days a month. One can be a dishwasher for five hours a day for four days a month.
Only a very rich society could allow people so much leisure and comfort.
Remember, from an earlier blog, as long as these RV livers don't beg from tourists or sit on the street looking homeless they are not a drain on society. On the other-hand, each visible homeless person costs a city $200,000 in lost tourist revenue. Each visible homeless person costs $200,000.
One example is the Torah which is read from a scroll every week in every synagogue. Scrolls have survived in active use so we know how they were wrapped, stored and how small pointers were used to preserve the surface. We also know how accuracy was maintained because we still have religious people who carry on the tradition of writing the Torah.
is the Juggernaut. The word has entered our language as an unstoppable
force. The actual object entered our country courtesy of the Hare
Krishna parades. What is interesting to me about the juggernaut is
that the axles are fixed. They do not turn. The same juggernauts are
used in Kyoto parades with Japanese structures on top.
A four wheeled vehicle with two axles that are fixed is certainly older than one with a front rotatable axle. So what period is the juggernaut preserving? Once the rotatable front axle was developed it must have moved quickly across cultures. I can only guess that the front rotatable axle dates back less than 2000 years. That is strictly a guess.
The following video of a Hare Krishna parade has the juggernaut in the last few images. In Kyoto I have watched juggernauts turn corners by having a series of wooden planks put, one after the other, under the outside wheels, which makes it go further and consequently turn.
One of my old friends, Stewart Brand, started the Long Now Foundation to build a 10,000 year clock. The intent is to provoke more long term thinking. Good goal. The Long Now people now have a blog.
The point I would make for Stewart and the Long Nowsers are to look at the four oldest human institutions carefully.
*Jews are a cohesive ethnic group that have a written history going back nearly three thousand years. Jews have been a decentralized but cohesive group for 2,000 years and carried on a fully active dialog and written record of that dialog for the whole 2,000 years (Talmud). Jews play a central role in the current world, as does the Jewish nation, Israel. The Jerusalem Post is the most regularly read online site for English speaking journalists.
When I am around Jews, I can make the statement that "George W. Bush is the best friend the Jews have had in 2,500 years" and get a vigorous argument from nearly any Jew. Many Jews disagree and argue that President Bush has to be compared to Cyrus the Great, a Persian ruler 2,500 years ago who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. For Jews, our whole history is alive, present and debatable.
* Japanese. Every Japanese student learns in their high school history class the names of the 124 previous emperors. The list of 124 goes back 2,500 years of continuous succession. The 31st emperor was historically validated by Chinese visitors nearly 1,500 years ago.
* The Japanese shrine at Ise is rebuilt every 20 years and has been for 1,600 years of recorded history. The lumber used is always from trees that are 200 years old.
A German scholar who was studying the Ise Shrine pointed out to me that there are three ways to preserve a tradition. One is to build a monument, like the Sphinx in Egypt, out of durable material. This form of preservation has the problem that meaning is lost. The second is to have an annual cycle of rituals. This has the risk of loosing some of the details. The third is the Ise shrine, which is rebuilt every 20 years in the original style with new materials.
Are these items in the Long Now dialog?
If you are like me, you will be interested to hear from a friend of mine who sold the contents of his mother's house. The 1980s version of the Encyclopedia Britannica was worth $0. Leaving it out on the street...it took days to disappear.
What was of some value were womens clothing from the 40s, 50s and 60s.
The surprise value was the old unopened fishing lures.
Coins and stamps were of little value because there are so many stamp and coin collectors and they have been collecting for so long.
What will be valuable in forty years? It won't be something rational people think of collecting.
The important footnote to her obit is that she took one of the Briarpatch businesses global.
The actual Body Shop was founded by two women, Peggy Short and Jane Saunders, in the early 1970s. The first store, in a tiny garage was on Union St., West of Buchanan.
Roddick and her husband copied everything they saw, everything, in the tiny Briarpatch shop and used it when they opened their own copy in England in 1976.
By 1983, when Roddick's expanding global business wanted to open in the S.F. Bay Area they were forced to buy-out the original for $3+ million. I was called by Jane for advice on the buy-out. Short and Saunders were happy with the deal and changed the name of their, by then, five shops.
End of story.
A wonderful friend who just returned from a trip to Egypt after a five years absence and to London and Paris after a two year absence, reports that Burkas are now seen everywhere. In Egypt they are almost the only form of clothing for Egyptian women. In London and Paris they are so common it is almost unnoticed.
Why has this happened?
My friend and I both speculate that it may be more of a fashion statement than an expression of devout religiosity. A burka is a personal rejection of the kind of suggestive, sexy, flashy, revealing and often overly aggressive styles that are seen on many unattractive and unappealing women in public.
Could be. Could also be social pressure. What do you think.
There is no evidence that such 'Internet hunting' has ever been done but laws against it are now appearing on the books. The idea of Internet hunting may have been sparked by the actual use, by several military agencies around the world, of stationary machine guns and missile equipped drones that are operated from computer screens at a great distance.
Don't be surprised about laws against something that doesn't happen in the real world. Every state has laws on the books prohibiting the sale of liquor in bars to pregnant women.
A good friend of mine worked for the National Alcohol Research Center. It was her job, for a year, to travel around America and interview pregnant women who were drinking alcohol. She tried to find such women in nearly every bar in every poor neighborhood in the South, in big city immigrant and black neighborhoods and she never found even one woman. During a whole year with tens of thousands of miles traveled. Alcohol just doesn't taste good to pregnant women.
However, I can't leave that factual story hanging on that unexpected outcome without her added comment that she had no trouble finding woman pregnant and drunk on Indian reservations.
I occasionally run into the thesis that anti-Americanism has a long history of occurring in cultures that are slow to adopt technology. These cultures are explained as anti-American simply because they are resisting commerce and technology. America is the Goliath of commerce and technology. Latin America, Revolutionary Russia, Mao's China, contemporary Arabs are all given as examples of cultural primitivism. Resenters of modernity.
Even Europe, the nihilistic group of people who want the world returned to 1914, is cited as a kind-of cultural primitive. I think this phenomenon is better viewed as Cultural Revanchism. These are examples of cultural groups that believe they were once great and are unappreciated today. They seek, and have sought, a variety of nationalistic and government policies to regain their perceived 'rightful status' in the world.
It is not primitivism that is a danger to us it is revanchism. Revanchist only learn by being defeated and modernized.
I have long been interested in hysteria. Hysteria is the phenomenon where nearly everyone believes in a single worldview that can not be contradicted by evidence. The best example I remember is the Satanic-Child-abuse hysteria in the U.S. in the 1980-90's. No one would countenance an alternative view and no counter-evidence was taken seriously.
Today we have a new and very interesting form of hysteria that is affecting many nations, not just the U.S.: global warming. It is hysteria because no amount of data will dissuade believers. But there is a whole world of people who are not hysterical and are not part of the hysteria. The presence of millions of dissenters has no effect on diminishing the intensity of the hysterics.
That is truly fascinating for all of us who are interested in the subject of hysteria.
There isn't much to say about the level of productivity in communist countries... there is very little. The 'God that Failed' doesn't generate much desire to work. The power of Allah seems to be the power to keep people from being productive. The same seems to be true of nearly all Catholic nations, think Latin America, where a centralized God has a strong influence on a centralized government and work is not productive. Lastly, there is Europe, where unions are blamed for low productivity but the reality is that the centralized governments maintain the power of unions and the centralized governments are God-like in their intrusion in the lives of Europeans.
To put it another way...the highly productive people of the world, Americans, Israelis, Japanese and some other Asians all have decentralized religious institutions.
I have spent time visiting churches of many denominations in many locations. I've talked to many ministers and ordinary people about their religious view. I've seen countless public opinion surveys and I know the data.
I don't think Americans have any traditional religion or cluster of traditional religions, though they could be divided up into five or six religious poles and two non-religious poles. Americans, as a whole, have no religious theology, nothing resembling a theology that deals with free will, after-life, prayer or truth.
What Americans have is what Alcoholics Anonymous uses as a predicate: a mushy reference to a 'higher power'. The few people who don't reference a higher power are like Sam Harris, (he says he is 'sort of a Buddhist') people with a personal cluster of ideologies, spiritual leanings and pseudo-secular 'leanings'.
In America and in most of the world, there was only one cohesive intellectual position for the past 150 years: the Left. The alternative was some version of status quoism or anti-Leftism. The Left was the only message of the academic world and the news media, worldwide.
Slowly, over the past fifty years, a few meaningful and constructive voices have been raised. I would start with Joseph Schumpeter, move to Sidney Hook and by the 1980s I began to hear more and more iconoclastic, original and powerful voices.
Today, there are many dozens of clear voices, making up the great new Second Voice. A young person today, unlike a young person in my day, can read on the Internet countless voices of reason that help understand democracy, the free market, commerce, the positive value of the status quo, the greatness of America, the relevance of relativism and most importantly the power of decentralization. Such a young person can create his/her own world view with depth, perspective, informed insight and vast bodies of empirical evidence to support it.
The video I offer here is of a model simple liver. Eddie is a surfer who's life is centered on surfing in Southern California. To lead a simple life that allows him to surf when the surf is good, Eddie found an occupation that allows him to work when he wants and be able to work well into his senior years: hanging doors.
Hanging doors, especially when done with top flight craftsman quality is a talent that is in permanent demand. Eddie has no partners; he has a van with all his equipment. Eddie's tools and doors are portable enough that he can carry them even when he is very old. Everyone in the West LA construction business knows and adores Eddie. His nom d'commerce is Eddie the Well Hung Door Man.
It is frightening to many of us that Americans seem to have a sliding scale of pacifism. When we are attacked we are gung ho for military action, such as we saw in the two years following the use of four passenger airlines by hairless Arabs to attack America.
Every year since then support for a military response to the hairless Arabs and their supporters seems to decline.
Our system has endurance. The exception was Viet Nam where we saw a victory turn into a defeat thanks to the strange predations of Mark Felt, that let the Democratic Party in Congress break an agreement we had with South Viet Nam. Breaking that agreement offered up the lives of Vietnamese and Cambodians for slaughter.
Maybe we need to elect the Democrats in 2008 to help the world understand America's long term ability to fight Arab Revanchism. The Democrats in power in 2009 would be forced to do the same thing the Republicans are doing.
This war is about Arabs trying to recapture, what they believe, is their rightful role in the world. They are not satisfied with controlling oil wealth, they want respect for their culture, history and contributions to the world. That is revanchism and irredentism.
Both terms, thanks to the Germans after WWI have built into them the notion that this "recapture" can be done with force and violence.
The Turks and Kurds are not part of the War Against Modernity nor are many other Muslim peoples from India to Malaysia. The biggest question in my mind is "Are the Persians in the War Against Modernity?". Iran has a government that is currently horrific and threatening but the depth of their ambition is not clear.
Our Federal debt is $9 trillion and our GDP is $14 trillion. Never has the national debt been a less significant issue. For most of our history and for many solid industrial nations the debt exceeds the GDP by many times.
Nevertheless the question always arises whether other nations have too much leverage on the U.S. because of their holdings of our bonds.
The Wall Street Journal gives us these numbers: Japan, the largest holder of U.S. bonds holds $.6 trillion. China holds $.4 trillion, the UK $.2 and the oil exporters of the world, mostly Arab $.1 trillion. Notice those decimal points. Those numbers are a small percent of the total...very small.
If you lose 2 minutes sleep over this, you are excessively worried.
The history of unions goes back to medieval crafts guilds. As recently at 1938, the AFofL was forced to retain the crafts name in many of the amalgamated unions....six hundred years after the term was initially used.
The crafts guilds were a central part of the Roman Catholic medieval regime to maintain the status quo. Other elements that the Church enforced were serfdom, price controls on all market goods, usury controls, laws forbidding Jews to own land or practice any trades but used clothing sales and money lending.
Even as unions have shrunk to one-third their 1950 size while the U.S. population has nearly tripled, the perversity of unions can not be ignored.
A simple examination of any two towns with populations of 60,000 people will show that the town with a WalMart has more jobs, a higher wage level, is growing faster and the average working family spends several thousand dollars less on goods than the town without the WalMart.
The union will just keep WalMart from opening in the first place. Unions are a medieval fossil institution.
I became aware of this while watching a group of Mexican workers in a restaurant who were working incredibly hard. I never saw such intense or determined work anywhere in Mexico.
Then I remembered that "Go West young man" was the plea for Americans to leave their stifling East Coast and Mid-Western family and social class structures and create a new life on the vast frontier. America may just be "the new West" for Mexicans escaping the stifling family and social class structures of Mexico. As it has always been for new immigrants. In America they can work hard and create their own new life (for Mexicans it comes with a new evangelical religion too.)
On a related subject, if I were to guess, I would guess that half of all American families are dysfunctional, meaning that many family members, siblings, parents and generations don't "get along" at all. That also means that half of American families are functional. Great! The definition of "family" in America has always applied to a small band of people that rarely extends to cousins or across marital family lines. Functional families probably work because they are tolerant and supportive of differences...a very good quality in a commercial society.
I suspect that the weakness of families, or the absence of family in America is a source of vitality for commerce, too.
Families are good for commerce and non-families are also good.
Non-families are beneficial for commerce because it means that people often create their own identity by being 'consumers'. It means that people can set their own goals and values that in turn can mean hard work and increased productivity. It means people can seek identity with fellow workers and peers.
It also means that many people have to be active in the work force to provide their own security emotional and financial.
Put all together, families that are functional are generally small and probably functional because of tolerance for difference: good for commerce. Families that aren't functional spin off a large proportion of self-creating productive members of a commercial society. Also good for commerce.