..and when the sun rises again tomorrow, we'll see how far we've come ...

..and when the sun rises again tomorrow, we'll see how far we've come ...

... just to remind myself why I'm doing this ...

Depending on our personalities, the world can be a crowded place or a very lonely one. For those who seek comfort in numbers, there is no shortage of hangers on, but for those who avoid that circus, keeping thier own counsel can leave them feeling quite alone and disengaged from the mad place we call home. Life is a trade off and most of us choose how we live it.

For me, I'd rather work things out as best I can, using my own thoughts and feelings to sort things out. Following the crowd has never been a temptation to me, but that has its price, one that I'm totally comfortable with every day I get to stand up and be the person I aspire to be. When I sometimes lose track of who that is, I come here to remember, to reconnect and to resume my quest.

These posts are a reflection of some of what matters to me and it's a privilege to have the opportunity to collect these thoughts as they form in my head, as they prepare the way for my life, as it evolves from one day to the next. They re-inspire me when things seem to be floating about, with no particular aim or purpose, and it does happen from time to time.

So, today I had these thoughts that I think are worth writing down for the future me to look back on when I need to ...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The term “job creation” is somewhat akin to an oxymoron.

Thinking about the concept of a “job” one realizes that a “job” is a response to the recognition of some kind of need. The job that responds to a need then does the actual creating, not the other way around. Establishing a job requires an existing need to be recognized or a new need to come into existence and that should perhaps be the focus of such efforts.

Recognizing and identifying shortcomings wherever they may exist presents opportunities to correct and/or satisfy those shortcomings, by engaging people to address them, and that would be the most productive method of providing sustainable employment opportunities.

It’s not insignificant that newly “created” jobs are often counted in terms of “estimated man-hours” (or weeks or months) of ‘life’ or productivity, which indicates the limitations of what has been “created”. Sustainability is usually not one of the key objectives, because if it were, many of such jobs would not be worth counting. Inherently, these creations are temporary measures that will eventually need to be repeated in some form, over and over, using (wasting due to repetition) valuable resources in the process every time.

It is government’s responsibility to provide the facilities and services required by its electorate to sustain a reasonably secure and healthful environment within which they can conduct their lives and do so in the most productive way available to them in their circumstance. To do that the government undertakes the expenditures on their behalf and pays to create that sustained environment, and regenerates it as needed to ensure its continued effectiveness to achieve and ideally to improve it.

I am of the opinion that by maintaining the “creation of jobs” (or more accurately the provision of a benign source of income) as the primary objective, government wastes far too many resources. By redirecting its efforts towards the provision of facilities and services to address real existing needs and new ones that will always manifest themselves, more than a limited number of employment opportunities will open up and remain viable for far longer than the temporary solutions of “created jobs” to address short term situations artificially generated to find something to do for the unemployed.

The hardnosed yet essential aspect of this concept is that no “job” has the immunity to stave off its elimination if it becomes redundant. Every job must exist solely because it is in place to address an existing need and not just to provide income as its main purpose. When that’s the case, resources needed to provide solutions to real needs are being diverted making less available to address sustainable opportunities. Bloating is wasteful and counterproductive.

Infrastructure renewal is by far the most efficient and widely beneficial method of providing opportunities for sustainable employment across many disciplines and skill levels. A well-planned schedule of infrastructure renewal projects that continues without major interruptions and without end is the most efficient and most sustainable “job creation” strategy at government’s disposal. It’s also the most appropriate and ethical strategy in terms of a reasonable and fair taxation policy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We have laws for good reasons but ...

... that doesn't make them all good laws. However, just because we don't like a law doesn't mean we should necessarily change it.

It seems to me that laws set out limits to guide human behaviour that is usually self-centred and very self-serving. Laws tell us what we cannot do rather than try to spell out all that we can do. Being creatures prone to independent action we sometimes (often) take exception to being told what we can't do, particularly when we are under the notion that freedom is paramount. That puts most laws in the category of 'unpopular' and qualifies them for some sort of change or elimination altogether.

Here's the thing; by restricting freedoms in one place we actually protect freedoms in another. I think it's safe to say that freedoms can clash and give rise to extreme conflict and if those freedoms are left unfettered, those conflicts would eventually oppress some of those conflicting freedoms but at great cost, something that can be avoided by the creation of laws that protect all the ideologies behind those freedoms. Of course, that also means someone is not going to like those lawful limitations and will probably resist or try to change them, but that doesn't mean it should be changed.

Laws protect majorities as well as minorities, ideally at the appropriate amount of expense to both. While times change, human nature is far less volatile and actually quite predictable, making the need for changes in laws that guide it much less than what we would like in many cases.

The hot potato of the day is local waterfront access over private property. While there are laws to lay out the rules, not everyone likes those rules, especially the technical trespassers. As with any rules, interpretation is the key and the most subjective element in such conflicts. Therefore it's obvious why a higher level of government is reviewing these rules and may well make some changes to the laws that set out those rules.

Back to human behaviour. It seems that because of political expediency, the most local and least competent level of 'government' will make a foray into the conflict, even though its objectivity is extremely compromised thus rendering any decision as highly suspect. These guys are also human and their behaviour is subject to the same weaknesses as the parties in conflict. The really troublesome aspect of this is that these guys will cite "public good or interest" as the driving aspect of their decisions, ostensibly trying to appear something more dispassionate than the bully that they will become. For all intents and purposes, any decision that compromises the lawful rights of the property owners is simply nothing less than outright bullying and that's just not acceptable anymore. There are new laws being created to deal with that specifically because the world has changed in its views on bullying everywhere.

Just because the 'public' doesn't like the rules in effect doesn't give them the right to change them by default. However the public does have the right to initiate the process by which those rules are reviewed and perhaps changed as a result of full and comprehensive discussions of the merits and demerits of the existing rules. After all, it was the same process that arrived at the present rules that apply now and considered them to be the proper way to deal with this very question at that time.

It seems we just want to make and remake the rules whenever it suits as we go along. Giving in to those whims would be disastrous for society on the whole.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A phoney (contrived) recovery from a phoney (contrived) recession - Shazam!

It was just a matter of time before those with the most to lose, or gain, depending on which issue you're looking at, started the phoney (contrived) rebuild of the phoney (contrived)destruction of the "economy". The "destruction" was necessary to return things to their real value and that eliminated all of the imaginary gains promulgated during the last series of bull cycles. During this time of "low" (realistic) valuation, those with the inside track and hidden resources were ready to pounce and snatch up the choicest "victims" of the phoney (contrived) recession and prepare for the eventual return of the very same philosophies and treacherous behaviour that supposedly brought the "economy" to its knees. In fact, the perpetrators were simply playing around with the strings on the plugs and threatening to pull them if things didn't go the way they had planned all along. Of course governments knew all this but played along anyway, knowing that obscene amounts of taxpayers' money was easy to direct into any version of "economy-saving" plan with little backlash from a very scared and worried public who were convinced that this was all necessary pain just to keep their lively-hoods from 'disappearing'. Truly the biggest-ever con has been perpetrated on the taxpayers of so many powerhouse countries with their unreserved approval. Shazam!!!

There really hasn't been enough down time to drive the motivation for any significant change in the market and financial system, and that's a very important detail. As we now get some "indications of a recovery" slowly fed to us, especially after all the wailing of how long this is going to hurt us, the very real fears that were created by the phoney (contrived) collapse are already beginning to dissipate because they're ripe for it, and hence any motivation to make significant changes that would help to reduce the opportunity to relaunch such crisis in the future is fast fading into oblivion. Of course, that's essential for those that will perpetrate this cycle again some time in the future. But, for now and the immediate future it will once again be "business as usual" - no question about it. The victims may change but the victimization won't, and that's also a forgone conclusion. There's a big part for globalization to play in this incredible fraud. Just think how many ordinary people will have to start from scratch, and who has defrauded them of their imaginary wealth.

Just wait! It looks like the government, and that's us, remember, could end up taking over the biggest "losers" while they're in the shape they are, even after all that taxpayer money was poured "through" them into the pockets of the embezzlers. Then, more and more of the same taxpayers' money will be used to restore an industry that doesn't deserve to survive as it exists now, to an operating entity using the same strategies as before and when the industry's got some 'legs', the private sector, the real criminals, will take it back for a song from the rest of the real criminals in government who will plead for them to do so, because they're more suited to running the business. Shazam-bam!!! can you feel the burn? And of course the flood of tax-credits to "guarantee" all those jobs will make you think all this financial 'waterboarding' is just a new sport.

As the lustre of his halo slowly fades and the thing turns to flakey rust, Obama's complicity in this unfathomable fraud will become evident and the hope he inspired will turn to despair and hatred but the damage will be irreversible, opening the gates for a new saviour of the day to once more lead the sheep to certain slaughter at the hands of the financial elite who are always in charge, no matter what else we might want to believe. And you can take that to the bank! Shazam-bam-slam-dunk!!!

The phoney (contrived) recession is over now that the goodies have been put in the right pockets and none too soon too. It was getting too close to somebody on our side getting the picture of what was really going on and taking a stab at changing the very system that is designed to work to this purpose. That would have been a real disaster for the crooks at the top, wouldn't it. Better to rush the phoney (contrived) recovery than lose the advantage for the next slaughter. If you think this is all bunk, just count up all the golden handshakes and bonuses being thrown around like so much party confetti at a gala to which we were deliberately not invited, even though we'll be forced to do the cleanup and get handed the bill for the privilege. Isn't our corrupted version of capitalism wonderful?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Free market system - the only bright spot in a corrupt economy.

A free market society fancies itself as an optimizer of all things business. That’s so, it seems, only as long as there are benefits that outstrip the costs, for when the wheel turns to reveal the less than profitable aspects, those on the free-market bandwagon quickly seek out targets on which they can lay all the blame for its shortcomings.
It reminds me of a friend who thinks he is a staunch fan of his beloved NHL team. His team didn't make it into the playoffs. That prompted him to castigate the whole NH League and its governor as a poorly run organization with nothing but a profit motive to drive it. Consequently it does not deserve his attention and he has declared his intention to not watch anymore hockey. Because one sector performed below his expectations, he has demonized the whole industry and its underlying principles. That's dumb, really dumb, and I daresay its not uncommon. We want only the upside of everything. Idiots all!
If we truly embraced the fee market system, we would stop interfering in its ups and downs and allow it to establish its own levels while it administers the necessary self-corrections that are essential in any system if it is to survive.
Like most others, the Auto industry is both a product and a victim of the free market principle. The “Union” industry is likewise. Both have a product to sell and both need to do so to survive. When their respective products loose some or much of their relevance in the ever-changing marketplace that “birthed” them, the free market system ignores them until they are again relevant to the market. Subverting that free market process only disrupts the system and screws up its efficiencies without being able to fix things to be as we would like them – ideal and without any downside – an impossible achievement. Gain must come at a cost – of something, and all costs are seen by most as undesirable sacrifice or downside.
Auto industry thinking, particularly the North American sector, did not acknowledge the changes happening in the consumer psyche. It only interpreted those changes in terms of their products’ superficial aspects, without any thoughts to the psychological ones. The union industry simply followed suit, with little or no imagination applied to its own long-term role in the future of a gradually and naturally aging human-based industrial mammoth. Their own product was losing relevance and they were stubbornly blind to the fact. Why then, do we now lament the fact that free market forces are doing exactly what they should and must to ensure that the market survives in the long run? Painful, yes; problematic, yes; manageable, maybe; alterable, not a particularly wise course to take, because when it is in a positive cycle, there is no will to change it then, and if it needs changing, then it must also affect that side.
After all, we’re just not that smart if the system demands these adjustments from time to time, to correct all the fiddling that is done to it year after year and it still doesn’t work with only the up-cycles and no down-cycles. For every win, there’s a loss, for every winner there’s a loser. There’s no fiddling with that so we must accept the downs as important and use them to prepare for the ups that follow. Conversely, we must accept the ups with the knowledge that the downs will follow and use that opportunity to prepare for them as well. Prudence and reason. With failures come vacuums, and vacuums provide opportunities without a lot of the baggage of past mistakes to get in the way: opportunities to change attitudes, directions, methods and most other things that just can’t be done any other way. Painful, yes; hopeless, no; full of potential, absolutely!
If we try to “fix” the free market system, we’ll only break it worse. Either we live by it, all in, or we abandon it completely – there is no in between, and we’ve got to stop thinking there is and insisting we know how to make it so. We’ve proven over and over, generation after generation, that’s just not ever going to be the case.
The buzzwords of our most recent extended market rally of the past number of years included "wealth creation". As arrogant as we are, we actually believe that wealth can be created! That's bull! Wealth can no more be deliberately created than can our natural resources, or land or air or water and on and on. Wealth can only be converted, and thus it must come at the cost of something else. The deliberate avoidance of that truth has, is and will always lead to a significant readjustment of what we call assets, that re-establishes a relative balance of assets and their real value in our global entity.
The affluent segments of our global entity use their creativity to amass assets with inherent values that are far less than what they can support and then proceed to distribute those overvalued assets in exchange for more secure and sustainable ones. However, eventually they begin to harvest the unsupportable assets which have circulated and mutated into a state that keeps them from being recognized as those very same unsupported assets that were being exchanged at the beginning of the cycle. That's when the paper walls collapse and the roof caves in, bringing everything back to a realistic valuation in terms of the aggregated global assets. Of course, to stave off, or at best delay the ultimate consequences, we fiddle around and try to 'fix' the problem which is just not fixable in terms of avoiding the ultimate revaluation of wealth rooted in fantasy.
That's the beauty of the free market concept. It will always find the true value of our assets. Trying to jig it so that it won't do that is futile and only makes things worse later. As an example, just imagine what would have to happen for governments with debt loads the likes of USA and Canada to balance their books. It cannot happen, ever! The underlying system can't be 'fixed' while they're in their present state, and that isn't going to get one dollar better than they are right now. Today, right now, they are in the best shape they'll ever be, as long as they function under the present system which pretends it is equipped to make infinite adjustments to keep it 'working'. 'Work' is something it will never do on this earth.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

why all the fuss?

Every day, almost every hour, we hear a plethora of words like failing, shrinking, free-fall, melt-down, contracting and devastated in some sort of connection with the state of our, and the rest of the world's economies. But do we really have any clear idea of what that means? I know I don't.

To me, the economy is a system of trade for goods, services, hard currency or credits and favours between everyone who is a part of any assemblage that may include only individuals, or businesses, or political entities, or geographically related "somethings", or any combination of these. It's about exchanges of value at every level, from countries exchanging weapons for currency or other tangibles, workers trading their time for pay, business trading goods or services for money, right down to kids trading sports cards or even treats in their lunches.

So what's happening here? Some of this "trading" has slowed down, and some of it may have stopped altogether, but most of it is happening just as it has been forever, everywhere. We're still eating, and washing, shopping and going out, buying lottery tickets and driving around for most of the same reasons we always have. With the exception of those whose usual method of earning an income has been temporarily, or otherwise, disrupted, the vast majority continues to live their lives at the same nefarious pace. While employment figures are presented with alarmist overtones, they do not present a situation that is all that different from other times. Predictably, business surges and wanes at different times but these fluctuations are not new. They seem more pronounced as they happen in the context of other issues and crisis that fill the gloom and doom headlines, but that is par for the course. While the numbers seem staggering, they’re within a level of tolerance that is not critical.

Declarations of tough times and severe cutbacks being made by everyday folks, but without any explanation or reason for doing so, suggests a "blind leading the blind" scenario in full bloom. With all this theoretical "contraction" and “cutting back” on our usual activities being pointed to as one of the main contributors to the economy's "devastation", prices appear to be largely unaffected, nor are they showing a downward trend. Why is that? You'd think that prices would have to be reduced to keep the "trading" activity at substantive levels. The prevailing trend of price maintenance is one indicator that not all is as dire as purported.

Notice that there are regular references like "not seen since the late nineties" or "the lowest since 1997" and so on. It's clear that there was a deeper downturn about a decade or so ago, and again some years before that, and before that, but their effects were erased soon after because there has been a market bubble greater than many others, which has followed each time. Of course that was the groundwork for the next, and next, and next, and so on, downturn because the world quickly forgets the lessons it is forced to acknowledge during these downturns and simply resumes its self-immolating, self-destructive behaviour that is driven by blind uber-optimism and lust for excess, the grist for the next disaster that is always sure to follow.

"Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and money was not scarce? - Ralph Waldo Emerson's words remind us that, while there are individual exceptions as there always are, on the whole this situation is really not that much different for the large majority of the populace. Paul Harvey put it another way "In times like these, it is helpful to remember that there have always been times like these." And he's absolutely right - this is not new or unfamiliar to anyone with a memory.

So, the next time someone says to you in a conversation "the times are tough" or "because of the poor economy" or something along those meaningless lines, and provided they're not one of the 'real but temporary victims' of this version of economic re-stabilization due to a job loss, ask them to explain how it's affecting their situation. More often than not, you'll discover that they're really only regurgitating the "bad news hype" with little substance or awareness behind it. Unreasonable expectations in lifestyles, market activities and government-based welfare schemes are largely to blame for the "times" we’re experiencing today.

If enough of us come to understand the true nature of this, and so many other "economic collapses", we'll come to realize that most of it is "blow-by" and apart from some always prudent personal resource management, there is little reason to pull up stakes and run for cover. We should all take some guidance from this endlessly recurring situation and conduct ourselves in a responsible manner under all kinds of circumstances, and not just when we fear that the roof is falling in because someone says it is. Simply put - the answer to these calamities is to live (reasonably), learn (from our experiences) and prosper. Spok almost got it right.