The Dark Twin

The thing we love about the industrialization of everything, the reason we tolerate its destructive rampages, is the notion economy of scale. This is the theory that when you mass-produce something, each something in the mass will cost less. What we need to keep in mind is that economy of scale has a dark twin that is equally powerful and seldom discussed — elevation of risk. Continue reading

My Money or My What?

Strident, moralistic voices are raised everywhere in the country declaiming that it is wrong to give government bailout money to banks whose greed and stupidity got them into trouble (after making them a lot of money), and wrong to take money from taxpayers to give to people whose greed and stupidity (or so it is argued) got them into foreclosure, after living in relative luxury for a few months or years. Continue reading

Forever Blowing (Up) Bubbles

The current financial meltdown offers a good model for other, far more serious disruptions that are on their way. If you think the greed-maddened, amoral stupidity of the investment bankers was unique, take a closer look at the masters of our supplies of food, water and energy. Continue reading

The Ultimate Trap

It is one of the most compelling videos I never saw. It was described to me, as I recall, as a commercial of some kind that aired years ago in Canada.

The scene is a crowded escalator in some busy store or subway station that without warning clanks to a stop. For a few moments the crowd simply stands there, staring straight ahead, waiting for the escalator to start moving again. Then they begin looking around and at each other with rising anxiety, until a few of them at first, then virtually all of them, begin calling loudly for help. Continue reading

Bail Now, Sink Later

”I am concerned about taxpayer money being provided to those companies that may not survive.” — President Bush

How far should taxpayers go to rescue an ailing industry? — Reuters

The chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, has recommended the use of more taxpayer funds for new efforts to prevent home foreclosures – The Sydney Morning Herald

To paraphrase Aristotle and Confucius, if you wish to have good government you must begin by calling things by their right names. And the notion that the American taxpayer is paying for things such as the financial-industry bailout, the automotive-industry bailout or even the war in Iraq is not right. It would be closer to the truth to say that the Chinese government is paying for these things. Continue reading

Too Big to Bail

A mind cartoon: a morbidly obese man is being escorted from a bank lobby by security guards, screaming, “But you don’t understand! I’m too big to fail!”

It comes to mind as the CEOs of morbidly obese American automobile companies wail to the Congress that what is bad for General Motors (or Ford or Chrysler) is bad for the country. Continue reading