There are several problems that present themselves whenever we begin to talk about policy.
Policy, by the way, is exhibited by the laws that governmental legislatures pass. Then, agencies adopt regulations in order to achieve the goals of that, said, policy. Imagine, if you will, a policy that wants to reduce crime. One of the keynote policies that came about in the last 50 years was Neighbor Watch. It was a simple idea. If you see something suspicious in your neighborhood, call the cops. There wasn't any increase in cost projected. The campaign simply stated that if if saw something suspicious in your neighborhood, call the cops.
Of course, once someone tells you that if there is a thing out there that you don't understand is suspicious, and the consequent to that suspicion is a simple call to the cops, you don't think that several events consequentially occur. One, the "crime reporting rate" increases, even if the calls to the cops is nothing more than that of an elderly lady watching a suspiciously acting cat. Two, the costs of providing basic police services increases, as cops roll to venues that weren't actually sites of real crime, but the sites of potential crimes, as reported by well-intentioned neighbors who should have simply asked the potential miscreant, what are you up to?
If you look at crime rates and crime reporting from the '60's to present, you'll actually see an increase in crime reporting when you take into consideration the effects of public service campaigns that were directed toward "reducing" crime. Most anti-crime campaigns will have this feature. Even if real crime remains the same, the number of reported cases increase. It is a self-feeding phenomenon.
One of the things that you see if you actually spend time looking at crime statistics is, how they report crime statistics. The "how" is the thing. I can tell you something about statistics. Since most people don't understand math, it is remarkably easy to report statistics that have actually little or no value; statistically.
A short side-note; if you haven't visited Briggs recently, do. Briggs is a guy with issues. He teaches at the college level and is constantly disappointed by the level of preparation he faces because of the ill-preparation of his students, for every class. Statistically, each of his students is an high school graduate. Heuristically, few of his students are prepared for the rigour of college study. And it seems at times that those who are prepared, would rather be doing something else.
My point is, it seems true, to me, that most people who engage in debate have little or no math in their lives. A campaign to reduce crime actually increases crime statistics. Campaigns to solve poverty increase the number of poor. The easiest person to argue against is the man who doesn't have the math skills to fight his way out of a paper bag. Where I love to argue, then, is within the realm of mathematics. Not always with genuine argumentation to stand behind. Take the Bell Curve.
Taking a look at this chart, I would ask only one question; where are the turning points? For each of these curves there are simple points that occur. One-two-three-four-five. But, it is the difficult points that are the most important. The easy points are the general areas where it is apparent that the graphed lines are clearly changing direction. The difficult points are when there are an increases or decreases in the rate of change in the y-axis. And, these are smoothed curves. Let's take a look at one of the lines above. The red line.
It's easy to see that a change occurs when the red line begins to more steeply rise. But, back at -2.5, there's also a change. The red line had been flat, and now is increasing. Similarly, around -1.4, there is another shift, when the rate of increase beings to slow.
These differences in rate of change are important. Visually, there are points when you can see that changes have occurred. In the case of the red line, those visually clear points occur around -2, 0 and +2. You can see the bends in the line actually change. These are good to see, but really don't tell the story behind the lines.
Some lines are drawn that are increasing (positive) and some are drawn that are decreasing (negative). Since we're dealing with a simple, two-axis curve, as you move from left to right, you'll see the values of y increasing. Then, decreasing. What you may not see is the decreasing rate of changes that occur on the left side of the peak, and the right side of the peak.Let's take a look at a triangle.
If you look at this graph, the thing you will notice is, moving from left to right, there is only one moment when the direction of the line moves in a different direction. The rate of increase from left to right is constant. Until it reaches its highest point. Its turning point. Then, it decreases at a constant rate to the right. One could say that this graph has a single "turning point." When the triangle reaches its apogee. Given the mathematical constraints imposed by the resulting graph, we definitely have a graph that describes a clearly constrained system. And constrained systems are good, since they allow us to have conversations about the factors that determine the shape of the curve described by the graph. The big difference between this curve, and the curve above, is the sheer straightness of the lower, versus the curviness of the line above.
Why is that?
When we started this conversation, it began with a narrative about crime. Well-intentioned people wanted to do something about crime, and so began a plea for greater reporting of suspicious activity which might be translated later into actual crime. Whether or not the crime did or didn't occur is unimportant. What did happen is, that there were more calls made to police agencies and concurrently, reported crimes increased. What I'm attempting to show you is, if you ask for reports of things, don't be surprised when reports of things increase. Industries begin on assumptions like this. Whole sectors of our economy are affected by linear thinking like this. It isn't that such thinking is non-rational. The potential problems occur because they are too simple.
Bubbles occur because of simple causality. Or, better, observations that occur, implying causality. We knew that crime was a problem. To solve the problem, better detection must occur. But what we found was, as detection of possible crime occurred, crimes increased. Or, better, were reported. What occurred was an over-reporting of crime, and in many cases, reporting of suspected crimes that weren't crimes at all. Crime Watch programs create reporting of potential crimes that inflate crime statistics, but don't really affect the number of actual crimes. But, if you are a part of an anti-crime committee, whether it's Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or Neighborhood Watch, you've made a commitment to a program that thrives with increasing numbers, whether statistically important, or not.
Increased reporting of "crime" becomes more important than actual crime. If MADD or Neighborhood Watch became irrelevant, their fund-raising would suffer. Previously held positions of power in legislatures or courts of public opinion would be diminished. Obviously, victims should be held in special reverence. It is curious that their own success becomes their own denouement. I don't pick on the MADD moms, or the watchful eagles of my neighborhood. It's simply easier to pick on MADD than it is on the true maniacs, the environmentalists.
See, with MADD, there are people being killed by drunks on the highway. Not as many as would be suspect by the propaganda of MADD. But MADD is simply instructive. Comparing the rhetoric of a MADD member with a member of the environmental Left shows a certain softness in understanding and compassion. The MADD member understands the weakness and uncertainty of the human condition.
And viewing the simple illustration above, it is easier to see how such simple cognitive errors can occur. There is nothing in the slope of the increasing angle of the triangle that presages the abrupt turn that occurs at it's apogee! If you have a simple mathematical model that is based upon "what has just occurred is the best predictor of what is going to occur," then you begin to have an understanding of what passes for model-making in most arguments you will hear, either around the water-cooler at the office, or in the cloakroom in Congress. Ninety-nine percent of what passes for intelligent conversation relates to the model I've just described. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about investments, how you golf, or raising your children, most of us take a look at what we've been doing, and determining the good, commit ourselves to maintaining that course.
The Leftist Environmentalist does not.
We have viewed the math, in graphic form, in a brief manner. There are relationships that occur between increasing and decreasing values, that seem to be observable. And, we can graph those relationships. But one of the challenges of the Left is to graph the relationship between their prescriptions for fixing the world, and their actual ability to fix the world. I'll admit, Leftists don't want to fix the world. They just want to fix humanity. Or, people. Because moss just doesn't carry the death threat that people carry. Unless it's your yard.
The math says that certain things increase until they no longer increase. (See figure.) At that point, a turning point occurs, and whatever was increasing, decreases. If not absolutely, at least in the rate of increase. In absolute terms, I can't think of a single thing, action, product, act, where that isn't the truth. (See Butterfly Effect.) And, upon further reflection, I can't think of a single thing that didn't have an absolute reduction, over time, of whatever that thing was. So, absolutely, whatever a thing was, at its apogee, it isn't there now.
This is simply a false syllogism. Any engineer of any note will admit that the first thing that he doesn't know is what he doesn't know. Models are good. Simple models are, in the main, better than complex models. But models that don't give you any usable information are shit.
If you wish to make an argument about anything, it seems to me that what you should do is state clearly what your position is. Take the issue of saving the planet through control over the production of power. Electrical power. Motive power. Power that makes industry possible. Not, political power.
There is an unearned simplicity exhibited by the Left. Among those on the Left I include several, if not many, Leftists that include our President, our state's Governor, and finally, my congressman and my state legislators. The math is the problem. And I grant you, that the math is difficult. The beauty of having our public schools graduate a plethora of young people unequipped of basic mathematics as a brain-storm of someone in the union movement is without question. How else do you explain an unerring inability to teach our youngsters the fundamentals of mathematics? But this argument is about math, logic and reason. So, disregard the effects of twelve years of government education. If you've made it this far, you weren't a victim of public school intolerance of bright kids.
The math, however, is unerring.
Rates of change are among the simplest relationships that are teachable. I know. I taught.
If you have a buck and invest it and end up with two bucks, then you have a rate of change.
D2 minus D1 equals change. In our case, it's one buck.
Whatever the period of time was, starting with one and ending up with two represents a rate of change. Let's think how we can model this.
The change is the result of something. Compared to that thing, how do we express the change?
I can't begin to tell you how unequipped we are to answer that question. I deal with business people who balk at the question. Bright people. Who can't tell you what form of an equation you would use to express the question stated above.
So, what does logic teach us?
When faced with questions of importance, most of us either don't have the tools, or don't know how to use the tools, to make a practical evaluation of the question. And if logic no longer has a role in examining the issues we face, what possible value should reason have?
When I was in grade school, the underlying value was to teach kids to optimize the learning curve with the fewest possible unimportant curricula being imposed. I was a part of a two-year learning experiment that had a purpose that was directed towards increasing the amount of necessary information needed by a student in contrast to that information that wasn't needed by a student, in order to maximize the learning time and minimizing the time needed to express that information to the student. Speed reading and comprehension were the sought values. SRA gave us learning packets that allowed us to achieve the greatest learning potentials, against non-SRA teachers that used "traditional" teaching methods.
Those of us SRA students really thought that we were on the cutting edge of teaching techniques. What we found out was, that we were in the main, autodidacts. I'm not sure that the teaching profession found that reassuring.
Not that all of us were autodidacts. But, that for a certain percentage of students, left to ourselves, we would be able to learn at rates that were above the green line in the first graph. Standardization didn't really mean anything to us, since we never were standardizable. What we did find out was that there were a great number of students who needed to find acceptance. The grading system, the social system, were more important that actual mastery of math, logic and reason. For many of us, we've spent that time trying to encourage others to gather the skills that should be a part of the quiver of our human experience.
But, how should I express this division between those who adhere to math, logic and reason, with those who have no clue? Environmentalism is probably the best example.
Let's do some heuristics on environmentalism, based upon math, logic and reason. What is the goal of an, or the, environmentalist/s?
Goal One: A cleaner environment. Goal Two:
Or, did I miss something.
The environmental movement, if there is any movement, is boring. A cleaner environment. Step Two...nothing.
This is a graph of our monetary base, expressed against the excess reserves held by the banking industry. Remember the graph above? Of the triangle? Something about turning points?
The "environmental movement" is up in arms about capitalism. See, capitalism is a sin. There's no social justice involved in capitalism. Poor people are poor, because of their own personal choices. Rich people are rich, because of their own personal choices. Personal choice doesn't stand a chance in the face of social justice. As you can clearly see, even though we've been through two rounds of what has been called "quantitative easing," we see that instead of loans increasing, greasing the skids of capitalism, a concomitant rise in excess reserves has occurred. Monetarists and Rational Expectations economists predicted this. But the current vogue is with the Keynesians.
Keynesians believe in Tinker Bell. Really, really believe. They also believe in glitter and unicorns. Alas, all but glitter is false. We do have glitter. But glitter and glue isn't a way to run a country, even if the promise of unicorns, Tinker Bell coming back to life, and prosperity on the back of the evil rich is a strongly held belief. Strongly held beliefs tend not to be predictive. Remember the graph above.
What we do have is the demogoguery of the Left promising us, that, if we choose to put the dilemma of prosperity on the backs of the rich, we have someone to blame for our own bad choices. Here's an old guy, dead white guy, on the principle of having someone else paying for our own bad decisions:
Okay. That's one dead guy's opinion. So let's take a look at the graph I introduced earlier.
Why did excess reserves increase as the monetary base increased?
As part of the cure of the collapse of the banking system at the end of 2008, our wonderful national legislature, in connivance with our nation's top administrative officer, decided that solvency was to be the number one priority of our nation's banking system. You heard them talk about it. Risk is bad. High incomes and bonuses based upon performance were bad. How to make a world where risk no longer lived? Several laws were passed in the intervening years that spoke of the need to protect consumers. Trillions of dollars were dedicated to boosting demand for goods and services. Then, when those attempts at kick-starting the economy failed to kick-start the economy, the Federal Reserve began one of the most pernicious attempts at creating a demand bubble that has ever occurred. It came in the form of Quantitative Easing.
Billions of dollars are marketed by the FOMC each month. The problem was, demand for FOMC offerings would decrease if there wasn't an active secondary market for securities.
Then, concurrent with FOMC Treasuries, was a law change that allowed for banks to park their excess holdings with the Fed.
It gave the Fed excess liquidity. Brilliant.
Problem is, the Fed rate on excess liquidity turns out to be higher than the funds rate on Treasuries. While Treasury was out marketing T-Bills, the Fed was offering higher rates on excess funds. The demand for Treasuries was low, keeping the discounts off Treasuries at lower than market rates. Then, with QE1 and QE2, it became known that buying Treasuries would be followed with re-purchase of Treasuries by the Fed at higher prices, in an attempt to give nominal rates a lower profile.
A T-Bill has an offered rate of interest on the note. If you buy an one-hundred dollar T-Bill for an hundred dollars, Treasury offers you a rate of interest on the bill, if held to maturity. In an auction, you may offer 95-dollars for an hundred dollar T-Bill. What you have done is guarantee yourself at least a five percent return for your purchase, plus the offered rate of interest on the bill. When T-Bill prices go up, the rate of return on your bill goes down. And, vice-versa.
So what has the FOMC (Federal Reserve Bank) and Treasury done?
Treasury offers deep discounts on debt, banks purchase the debt and then resell the debt to the Federal Reserve at a profit. And then, to add insult to injury, bank their excess reserves with the Fed at rates higher than the offered rates on Treasuries.
This is the first time in my life that this has happened. But, what happens when excess reserves earn more as reserves in the Fed, than funds lent, either to purchase notes and bonds, or as lending to business?
Oh, yeah, baby. Excess reserves sky rocket!
Of course, the demagoguery sky rockets, too. Whenever you hear the President talking about the billions, nay, trillions of dollars sitting in the pockets of the rich, ask yourself, why?
The answer is right there in your face. Federal policy makes it more profitable for banks to park excess reserves in the Fed than it pays to lend. So, who created this policy? It wasn't the banks. It wasn't the evil Republicans. The answer is, it is our current administration. It is your President, your President's Treasury Secretary, and your President's pick to head up the Federal Reserve.
Is it a Ponzi scheme? Men of good faith will differ on that.
Today I had a conversation with a noted local on Medicare and Medicaid. Let me give you a disappointing statistic: less than one in ten of men or women in my age group, 40 to 60, can give you any kind of idea what the differences are between Medicare Part A, Part B, Part C, or Part D. And yet, I hear all kinds of criticisms of Representative Paul Ryan's attempt to fix the nation's largest entitlement programs. This isn't shocking to me. It simply, again, underscores the effects that demagoguery can have when demagoguery attempts to motivate the electorate.
So, what do we know.
We can't keep up an almost "Ponzi" scheme of financing government.
We have to address entitlements, but we know next to nothing about the entitlements.
We know that the Left will demagogue any change as threatening to the elderly, education, the working-class and women.
And yet, none of the claims of the Left will be, or are, true.
When you peel away the profitability of private enterprise, you create dis-incentives for the productive sector of the economy. It is, indeed, our ski chalets, our motorcycles, our fast cars, our big homes, that encourages us to produce for you. Take away our Sketchers, our visits to Nordstrom's, our appetite for golf and gold and we are, just like you.
Of course, we hire you. So, you're out of a job. But that isn't the point of social justice. The point of social justice is that we're all the same.
The story of Christ, for me, is not a literal statement that Jesus was the Son of God. Which, I admit, is blasphemy for Christians. Not for me, since I'm not a "Christian." I was raised a Christian, and when it came to the moment when I needed to recite the Disciples' Creed, came up short.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
The principle of Christianity was different for me. Not through the Catechism, nor through the dogma of the Church. My affinity to Christ was based upon His belief that knowing Him was a recognition that He was sent to us at a time when we needed a Christ. He worked hard to live His life according to His views of what was important for us to believe. He set about creating a new set of laws that transcended the laws, and the legitimacy of those previous and subsequent laws, that shifted the entire legal and religious structures of the World.
What Christ did was recognize that within us, God created a Man who had all the skills, perceptions and knowledge that was necessary for Man to go about his business on the Earth without the need for an authority imposed upon us, here on Earth.
From Webster's International Dictionary, Second Edition,come the definition of "demagogue":
1. A leader or orator popular with or identified with the people. Chiefly Hist.2. One skilled in arousing the prejudices and passions of the populace by rhetoric, sensational charges, specious arguments, catchwords, cajolery, etc:, a political speaker or leader who seeks thus to make capital of social discontent and incite the populace, usually in the name of some popular cause, in order to gain political influence or office.
Was Christ a demagogue? In my understanding of the word, at the time Christ lived he was not a demagogue. He live in apposition to the prevalent opinion of His time. You may have lived in Israel, or any other country, but your life didn't belong to the regent of you country. You were a part of the state within which you lived, but your life didn't depend upon the country of your birth, origin or nationality. Your life was greater than that. Your knowledge extended beyond your border. Your ability to perceive existed beyond the "mere" political restraints that you found were imposed upon you.
Yet, He admitted that there was a role for the political state to play in your life.
Where does this take place? At what point must you accede to the demands placed upon you to the state within which you exist? I used to wonder about this point. If we are truly free of the constraints that are demanded by our nation, then, what are the constraints that are imposed upon us by our existence within that state that we must accept? Can we actually be free of state constraints? Or, are there certain types, classes, of restraint (or constraint) that we must agree upon must exist for us to live within a certain country or society?
For most of the following text I give, unabashedly, credit to John Locke. It has been years since I've read Locke, so if I err, forgive. Please.
The political state is any state where more than one person comes into contact with another. How they end up treating each other is what is referred to as the Social Compact. We agree not to kill each other. Social Compact. We agree to help each other when our barn is burning down. Social Compact.. When a body of people come to rape our women, kidnap our children and steal our belongings, if we work together to resist this effort, this again is the product of this Social Contract.
The Social Contract is an important devise. It itself is derived from a construct, much like the perfect triangle, that the rules under which man finds himself are naturally imposed by the Creator. Reading the Bible, one finds certain natural rules. When Cain kills Able, the results of this murder are given as consequent to an action. Not planned, simply consequent. What we find is, that God wishes us not to murder. Murder as different from killing. It is important to examine those situations when killing another is not only deferred to as an action, but called upon as an action. Human life is the most important thing that exists in our world. Again, let us take a brief moment; when someone comes to rape our women, kidnap our children and steal our belongings, there is only one class of being that rises to a level that we can share, that will help us resist this effort. It will not be the fish in the river, or the birds of the sky. It will be others like us, men and women.
But, what is the Social Contract in the State of Nature?
During the years following the West's discovery of the New World, a lot of guys spent time wondering what the world view of the inhabitants of this New World would be. Derived from their experience, the idea of the "savage" was an important idea. The West was sophisticated, given the opulence of cities like Paris, London and Venice. The West, given the accounts of the explorers, was inhabited by naked savages. Which was more or less, true. The technology of the New World was limited. Compared to the technology of the West. The advantage given the New World had been a stochastic difference. In many ways, the West had had the time to employ a certain number of monkeys.
Unlike the Dark Continent, the New World offered a lot of fodder to an idea that had begun it's brewing centuries before. When you view the life of Luther, without understanding his ascension on his knees to the Scala Santa, his recognition of his life as independent from the requirements of faith imposed from above, are meaningless. When Newton discovered gravity, it wasn't Newton discovering gravity. It was a recognition that faith, imposed from above, was meaningless. When René Descartes brought together the argument that independent thought with reason was the basis of Rational Thought, the world escaped, for the second time (?) the irrational arguments that had been imposed upon it for years, within recent memory.
The Time of Christ is an important epoch for evaluation. It has been, for the time challenged, a time of several eras. And I would offer you, that the era of Christ is far from over.
One of the advantages that the Time of Christ has over other previous eras is simply the devices we have at hand to carry on the story of Christ. Christ is known all over the Earth. Even if those who would eradicate Christ from the Earth were in the main successful, there is too much of art and literature that requires an amendment from the Christ story to be meaningful, that a total removal of Christ from art and literature would be impossible. (Although it is the aim of some intellectuals to reduce this influence from anything more than a useable metaphor.)
But you cannot reduce the role of Christ in literature. There is no more sense in reading "The Sun Also Rises," than reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich."
Or Barth's "The End of the Road."
There is no meaning in literature or art, which expunges the effect of religion upon Man. I cannot imagine the Pieta without reference to Christ. What would it mean?
Solzhenitsyn's view of Christ is different than yours. It's probably different than mine. But the truth of Christ is unriven. Here was a man who stood for something beyond Himself. He is one of the most sublime characters in human history. He taught us to love our enemies, He taught us not to call those with whom we disagree names, He taught us that truth was the enemy of evil.
I cannot know God. I cannot know God because I don't have either the ability, the conscience, the intellect, the probity or the invisibility of God. I am simply a man. For me to begin to offer you the essence or character of God is so beyond my pay-scale, the the humorous attempt to describe Him is laughable from the start. I look at the sky and ask if I can ken the immense proportions of the Universe. I cannot. That which is without definition remains, a priori, without limit. There is no person that I know of that can reduce this for me. I certainly can't reduce it for myself.
I do believe that Christ envisioned for Himself a role of Son of God. I know that He was a great Teacher. I believe that He came to this world to help us understand ourselves in ways that are simple.
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
This is radical thought. Loving God. Loving your neighbor. No place for the demagogue. No place for the hater. There is a place for the human side of negotiating the social contract. But, we cannot forget our priors. Love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend upon these two commandments.
Renewal. It comes from re-thinking how we got there. As much as we want to be different from those who preceded us, the older, and better read, we become, we begin to realize that the stories we tell each other still have the same punchlines. There is nothing new under the Sun. Just as there is nothing new under the Son.
1 The words of David's son, Qoheleth, king in Jerusalem:
6 Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these: He leads out their army and numbers them, calling them all by name. By his great might and the strength of his power not one of them is missing!
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles' wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
To whom can you liken God?
We are not like God. We never will be. We were made in His image. But we'll never be God. Just the image of God. "An idol, cast by a craftsman, which the smith plates with gold and fits with silver chains?"
We are not godlike. Not even in our worst illusions. Why try to be something that is outside of your nature? I don't try to be a god. I can't tell you what will be. What I ask for is simple.