atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#3110: Okay, that was fun

I set out to run my errands on the motorcycle, and I set out with the notion of seeing how I fared first before deciding whether or not I'd actually do it.

Well: sweat pants under the jeans, wearing my parka, I was not exactly toasty warm but I was not freezing my ass off. The worst part was the ride out; on the way back I was more-or-less riding with the wind. And the ride out wasn't as cold as some of the rides I'd gone on during autumn.

I'd wager I could wear the ski pants and be toasty warm, in fact, even in colder weather, though much below 45-ish I'd want to wear a hoodie under my parka.

But it worked.

First stop: PetCo, for bitter apple spray. It works wonders on cats that love to chew things; I've taught Luna not to chew on toilet paper and Christmas trees with this stuff. But the Christmas tree represents such a temptation (with all the dangly and sparkly bits) I find that I have to re-apply the spray each year. I used up most of the last bottle when set the tree up last night, so I needed more, as Luna still likes to go after the garbage can in my room once in a while. I try to keep food-related trash out of there but it's not perfect, and even when it is she sometimes goes "dumpster diving" anyway.

Second stop: Wal-Mart, for RX and mouthwash; and I also picked up a bag of M&Ms (peanut) because that's likely to be all the Christmas candy I get this year. Well, that and the box of chocolate-covered cherries I grabbed from K-mart the last time I was there. *sigh*

...I had intended to go to Wendy's after that, for a couple of burgers; but as I was putting on my helmet in the Wal-Mart parking lot, I thought, I don't want to go through all this rigamarole again for a couple of burgers. I'll go home and make a sandwich. So instead of tasty burgers I'm having a ham and cheese sandwich and feel no poorer for it.

I stopped at a gas station out that-a-way for gas, paying the stunning low price of $3.20 per gallon for about 0.68 gallon; then I took the long way home, riding on low-speed roads and enjoying the hell out of riding my motorcycle in December.

Then: in a 30 zone, with me going 35, this STUPID woman passed me in a no-passing zone, and if she'd been even more careless and stupid she might have rammed a school bus head on. Yeah, passing in a no-passing zone with a bus coming around a blind curve--that's good.

...time saved: 0.00 seconds, because I caught up with her at the stoplight and we both waited for at least 30 seconds.

STUPID.

* * *

Of course I know what she would have done: swerved into me, so believe me I was watching her even before I knew the school bus was coming, and ready to hit the brakes and maneuver as needed to avoid getting creamed.

...all of which I would not have had to do if that woman had not been PERLIOUSLY, EGREGIOUSLY STUPID.

* * *

Vox Day:
...a lot of very well-informed, very well-connected individuals are expecting something very bad to happen in the near future. When I asked my friend about his opinion, he said that he hoped nothing would happen until after Christmas, or better yet, until the New Year. I found this somewhat less than entirely reassuring.
Yeah, that is less than reassuring when the people involved in the industry have been reduced to hoping that the "impending event" merely holds off for a measly two weeks.

* * *

DOOM!

Portugal threatens default. Even if the EU manages to fix Greece and Italy, there are still Spain, Ireland, and Portugal to worry about...and Portugal has just thrown down the gauntlet: "We want to keep spending money we don't have, and if you don't lend it to us, we'll stop paying you back!"

...try to borrow more money after you throw that switch, anus, and see where it gets you.

People are blowing money on stupid-expensive food products. Well, it's their money to waste, I suppose; but I reserve the right to make fun of them.

* * *

Another glorious triumph for multiculturalism from the cosmopolitan and egalitarian religion of "peace".

Yeah, it's such a wonderful religion that countenances the maiming of women when they don't obey their husbands.

* * *

DPUD: "EPA: 'You know what the US has too much of? Electrical power, that’s what.' New rules to take more than 14.7 Gigawatts of power generation offline." (I have edited the post title for grammar and construction. I couldn't leave it the way it was.)

...but despite these minor errors, the point is that the EPA is forcing nearly 15 GW of power off-line...and you know we're going to need it sooner or later.

* * *

Via DPUD: This story is a metaphor for the efficiency and efficacy of government.

Actually it's not so much a metaphor as proof.

* * *

One of many reasons I no longer support the war on drugs. The notion that government can seize property belonging to someone solely because drugs were sold there--it's ludicrous.

So you see stupid cases like "US versus $150,000 cash" and other nonsense coming out of the court system. Or "US versus ebony wood in various forms", to name a specific and recent example. Property seizure is out of control.

* * *

There's some talk about credit and debt that's been bubbling up behind my eyeballs, and while some of it is stuff I've said before I think it bears repeating.

An economy expands because of the way we exchange goods and services. You see, when you get up in the morning and go to work and punch the time clock, you're there because your employer has agreed to purchase from you your time, and therefore your labor, for a certain price.

Work is essentially the creation of wealth. A skilled machinist can take a $2 piece of steel bar and turn it into a $30 tool. A tailor can take $10 worth of cloth and make a $50 shirt from it. A farmer can take $12 worth of seeds and make $100 worth of crops out of it.

None of this happens if they don't invest time and effort into their crafts. And they have to know what they're doing; even if he works a year's worth of 80-hour weeks a tailor can't take a steel bar and make anything useful from it.

This is where Marx's theory of labor falls down: labor is not the only factor. Skill and education are important, too. If a worker spends half his career polishing turds, they're still turds and only worth whatever intrinsic value a turd may have as fertilizer. So in order for work to have economic value it must be economically necessary work, something people are willing to pay for.

There are relatively many jobs (we're willing to pay for) someone to stock shelves at a store because the shelves can't stock themselves and customers need access to the goods they wish to purchase. There are very few jobs (we're not willing to pay someone) in dribbling paint and poop on pictures of the Virgin Mary or writing bad poetry. The economy does not need a large number of East African history Ph.Ds or comparative literature experts.

So whenever you have a worker engaged in economically necessary work, wealth is created. It doesn't matter what form the work takes as long as the worker is producing value. Providing a service (cleaning your house, fixing your computer) is just as economically necessary as selling potatos or making cars.

The more robust and diversified your economy, the more it can grow. If everyone in your town grows beets, you're not going to be selling many beets to your neighbors...but you can exchange beets for a certain number of dollars, or other commodities made in other towns if you prefer barter. The guy who farms potatos in Beettown is going to be able to trade with his neighbors more profitably than the beet growers will.

So we've established that useful labor creates wealth. Now let's look at credit.

Credit is a promise to pay a certain amount of money plus interest by a certain time. Our potato farmer in Beettown, for example, wants to have a beet for dinner before his first crop of potatos comes in, and he makes a deal with his next-door neighbor: "I'll give you two potatos next week for a beet today."

So next week, when his crop of ten potatoes comes in, our potato farmer first has to give his neighbor two of his ten potatos, leaving him with eight to trade with other farmers and people from other towns.

Credit is essentially spending future earnings. Even if you're borrowing money instead of goods, it amounts to the same thing. If Mr. Potato borrows $1 from Mr. Beet and promises to pay him $2 next week--even after selling his crop of ten potatos for $10 he still has to give Mr. Beet $2 of his $10, leaving him less money now. He's already spent that $2.

Credit is, therefore, spending money you don't have yet, money you haven't earned yet. It's money you expect to earn in the future, but it's money you don't have right now.

The problem is, when you make that promise to give someone part of your future earnings, you no longer have that money available to you to spend on other things. Okay, you agree to buy a house and to pay the bank $1,000 per month so you don't have to save up the whole price of the house first; it means that from then on, until the loan is paid off, you must give the bank $1,000 of each month's paycheck(s).

This is all well and good if your personal economy remains in good shape; as long as you have that $1,000 in your budget each month, and can still afford to pay for things like food and energy and insurance, you won't have any problems.

The problem comes when you spend far beyond your means; and that's where the US and other first-world nations have come up acropper.

You buy a house and a new car and a boat and a fantastic entertainment system, and suddenly you realize that even if you pay the minimum on each of those loans you don't have enough money left to pay the other bills. All your income is spoken for and there's none left to sustain your other needs. What then?

You can keep borrowing for a while, but at this point you're already screwed: once you cross the threshold where your entire income goes towards debt service--where your entire economic output has been pledged to paying off credit--there is no way out absent bankruptcy or selling assets to satisfy some of the debt. You've spent so much of your future productivity that you can no longer survive on what you earn. Absent an increase in your income, you have no other options; you either enter bankruptcy, or default on your loans.

And that last is where nations run into trouble. Governments which are prone to overspending will generally bank on the growth of GDP as their way out: "GDP will grow X much next year, so we can spend X+Y this year!" That works...for a while. But it doesn't work forever; it merely slows down the rate at which disaster approaches.

Default is bad for the guy who loaned you money, because he loses the money he loaned you. But it's bad for you, too, because it makes other people that much less likely to lend you money: "WTF, I'm not lending him money! The last time someone did that, the bastard skipped town without paying!" Sure, you get away with abandoning your present debts; but next month when your car breaks a ball joint, the mechanic says to you, "Yeah, you're gonna have to pay me up front and in cash before I'll fix it. I don't trust you; you ran out on the bank and the electronics store and the boat dealer." If you don't have the cash, you'd better be willing to hand over your boat to the guy, because otherwise you're going to have to figure out how to fix your car with that crescent wrench and pliers your wife gave you for Christmas last year. (Hint: forget it.)

Austerity measures are what happens when countries realize that they've overspent themselves, that even their future productivity has been spent in its entirety, that there is no further wealth that can be spent because it's all gone. Not just present wealth, but future wealth--all of it--has been spent.

So this is where the PIIGS of Europe are: they've spent so much money that even their future earnings are gone and the simple growth of their economies are insufficient justification for new loans. Mr. Potato has pledged his entire crop; when he digs his ten potatos out of the ground he's got to give them to others in exchange for goods and services he's already consumed and he has none left to get him through the winter.

In fact, it's worse than that: no only is this year's crop spoken for, but some of next year's crop has already been spent, as well. Mr. Potato would do well to rein in his spending.

* * *

Yeah, that's a bit long and repetitive, but I'm too lazy to make another post out of it. And all this talk of food has made me hungry; I wonder what I should have for dinner?

Not beets. I hate beets.
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